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Each grant application will have its own unique guidance that must be followed when writing the application narrative. The following provides recommendations on the most common sections that may be required by the grant guidance.


The summary section, while brief in length (approximately 1-3 pages), is one of the most important sections of the application. It is the first section the evaluators will read and should entice the evaluators to want to read more. In some evaluation processes, it may be the only part of the application read during the initial screening to determine which applications move on for further consideration. It is recommended that the summary be written last to ensure it includes a concise overview of project objectives, justification or need for the project, and the plan for completing the project. It should also demonstrate a linkage to the funding organization's priorities and goals.

Background and Need

This section should outline the reasons why the proposed project(s) are important, the impact they will have, and how they align with the priorities and goals of the funding organization. For example, many homeland security preparedness grants will require alignment with the national priorities and target capabilities. Guidance for developing this section of the grant proposal includes the following:

  • Be as specific as possible when outlining the problem background and need for the proposed project.
  • Convey the results of the needs assessment or gap analysis that led your organization to deem this project as worthwhile.
  • Outline who will benefit from this project (internal and external stakeholders).
  • Discuss how this project can impact a risk identified by your organization.
  • If supporting evidence or data exists (qualitative or quantitative), include it in this section to demonstrate that your organization has fully evaluated this need.
  • Discuss the alternatives that may have been considered and why this approach is thought to be the most beneficial.

Flash Content"The distribution of funds is dependent upon the state funding process.  In 2003, states were encouraged to write Strategic plans that would spell out how State Homeland Security Grant Program funding would be spent.  Guidelines stated that henceforth, all funds going to states would have to relate to the State Strategic Plan, the 37 Target Capabilities, and the 15 National Planning Scenarios.  Not long after, states were also given eight National Priorities, elements of the target capabilities and planning scenarios.  To receive DHS funding, states had to spend some money on these eight priorities.

Every state is a little different, but when you go through the application process, you need to write your state's Strategic Plan missions and issues into your investment justifications. It's really dependent on how your Homeland Security Strategic Plan is written, how you are placed in that plan, how your state works through the grants process and the distribution of funds, and how you write your investment justifications on the actual application for grant funding.  It's really dependent on how you work with your state as to what is funded in your state."

Goals and Objectives

In this section, the goals and corresponding objectives for the proposed project will need to be outlined. Objectives delineate how an organization intends to meet the higher level project goals. Both goals and objectives need to be "SMART."

S Specific, Simple, Significant
M Measurable, Meaningful, Manageable
A Attainable, Achievable, Appropriate, Actionable
R Relevant, Realistic, Results-oriented
T Timely, Time bound, Traceable

Purpose and Description

This section will include a detailed description of each proposed project. Discuss the process or steps planned in order to complete the project. The evaluator should have a clear picture of what is to be accomplished and the plan for execution. Reiterate how the project ties in with both the goals of your organization and the funding organization.

Implementation Plan

By this point in the application, the evaluators should have a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished, the process or approach planned, and why it is important to both your organization and the goals of the funding organization. The implementation section is where project management activities are discussed, as well as the plan to track progress including:

  • Identification of roles and responsibilities of the project manager or principal investigator and other primary project staff.
  • Discussion of subject matter expertise and how it will be utilized.
  • Outlining the overall schedule and planned milestones.  A Gantt chart, as shown in the image below, is a good tool for communicating this information.
  •  A brief discussion on how the project will comply with accepted standards for safety and overall quality (if applicable).
Sample Gantt Chart

Evaluation Plan

Based upon the project goals, develop an evaluation plan that will describe how success will be measured and evaluated. This could include progress towards major milestones and their supporting subtasks, or meeting a defined performance metric. The purpose of this section is to convey to the evaluator that a plan exists for tracking progress and meeting the defined objectives. Clearly defined objectives that comply with the "M" in SMART will be very beneficial when developing the evaluation plan.


Some grant projects will take longer than the initial grant period of performance, requiring the award of an additional grant or grants for the project to truly be completed. Some grants may have ongoing sustainment and maintenance costs and activities. The sustainability of the proposed grant needs to be thought through and articulated in the grant application. If the grant project is building a target capability in some way, there needs to be a plan for how it will be maintained over time so the funding organization understands that there is a long term plan for sustaining the initial investment.

