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Winning a Grant to Work Overseas

A Step-by-Step Guide

There are requirements for winning a foundation grant: hard work, basic English writing and typing skills, and a stoic resilience to cope with rejection. The researching, writing, editing, and putting together an application may require hours of arduous concentration. Going through several rejections especially during the initial stage is typical.

The numbers of grants being awarded for individuals to help needy people in developing countries are on the rise, and so are grants to work overseas. available for people to work overseas.

Research the Appropriate Places: The easiest approach for the beginner-level grant writer is to apply for funding from private foundations, the majority of which only fund individuals who demonstrate an organizational affiliation. A small percentage offer support to individuals without any affiliation.

When it comes to finding the sources that are likely to fund your cause there are no short cuts. Whether you browse on the Internet (see resources below) or flip the pages of a thick directory in the library, the research phase of seeking funders will require several hours of your time.

The reference librarian should be able to point you to grant-writing directories. Browsing through a directory, especially for the first time, can be an overwhelming experience. To save time and energy use the subject index and search under all appropriate fields. For example, if you are seeking funds for an environmental conservation film documentary, look under environment, film, and arts and culture.

Sometimes an applicant may have a wonderful idea and be convinced that the foundation will make an exception even though the proposal falls outside the guidelines. Save time, paper, and energy. Move on to the next source. It is very rare that a foundation bends its mission statement to accommodate a funding request that falls outside their criteria, no matter how worthwhile it may seem.

The eligibility section tells you whether or not you can pursue funding options as an individual, and the deadline is all-important. Usually I spend one to three months on an application, depending on the length and difficulty. It is courteous to have the application reach the foundation at least one week prior to the deadline. An experienced grant administrator may be able to detect whether the application was done at the last moment or whether the applicant had taken the time and effort to craft the grant proposal carefully.

Preparing the Application

Some foundations prefer to receive a brief letter of inquiry (LOI) instead of a complete proposal. If no guidelines are given for the LOI typically it should contain a description of the project, the timeline of when the project will take place, applicant’s qualifications, and the amount requested. After the LOI has been received by the foundation it will get back to you if is interested in a follow up.

When applying for funding to work overseas it is important to develop a project that shows promise of helping others and creating positive change. You will have better chances of winning a grant to start AIDS clinics for women in Ghana than to tour the ancient temples of Sri Lanka. The more common projects enable individuals to conduct educational projects, teach English as a second language, provide food and clothing to refugees, organize conferences on peacemaking, teach environmental conservation, teach women about sexually transmitted diseases, and to start a clinic. Funds requested are usually to cover living expenses while completing the projects.

Most foundations specify the page length of the proposal. If no requirements are given, then a proposal should typically contain the objective, goals, personnel, timeline, target population, and evaluation.

Charts, graphs, and maps can be inserted to break the monotony of writing. They also induce the reader to linger longer on your proposal, which is a step closer towards getting funded.

Some foundations invite applicants to submit supporting documents such as media publicity on your subject or a book published by the applicant. If you are submitting several supporting documents, make sure to type a list on a separate sheet of paper. If you would like to receive the supporting materials back, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope.

The complete grant application is a reflection of the candidate and the project itself. If the application looks messy, then the grant administrator might wonder how the applicant can have the initiative to carry out the proposed project efficiently. The proposal should reflect the applicant’s passion for the project.

Submission of Complete Application

A complete foundation application typically contains a cover letter, proposal, complete application form, resume, and supporting materials. Mailing out seems easy, but don’t be sloppy about this last job. I recommend manually typing the address on the envelopes instead of handwriting it. It looks more professional. Some foundations specifically state that they accept applications only by regular mail while others are beginning to accept grants only online.

Avoid calling foundations to find out about the award decisions. Most foundations are understaffed. Besides, such confidential information is rarely revealed over the phone. Usually foundations notify applicants of their decisions whether or not they have received a grant.

Once your application is submitted, relax. Patience is a virtue in grant writing. If you have not had a response during the time specified on the application, call or email. If you have received a grant, then it is time to start packing your bags. If it was a rejection, then keep trying.

For More Info

Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for students.

InterExchange Foundation provides grants of up to $1500 for participants who can demonstrate an exceptional commitment to their selected programs.

Travelocity provides grants of up to $5000 for volunteerism.

See TransitionsAbroad.com's student grant resources for more.