I had a meeting recently at a large funding organization that makes grants by committees that are dedicated to various parts of the world, such as an Africa Committee, a Latin America Committee, et cetera.


At one point in our meeting, one of the committee directors, without any prompting from me, simply stated that “I wish more applications would give me a feeling for the needs and challenges they confront in their ministry, I want to understand what it is really like where they are working.”


The funder’s desire, for us to “give them a feeling” concerns how we describe the SETTING of our Project Application.   It is quite understandable for each of you to take this for granted, because it is something that you live each day, BUT do not underestimate the need, even for sophisticated funders such as I was meeting with, for an informative description of the setting in which you work.


I provide two illustrations below, which capture the two important elements you need to include as you describe the setting of your Project Proposal: 1. The uniqueness of your setting and 2. The vital and unmet need your project addresses.


Here are examples of what I refer to, using fictional congregations and locations. I have highlighted what I think is the language that speaks to the uniqueness and vitality I mention above:




The Sisters of Missionary Heart seek a grant to support their school in Missionville, a remote town in XYZ Mission Country. Missionville has only 1 paved road and is 45 miles from the nearest village. Sisters of the Missionary Heart are the only qualified teachers in this area, where the literacy rate is estimated to be at only 25%. Without formal education the children of Missionville have virtually no chance of future employment and will most likely remain subsistence farmers like their parents, continuing a cycle of poverty and hunger.




The Brothers of Kindness seek a grant to establish a medical clinic in a distressed area of Giantville, a city of nearly 10 million people in XYZ country.   The Brothers work in Forgottenland, an overlooked area of Giantville populated by slums and other shanty-style shacks. Since the Brothers arrived in 2007 they have not witnessed any medical personnel visiting the families of Forgottenland, where a simple wound often leads to dangerous infection because of lack of medical care. The Brothers have located a centrally located facility where the clinic could be established and have also engaged several physicians and nurses who would be willing to make monthly visits to provide “Clinic Weekends” for the sick of Forgottenland.


Don’t forget, even the smartest grant-makers with the largest hearts do not understand the reality of your mission as you do- they need your help and your descriptions to enter the SETTING and appreciate the value of your proposal.


As always, our most hopeful regards and gratitude for all that you do!


  1. Thou shalt never miss an application deadline because it will cause automatic disqualification of your application
  2.  Thou shalt not apply for a project that the foundation does not fund because this would be wasting your time (and theirs)
  3.  Honor the foundation and learn as much as you can about them from their website before beginning an application
  4.  Thou shalt not ask for more money than the foundation guidelines suggest
  5.  Honor the community the project supports by including their “local contribution” in the grant application
  6. Thou shalt always indicate, where true, that the grant project addresses a need that no other party is addressing
  7.  If a grant is made, always honor the foundation by completing a grant report, if required
  8.  Thou shalt always include a photo/photos with your application, if possible, to better tell your “story”
  9. Thou shalt always indicate in the application the impact, in numerical terms, that the grant project would have on the local community 
  10. Thou shalt always have one specific person who is responsible for the grant process:  preparation, timely submission and reporting


Heed these commandments!

Arthur A. Pingolt, Jr

The Unmet Need


I spoke recently with a foundation director who returned from a visit to India, where he spent time at several locations, visiting with a variety of missionaries. One can only imagine that his head was/is spinning, but not from the noise and crush of people in India. Rather, it was the enormous number and variety of project needs that were voiced to him that was at once encouraging and discouraging: encouraging to see all the good work being proposed, discouraging to know that his foundation could only fund a small fraction of the total number of projects.


What to do? How to decide as a grant maker?   How to distinguish yourself as a grant seeker?


“The Unmet Need”


What is important to establish in your proposals is the idea not only that your project is meaningful, but that it also essential. Tell how your project addresses a need that is currently unmet by any other pastoral or human-development initiatives. Further, if you know it to be true, indicate that unless your project proposal is funded, this need will NOT ever be addressed.


For a foundation or a donor to know that but for their support a group of people will NOT be assisted is a compelling proposition.


Who among us would choose to give food to a hungry person who we know will eventually be fed versus someone whose only meal will come from our hands?




“If only the foundation knew how valuable this work we are doing is OR how much of a different even a small grant would make for our work!”


I have heard this or similar statements many times by missionaries and they always make an impression on me- BECAUSE THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY TRUE!


