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Grant Writing 101

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Building your grant seeking and grant writing skills is the best way to secure funding for your organization. The keys to finding grant funding opportunities and writing award-winning grant proposals are knowing where to find opportunities and understanding what funders want to read. In terms of your professional development as a grant writer, it also helps to know that core measure of success: your win rate. Use our tips below to learn how to write a grant more effectively and identify those looming opportunities!

Grant Writing 101: It's Not Rocket Surgery

Grant Writing Made Easy


Places to Look for Grant Funding

Before you get down to business writing grant requests, you first have to search for and qualify potential grant funding opportunities. Knowing who’s funding your type of organization, who’s funding in or near your location, and the range of their grant awards (past and present) is critical.

Following are several tips that can help you zero in on the right opportunity quickly:

  • Sit down with your work associates and ask these questions: Who are our corporate vendors? What bank or credit union processes our payroll? What local funders have given us money or in-kind contributions in the past five years? Do we still have a good relationship with these funders? Can we approach them again for funding support? After you have some answers, start taking action.

  • Call and make an appointment to visit every bank in your town, city, village, and county. There’s hidden money everywhere — even at your local banks. Find out who heads up the trust department (typically a trust officer) at each institution. Trust officers manage trust accounts for living and dead money-giving individuals and families. These trusts are often not highly advertised sources of grant money. Ask and get some guidelines for finding them and applying to them for grants.

  • Stroll over to the nearest large public or university library to access the Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online. This is your public-access, free-of-charge source for researching foundation and corporate funding sources.

  • Network with other grant writers to find out about their funding resource subscriptions. Ask what works and check out these additional possibilities.

  • Head down to your city and county economic development agencies to find out about any public monies available (contracts or grants) for your project.

  • If you have a community foundation in your county, call to get an appointment to meet with someone there to ask about the possibility of applying for capacity building funds for your organization. With a capacity building grant, you can contract with qualified consultants for grant writing, fundraising, board training, and volunteer coordination services.

  • Don’t forget to call your governor’s office and ask about state agency grant funding and other monies that may be available for your organization or business.

  • Attend all public events where the “who’s who” crowd will be gathered and hand out business cards. Just make sure your agency’s mission and contact info are on the card!

  • Prepare and distribute a press release to all local and regional media announcing that you have a project in need of funding.

  • Most importantly, call your congressional team members to let them know more about your organization and its need for grant funding. Ask if they can start to track any federal bucks that fit your needs.


Federal Grant Writing for Beginners Overview

A Relationship You Can Bank On

9 Tips for Writing Effective Grant Proposals

To make your grant writing stand out from other proposals and get your grant funded, you have to know how to write grant applications effectively. Do some research for your specific grant proposal and incorporate the following guidelines to spin written magic:

  • Use a storytelling approach (with supporting statistics) in such a compelling way that the reader can’t put down your application until she makes a positive funding decision. Make them cry!

  • Incorporate a case study of a real client your organization has served. Of course, change the name for confidentiality reasons. Show a real need of a real person.

  • Take advantage of online dictionaries and thesauruses to expand your command of new words and capture the grant decision maker’s attention.

  • Write to government funding agencies and request (under the Freedom of Information Act) copies of funded grant applications. Use these documents as examples of how to write an award-winning grant application.

  • Research proven best practices for your proposed solutions and incorporate language from the experts.

  • When you find best practices, look for the evaluation results of previously implemented programs similar to yours. Know what works and what doesn’t work before you write your proposed solution.

  • Eliminate multiple drafts from your writing habits because the most creative and “wow” words are often the first words you type.

  • Hire a proofreader or editor (or a college student) to read your writing and clean it up. Don’t have any money? Ask a trustworthy and capable co-worker or friend.

  • Write in short, hard-hitting sentences. Long-winded sentences almost always lose the reader.


