Finding and Writing Grants: The Very Basics

I have had a lot of requests by sex/kink educators for information on how to find and apply for grants. Below is the basic overview. If you find this helpful and get a grant, I would love it if you could help support my work through sending me a donation at:

Of course… the information is free for anyone to use. We are all trying to make something work! Good luck on your hunt. If you have specific questions, feel free to email me at with the subject: Grant Questions

Finding Grants

The best/most complete location for grant funder info is The Foundation Center/Candid ( They keep detailed information about funders, including what grants are open, a calendar for rotating funding applications, tax and board info and more. They also have great (and free) online tutorials for how to use their databases and find grant info. [Note: After the original posting of this Candid and the Foundation Center merged. This is the updated link. 3/2021]

The Center is located in SF. They often pair with local libraries and other funding locations. You can pay to use the database from home (and it is worth it if you are going to do a big push in a month then not need it, but otherwise go to a local affiliate).

Their database can be searched by type of funding (capital campaigns, one-off projects, supplies, etc), by the area of funding (education, community development, etc.), by geographical location, and a few other things. It makes it pretty easy to narrow in on funders who are working in your area of interest.

I generally start with a few broad search terms in their database and then narrow in on a few funders. Successful grants fit a funder’s requirements exactly. So if they say your target population has to be 16-25 year olds living in Los Angeles County and you work in San Bernardino, you aren’t going to fit the grant closely enough to make it work the effort to apply. If a given funder pops up in several searches you are probably onto a solid lead.

You can also search their database for funders in a given area even if there are not currently open grants. So if you search on sexual trauma and women of color, you should get a pretty solid list of people who have funded those areas of interest in the past and may have something coming open in the future.

If you find a group that regularly funds the type of work you are interested in doing, you can also find a list of their board members through the foundation website (and often the organization’s website). It can be worth reaching out to the board members and asking to have a meeting or coffee to discuss your interests and form a relationship with them.

If you have a fiscal agent that is a 501(c)3 or are part of a nonprofit yourself, the Center for Nonprofit Management might have a few resources for grant funding and classes on what is available in your area. (CNM SoCal)

Outside of the Foundation Center, the City of Los Angeles offers a few community based grants that may fit your work. (start here for info: Neighborhood Council Funding Program | City Clerk)

Find the Right Grants

Grant makers have a long term plan for giving. Most re-evaluate their giving strategies every five years or so. Grants also follow trends. There are times when supporting reproductive rights are trendy. Sometimes its STEM. Sometimes its the arts. If you are in trend, yay! If not, there are still grants out there but you will have fewer to choose from.

Grant makers list specific requirements for a reason. This is how they screen out unsuitable projects on first pass. It is important you fit all the stated specifications of the grant. This can be a geographic area, a dollar amount, a type of funding, a target group to help, a specific type of organization or person to receive the grant. Most are geared toward funding established 501(c)3 organizations. If they specify it is only available to nonprofit organizations, you need to be part of a nonprofit. Sometimes they will allow a 501(c)3 or (c)4 to work as a fiduciary agent. In that case, you can often find a sympathetic nonprofit who will function as a fiduciary agent for a small fee (which you can include in your grant proposal). Sometimes they are for individuals. If that is the case make sure you fit age, location, racial, gender and other specifications.

Once you find a group of grants that fit what you are trying to fund, check out their annual reports and Board information. The annual reports are often housed on the funder’s website and the Foundation Center database has these as well. The Board information is often on the funder’s website as well. Check out to see who sits on their Board. Personal connections are really useful if you happen to know any Board members. You can also get a sense of what these folks support outside the foundation you are asking for money by doing a little internet stalking. Check out where they show up at fund raisers and if they make statements about what they are passionate about.

Since you have limited time and resources to apply for funds, try to target the group you have the most in common with.

Writing Grants

There are several standard part to any grant.

Letter of Interest

Most grants start with a 1-2 page letter. This is a succinct summary of what the problem is you are attempting to address, why/how your project addresses this issue, why you are the best person for the project, and what it will cost. You need to be able to clearly and simply lay out the issue you are addressing. Have a few quick and impacting statistics really help here.