I would advise all grant writers to try and make the same impression with each foundation, but to be of two minds:


With one mind, be factual and detail oriented, providing all the information and documentation that the foundation asks for, by no later than the foundation requires, hopefully earlier.


With the other mind, tell your story, and be descriptive, about the meaningful and deeply needed service you provide and the powerful assistance that will be given with a grant from the foundation you are applying to. If there is no space on the form, add a cover letter or cover email. Always include a good photo if you can. Communicate in emotion and colorful detail in such a way that the foundation executive feels like he or she is in your country, because most of them have not been to any or very few mission countries!


Foundation executives do not like to admit that they often have little understanding of what life is really like in the many countries where applications come from. If your application can give them a sense of confidence that they understand the local situation in your country, it is easier for them to feel and speak with conviction about the grant request you are making.


But don’t forget, you need BOTH minds- get all the details and documentation and deadline first, then tell a story of meaning and hope that they will not forget!

Many years ago, I was a Jesuit novice, for the Midwest Province in the United States.   One of the stories shared me and my fellow novices was about St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and the lengths he would go to in trying to bring a person to the Christian faith.


In this story, he particularly hoped to reach out to a “notorious sinner” who lived where Ignatius happened to be at that point in his life. Ignatius heard that he always traveled to town via a bridge over a small river. As it was then wintertime, that was how the saint felt he could “reach” this person: BY STANDING IN THE RIVER’S ICY WATER, WAITING FOR THE MAN TO CROSS THE BRIDGE. I think it was hoped that the fire of the Holy Spirit would melt the sinner’s cold heart, and perhaps warm Ignatius’ cold legs!


What is my point? Well, in some respects grant research and writing is like Ignatius’ icy water: it is not comfortable. Also, given your busy schedules, you have to go out of your way to get there and do the work. And finally, even with the best of intentions, there is no promise that you will get the attention of the foundation you’re applying to!


Still, what lengths will you go to in “reaching” those you serve?  Remember, a successful grant is often the difference between teaching a few people or a few hundred people. Between medicine for a family or medicine for a village, between feeding hundreds or feeding thousands.


So think of Ignatius and step into the uncomfortable waters of grant-writing, remembering how deeply important it is to find resources to greater assist those you serve!

Dear sister and brother missionaries,


I want to share with you an important insight that affects all of us.


Last week I had lunch with a man who had recently retired from being the president of a foundation for a large pharmaceutical company.   The company foundation made grants to assist medical needs all around the world, and the retired president was a kindly man who I could tell wanted to help as many as possible.


I remarked to him that it must be difficult for him to say reject applicants, because there are so many worthwhile projects around the world.


“Yes, that is very true,” he said. “In fact, we have nearly 3 applications for every 1 available grant.”


“Well, how do you eliminate applications?” I asked.


His reply was something that all of us who are submitting grant applications need to remember.


He said “I feel bad enough rejecting ANY application, but the very first ones I am able to eliminate are those which do not meet the basic requirements that we indicate to all applicants. “Some ask for support of projects we don’t cover in our foundation. Some ask for an amount that exceeds our limit. Some do not provide all the information we request. Many submit their application AFTER the deadline expires.”






Until next time,


Artie Pingolt

When Maryknoll missionary George Cotter, MM, founded Mission Project Service (MPS) over 40 years ago, his goal was to provide information to missionaries, contact data for foundations and organizations who would likely support mission projects, if they were made known to them by missionaries. His work, subsequently shared by the Sacred Heart Fathers and Brother of Christian Instruction, led to the creation of the Funding Guide you now have as part of your Membership in the new MPS. With the 9 th edition of the Funding Guide, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) are proud to carry on this very important work.


It is our goal in 2016 to keep the best of MPS and add even more for its members to achieve greater vitality and community in their ministries- today we offer not only “information” but “connectivity” too. Even though MPS works with missionaries in nearly every country in the developing world, the technology available to us now will allow us to not only provide you a book, but a resource that will travel with you, digitally, and a website platform that will truly foster both community and ongoing learning for missionary women and men.


I can still recall my wonder a few years ago when I was privileged to facilitate a grant for missionaries in Turkmenistan with a funder in the United States… without ever personally meeting the missionaries or the funders! The entire process was done through email messages and scanned documents and photographs.


The potential for increased communication of vital missionary endeavors remains enormous- MPS will continue to help that potential become more real for those of you serving around the world!


Again, welcome to “the new MPS!”

Arthur A. Pingolt, Jr.

Executive Director

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