Budget and Budget Justification

The budget, or investment, and justification of the budget is an extremely important section that should contain as much detail about the estimated costs as possible. It should contain information broken out by the following categories:

  • Equipment
  • Salaries and Wages
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Contract Services
  • Travel
  • Materials/Supplies
  • Other Direct Costs

After outlining the estimated costs, they should be explained and justified in terms of how they are all necessary for completing the proposed project. Think of reviewing the budget from the evaluator's perspective and attempt to answer questions such as the following:

  • If people are proposed, why are they all necessary?
  • If contract services are proposed, why can't this be done in house?
  • If travel is proposed, is it all necessary?

The following video describes the process of creating an investment justification.  The example investment justification document used in this video is available for download via the link below.

Flash Content"The investment, or budget justification, IJ for short, is a critical component in a successful grant application and is required for a funding request to be considered.  An investment justification should detail specific funding and implementation approaches for all proposed initiatives, as well as demonstrate how these initiatives will reduce gaps or enhance deficiencies in current programs and capabilities.  A successful justification will also promote the ability of the applicant to achieve the investment objectives.

The Program Guidance and Application Kit provided by FEMA contains an investment justification template for use when applying for Homeland Security Grant Program, HSGP, funding.  In this example, we provide an overview of the investment justification content pertaining to this document.

Paragraph 1 should outline the overall objective of the investment.  Remember to identify key accomplishments or milestones that will demonstrate progress toward achieving this objective.

Paragraph 2 should describe how achieving the investment's accomplishments will help reduce the determined risks.  Risks are considered to be threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences related to your program.

Paragraph 3 should focus on how the investment impacts the primary target capabilities defined by DHS.  Your objective should contribute to building and/or sustaining at least one primary target capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, or recover from acts of terrorism.

In paragraph 4, all target capabilities supported by this investment, including those discussed in Paragraph 3, should be listed.

Paragraph 5 explains how this investment supports your state and/or urban area Homeland Security Strategy.  Relevant goal or objective numbers from the strategy document should be cited where applicable.

Paragraph 6 should describe your plans for maintaining the capabilities created or enhanced by the investment.  Remember to include a description of your long-term approach, or explain why the investment will not be sustained.

The final paragraph should identify potential challenges to the effective implementation of the investment.  For example, the investment may depend on stakeholder buy-in, effective sustainability, or aggressive timelines.  For each identified challenge, indicate the probability of occurrence and level of impact.  Also provide a brief description of how the challenge will be successfully mitigated.

To view the complete document used in this video, please visit the example investment justification link on this page."

Curriculum Vitae (CVs)

The grant guidance may ask for submission of CVs for certain positions (e.g., Principal Investigator or Principal Researcher).  Typically the most challenging aspect of including CVs is complying with the page limitations (two to four pages is most common). Typical CVs may need to be modified to comply with submission requirements. Recommended sections for the CV include the following:

  • Education
  • Work Experience (years, positions, and relevant description of the experience)
  • Training and Certifications
  • Publications and Presentations
  • Honors/Awards

Because space limitations are likely imposed, it is essential to focus each of the above sections on relevancy to the projects proposed in the grant application. For example, a typical CV may include 10 publications, but if only two are relevant to this application then only those two should be included on the modified CV.

Applicant Organization

Some grant applications will ask for a description of the submitting organization with regard to size, hierarchy, and mission. This should be a basic overview of your organization; consider including an organizational chart to serve as a visual for the reviewers. It is important to portray that your organization is capable of completing the proposed project and managing the administrative aspects of the grant based upon your organization's previous experience and existing resources.

Other Miscellaneous Sections

Letter of Intent - This is typically a brief cover letter on organizational letterhead which should include an original signature of the person in your organization with signature authority.

Abstract - This is typically very formulaic in the sense that it is 2-3 paragraphs in length, and is specifically looking for a summary of the proposed project, the planned methods for completing the project, and the expected outcome and impact of the project.

Collaborations/Letters of Support - In the event your organization is planning to partner with another group for this project (e.g., a university, non-profit organization, or another city/county), you may be asked to include letters from partners to convey their support for the project and a plan for effective collaboration.

Most federal departments/agencies now require applications to be submitted electronically through The applicant resource page provides detailed instructions on the registration process.

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