You've got an idea for a project to protect or enhance water resources and you want to apply for a grant. There are lots of funding sources out there, but competition is tough. To make your grant the best it can be, consider the following questions before you start writing.
Have you thought your project through?
Spend some time thinking your project through first. Do your research. Are you going to need permits? Ask for advice. Are you going to need assistance? Get commitments for the help you need in advance and note in your application that you have done so. Talk to people who have done similar projects. Did they run into snags that you can avoid?
What do the grantors want to fund?
Read the grantors' material - make sure what you want to do is what they want to fund. Some grantors specify that grants must come from a certain geographic area, that grantees have nonprofit status, and so on. Look for a grant source whose criteria fit your project. Otherwise you are wasting your time and theirs. Respond to the questions the grant application or grant materials ask, rather than the questions you want to answer. Read your proposal from their point of view. Is it easy to understand? Grantors often look for a project which will have a "ripple" effect and can be easily replicated by other groups.
What is your grant going to do?
Be specific. What is your goal? Is it realistic? clear? meaningful? How will the grant project meet that goal? Who is your intended audience? Communicate directly and briefly; don't be too technical.
How are you going to do it?
Provide details on who is going to do what and when. Are the tasks do-able by the people involved? Include a time line to demonstrate that you have done your planning. (Doing one will also provide you with a "reality check" about whether your time frame is realistic.)
Who's going to be involved?
Grantors love collaborations, especially between unlikely allies. If you monitor a stream's water quality, involve a range of people - people who have never done monitoring before. Work with schools, seniors, businesses or others - and use their unique skills. Everyone has something to contribute. Don't just propose a range of possible collaborators -- get commitments from people ahead of time to donate their materials, time or money. This looks great on the application and will make the grantor's money go farther.
Who's going to benefit?
Make sure your project will benefit people beyond your group. Reach out beyond your immediate neighbors' to the broader community. In addition to replanting a stream bank, schedule a streamside tour to show the community what you've done and to encourage their stewardship. The more people involved -- both in creating the final product and who will benefit from the grant outcome the better. In your application, note these numbers and explain why they are justified.
Keep these things in mind, and good luck with your writing!