Tips for Writing & Submitting Good Grant Proposals


Websites for Grant Writing and Grant Funding

You can find myriad grant research websites these days, both free and subscription-based. If you are seeking a grant, have a look at one of the following sites:

  • eCivis Grants NetworkThis is a subscription-based service with profiles for public and private sector funders.

  • The Foundation CenterThis subscription-based service for private-sector funders offers several newsletters, including Philanthropy News Digest.

  • Grants.govHere, you can find government agency funding announcements for free.



Take on new challenges

How many times have you looked at a grant application and said to yourself, “No way. I can’t do this! It’s too difficult! There are way too many pages of instructions to read! Goodness, the grant-making agency wants 50 pages of single-spaced narrative. The application is due in ten days!” And in your mind, the list grows. It’s important to take on new challenges. Say “yes” to something completely outside your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn and how much more confident you’ll feel. The sky is your only limit!

Become a grant research specialist

If you don’t want to work on your writing skillsets yet, consider working on being the best-ever grant researcher. You can work on researching undiscovered grant-funding opportunities and presenting them to your supervisor, employer, or client, or you can focus on researching demographics and best practices for grant application topics.

New reports or studies are published online every day. Do you have the most up-to-date set of information? When will you need it and can you store it in electronic folders for future use? Work ahead, be prepared, and write like the wind when you find new grant programs and updated research information. Everyone in your work setting will look to you as the grant research specialist.

Volunteer your services

If you’re a member of a nonprofit board of directors or of its “friends of” group (volunteers who raise funding through special events), consider volunteering your services as a grant writer for one or more projects. If you have a full-time day job, you can do your volunteer work in the evenings or on the weekends. Cast your net wide and start giving back to the community where you live.

Become a peer reviewer

Open your web browser, go to your favorite search engine (like Google), and type call for peer reviewers. Scroll through the findings and look for state and federal grant-making agencies that have published calls for grant application peer reviewers. You’ll gain so much more experience and knowledge about what it takes to win a government grant award.


Do copyediting for other grant writers

You can learn a lot by reading grant applications written by other grant writers and editing their content. Copyediting entails reading the formatting and content guidelines published by the funder and then reading the completed grant application narrative to see if the grant writer’s work is in compliance. You’ll learn formatting and graphic techniques, pick up new research websites for your own growing list, and contribute to your employer’s or the grant writer’s client’s success. This is a great way to build your own skillsets and become a successful grant writer.

Work with an experienced grant writer

One of the most mind-opening experiences is to ask another grant writer if you can help her with her overage work. Maybe you only work with government grant-writing projects or exclusively write corporate grants. Working with another writer may open the doors to other types of grant writing which can help you improve and broaden your own grant-writing skills.

Attend national professional development training

Find a conference with workshops of interest to you, register, attend, and take copious notes. If you’re working in an environment where you’re a grant writer and you also manage the funded grant awards, your list of potential conferences just doubled. Check out these national conference possibilities and see what looks interesting to you:

Review successful grant applications online

Search the Internet for previously funded grant applications that have been posted online by the grantee (the organization that received the grant award). Look at a mixture of grant applications that were funded by the federal government, foundations, and corporations. Rarely will you find a high volume of grant applications funded by state agencies posted online.

Write and publish articles that require extensive research

When you decide to become an author of articles that will be read by the public, you might panic first and then hunker down and start to research your topic before you begin the writing process. Whom can you write articles for? Your own blog (if you don’t have a blog yet, try BloggerSquarespace, or WordPress) or for other publications and companies that continually update their websites with contributions from guest writers.

While resources like our Grant Writing Cheat Sheet are great sources of education, it is important for you to continue to formally educate yourself. Across the country and around the world, there are lots of community colleges and universities that offer degrees in nonprofit management. If you search the Internet for examples, you will likely find the following (not naming the institution, just the degree program):

  • Masters in Grant Writing, Management, and Evaluation
  • Grant Writing Certificate Program

LearningPath.org has a list of possibilities for master’s and doctoral degrees in grant writing.