How to Write the Methods Section of Your Grant Proposal
How to Choose, Justify, and Describe Your Methodology
What Are Methods for Your Grant Proposal?
One of the most critical parts of your grant proposal will be the section on your methods. This section serves as a bridge between the big idea of your proposal to the reality of how you will make it happen. Here is where you get into the details of your plan and the steps to achieve it.
Beverly Browning, an expert on grant proposals, calls this section the "plan of attack, saying:
As your “plan of attack,” your proposed methodology shows the funding agency that you have a logical and well-thought-out plan to carry out reasonable project activities that will lead to the desired outcome.
Choosing and Justifying Your Methods
There could be an infinite variety of ways to achieve your objectives, so how do you choose just the right approach and, furthermore, justify why you chose those methods?
Barbara Floersch, of The Grantsmanship Center, suggested in the NonProfit Times that the grant writer:
“Orient the reader and organize the information into a digestible format to help the reader get on board with the plan.”
Some standard criteria that grant professionals recommend using when picking a particular method include:
- This method works well for the causes of the problem you will attempt to amend. Think about how well your approach matches the nature of the problem. Will it break, for instance, a vicious cycle of behavior?
- It has already been successful. Perhaps your organization has used the method before, or you know and have access to information from another agency that this method has worked with a similar problem.
- The method is a good fit for the people involved. Perhaps you're planning to use a "best practice" but decided to modify it to fit your particular audience and its specific traits or needs.
- Your approach is cost-effective. Cost-effectiveness alone probably won't be good enough, but if you know the method works and is affordable, that's a strong reason to use it.
Understanding why your proposed method is just right for the problem you're addressing, and then articulating that justification well can add power to your grant proposal.
How to Describe Your Methods
Carlson and O'Neal-McElrath, authors of Winning Grants: Step by Step, suggest following these guidelines for describing your project's methods.
- Firmly tie your methods to the proposed program's objectives and needs statement.
- Link them to the resources you are requesting in the proposal budget.
- Explain why you chose these methods by including research, expert opinion, and your experience.
- List the facilities and capital equipment that you will use in the project.
- Carefully structure activities so that the program moves toward the desired results. Include a timeline.
- Include information about whom the program will serve and how they will be chosen
- Write this section as though the reader knows nothing about your nonprofit or the program you're proposing. Don't think of this as "dumbing" it down, but rather as making it crystal clear.
Once you've written the methods section, look at it again and ask these questions:
- Do the methods flow logically from the need statement and your goals and objectives?
- Have you accurately presented the program activities you will develop?
- Did you explain why you chose these particular methods or activities?
- Is there a timeline that makes sense?
- Have you made it clear who will perform particular activities?
- Given the resources you expect to have, are these activities feasible?
Once you have provided a comprehensive, transparent, and useful methods component for your grant proposal, you should move on to the evaluation component.
A Sample of a Methods Section
There are several ways to write a methods section, but a bulleted list after each objective works well. Here is an example:
To achieve the objectives for our Senior Latino Community Outreach Pilot Project, Some City Senior Center will employ the methods outlined below. We have confidence in these methods, as they have been tested and proven successful by two of our fellow nonprofit organizations whose client populations are Latino: Health Access Latinos in Some City and the XYZ Community Clinic in Valley Vista.
Representatives of both organizations served as advisers to us as we developed this pilot project. We have also prepared a detailed timeline, included in the appendixes to this proposal.
Ensure that a minimum of 75 Spanish-speaking seniors with Type II diabetes who complete our disease management classes maintain stabilized blood sugar levels for three consecutive months.
- Some City Senior Center will hire a program assistant and a full-time bilingual nurse who specializes in chronic disease management. Establish an outreach committee co-chaired by two of our Latino and/or Spanish-speaking board members that include diverse community representation (geography, race, ethnicity, gender, and occupation).
- The bilingual nurse and program assistant will adapt the center's current diabetes self-management classes, including classroom tools and materials, to make them linguistically and culturally appropriate for Spanish-speaking seniors.
- The bilingual nurse and program assistant will develop the protocols for testing and tracking program participants for three consecutive months after completing the classes.
- Staff will develop a formal referral system and feedback mechanism between our center and all appropriate community agencies to provide referrals to our Spanish-speaking diabetes management classes.
- Staff will hold weekly Spanish-language diabetes self-management classes.
- Staff will track participants' progress on a weekly basis for three months following completion of the classes.
- The program assistant will formally chart the progress of each participant.
*Modified and reprinted with permission from Winning Grants, Step by Step, Third Edition, Mim Carlson and Tori O'Neal-McElrath, Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Storytelling for Grantseekers, Second Edition, Cheryl A. Clarke, Jossey-Bass, 2009
Winning Grants, Step by Step, Third Edition, Mim Carlson and Tori O'Neal-McElrath, Jossey-Bass, 2013
Grant Writing for Dummies, 4th Edition, Beverly A. Browning, Wiley, 2014
Justifying the methods section of proposals, The NonProfit Times, 2015