How Much Can You Request?

Federal requests for proposals always list the total amount of money the department expects to have available for that project and a ceiling amount that they will grant to each successful project. Foundations, on the other hand, give a range of grant sizes and a typical grant. So they might write in the guidelines or catalog: “Range: $500 to $5,000. Typical grant size: $1,000.”

When wealthy individuals who don't have a foundation give financial gifts, it's based on this formula, in this order:

  • Who asks

  • How they ask

  • What they ask for

While foundations do not operate based on “who asks,” sometimes decisions that don't necessarily make sense to outsiders are made for reasons known only to those on the inside.

When to Ask for More

Follow your best intuition and best information about previous giving when you want to solicit a local foundation. Or simply ask the program officer directly if he can recommend a way to increase your request.

Remember our freelance grant writer, Maggie? She once called a program officer and asked if they'd consider 5 percent of a capital campaign. The program officer told her that if this was for an organization the foundation would generally support, they might consider 10 percent, and said Maggie could apply for 10 percent with the understanding that she might get less.

Never ask for cents in a grant proposal, such as $272,241.22. And never use cents in your budget presentation — stick with whole dollar amounts. Also, try to round up or down to the nearest $5 or $10 for your budget line items.

When Less Is Better

On federal or state grants, never exceed the highest amount on the range of grant funds. In fact, it's wiser to ask for less. It's also wise to ask for an unusual amount, such as $272,241 if the published cap is $300,000. An unrounded number infers that you are asking only for the funding absolutely necessary to implement the project. It also tells them that you have gone into great detail in your search for pricing on budget line items.

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