Writing the Organizational Background Section for a Grant Proposal
The organizational background section of a grant application may be called the introduction or the applicant description. Whatever the title, this is where you explain what your organization is all about and convince the funder that you are capable of doing what your proposal says you will do. It is OK to brag a bit in this section, but don’t go overboard.
This part of your grant application should be no more than three pages long.
Stick to the information that best establishes your organization's credibility and ability to accomplish the goals of this project.
The purpose of providing background information is to convince the funder that your nonprofit:
- Is financially stable.
- Is well-managed
- Provides essential community services.
- Understands community needs.
- Has a board and staff members that reflect the diversity of the community.
- Is highly respected by the community.
This part of your proposal is all about credibility, so the information you present should be appropriate for the funder and the project. This means it is important to be clear about what essential information the funder needs to know about your organization and its qualifications to make a decision. This information should include:
- The full, legal name of your nonprofit and its legal status, such as 501(c)(3).
- The location of your headquarters and other operating sites.
- Your mission statement, when the organization was founded, who founded it, for what purpose, and the community and/or clients it serves.
- A summary of your programs.
- Your organization’s position and role in the community. Mention any collaborating partners in your community.
- How your organization is unique. Explain why your services do not overlap with other similar services.
- Your organization's most notable achievements that relate to this proposal. Include any awards or special recognition your organization has received. Use a bullet format for these accomplishments.
- A very brief summary of the need statement.
- Financial information including overall budget and annual donations. Past and current funding from other sources.
- A brief statement about your board, staff, and volunteers.
Reassure the reader that your organization is best suited to carry out the proposed project. Don't include information presented elsewhere in the proposal unless it is in abbreviated form.
Describe when and why your charity organized. In the first or second paragraph, include the mission statement and show how all activities flow from it. Spell out your organizational philosophy through the story of how it all began. It might go something like this:
“The Some City Service Center was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1994 when a group of six seniors ages 60 to 82 wanted to create a place with activities and support services that would cater to the specific needs of seniors. Today, we are the largest senior center in Any County, serving more than 450 older adults each day with a variety of programs and services.
Since our inception, we have proudly served more than 5,000 seniors in Any County.
“The mission of our center is to help seniors improve and maintain a healthy and independent lifestyle and to improve their quality of life. Our four-pronged purpose is as follows:
- Promote dignity and self-esteem.
- Foster independence and self-determination.
- Facilitate social interaction and involvement in community life.
- Dispel stereotypes and myths about aging.”
Your Organization's Activities
After letting the reader know where you came from, go into a bit more detail about how your organization goes about the business of achieving its goals. This should include day-to-day activities and major projects or events. It might go something like this:
“We operate a nonprofit multipurpose facility governed by an active 16-member volunteer board of directors, including three of the organization’s founders.
We offer a variety of programs at our center to meet the needs of those we serve.
- Preventive health care and education
- Nutritious in-center and home-delivered meals
- Crisis intervention, support groups, and case management
- Legal and insurance counseling
- Housing assistance
- Employment training and information
- Transportation, leisure activities, recreation
- Volunteerism/placement, social services, and referral information
“Our multi-use facility makes us unique from other senior centers in Any County and allows us to play an even more vital role in our community.”
Keep it Brief
Since the organizational narrative should be a concise narrative, testimonials and statistics may be included but kept to a minimum. You can include charts, graphs, and testimonials in an attachment.
Don’t waste space on organizational structure or specific details about board members and staff unless the funder has requested that. Otherwise, you can include that information in your supporting documents. Keep the informational section short and condense it into a simple story about your organization’s history, current programs, the demographic you serve, and where you provide services.