Then you need to be able to tell them how your work will address the issue you just laid out- in like 2-3 paragraphs. You need to highlight your qualifications and the qualifications of the staff you are working with. Finally, you need to state how much you are asking for in total.


Proposals can vary in length and required information. Generally they are 10-15 pages laying out your project’s purpose, how it will be carried out, how you will determine success, and how much it will cost.

The problem statement is generally 2-3 pages. Lay out what the issue is you are attempting to address. Teens getting pregnant? what are the stats for the target area you are working in? What is the proof your program works better than what is available? What group is being helped (ages, races, genders, numbers of participants, etc.).

Next you talk about your work. What is it? How does it work? How does it make the lives of others better? How was it developed? Has it been demonstrated anywhere else? etc…

They generally require the c.v.’s of the staff involved in the work. This may just be you. This may also be other key staff you work with. Make sure the c.v.’s are clear of typos and weird layouts. Be able to state why you are the best person to do this work in a couple of sentences.

Then there is the summary and a detailed budget. A summary budget gives the top values for each area of funding (e.g., staffing costs, supplies, transport, etc.). A detailed budget breaks down each cost area (e.g., transport > ground/gas reimbursement, air, hotel). You will also be asked to write a budget justification. This is a narrative justifying the different parts of your budget. You explain why you need to go to a specific conference or why you need to have money for gas to travel to schools.

Finally you will be asked to state how you will evaluate your program. This part has become incredibly important in the last decade. Funders want an ROI on their grants. So you need to be able to tell them what you will do to know you have made an impact. If you plan to offer a class for people to learn about dealing with trauma will you have pre and post surveys? Will you measure it by self reports on drug use to self medicate? Will you measure it by testing oral serotonin levels at the beginning and end of each class? However you plan to quantify your impact, you need to have a plan laid out. You also need to be able to tell them when you will report back to the granting agency about your results. Is this a 6 month, year or 5 year project? The longer the project the more check-in points you should have. If it is a year project you should offer at least 3 points for evaluation.


Grant makers are inundated with requests. They publish deadlines for various parts of the grant to come in. DO NOT MISS THESE. It’s not like college where you can ask for an extension. Grant makers are like the subway- doors close they aren’t going reopen because you are bolting down the platform. Make sure these are on your calendar and you know what is required for the reporting at the deadline.

Important Documents

You will be asked about financials. If you are working as part of your own business, make sure you have up to date financial records to share with the funder. If it is a grant for an individual things like a recent bank statement and credit report might (but not always) be required.

C.V. – get it cleaned up, up to date and ready to send as a PDF.

Evidence of effectiveness: If you are asking for money for a project you have done before, have some evidence it worked. Things like reviews or letters of appreciation, or publications, or previous write-ups about your work can go a long way to showing you are qualified for money.

If you are applying as part of an organization or business, your 501(c)3 tax certification or business license will be asked for. Bylaws, board member lists and stuff like that are common requests as well.

Have all these docs as PDFs that you can send via email when they are asked for.

Second/Third Rounds

Sometimes there is only one application for a grant. Some require a second round with interviews or additional document submission. This will always be stated in the call for proposals. Assume you are going to get the grant and prepare for the second round work so it doesn’t catch you by surprise.

You Get It!

So you win the grant, Yay! Crack open the champagne and toast your success. Then prepare for the next steps.

You need to be ready to implement your project in the time frame you said you would. Don’t sit around basking in your funding success, get to work!

If you have dates you need to report back, make sure you get those on your calendar and plan on time to write the evaluation reports.

Track the money. There are rules about what you can spend grant money on. Make sure your accounting is set up to show clearly where you spend grant funds. Quickbooks is helpful.

Make sure you do what you said you would do in the proposal. If for some reason you cannot carry out what you said you were going to do, communicate early and often with the funder. They may be able to extend the time on your grant or restructure it so you don’t lose the money. Just don’t reach the end of the grant period and send an “oops, we didn’t do what we said we would do,” letter.