4 Grant Writing Tips From Prospecting to Final Draft

Grant writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a genius for research and organization, the nose of a journalist, the organizational skills of a report writer, plus those of a master storyteller. There are at least four stages of grant proposal writing, Here are suggestions for being better at all of them.

Getting Ready

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Writing a grant proposal should not be a single experiment. You don't write a grant proposal - you write many grant proposals. Grant proposal writing should be an ongoing process and an integral part of your overall fundraising program.

Grant writing begins long before you have the grant to write. Your primary tool is information. Even before you start looking for funders, an in-depth understanding of your organization's mission and activities plus a trove of easy-to-tap organizational details are essential.

Creating a comprehensive grants schedule takes time and some super organizing. However, that work upfront will save you countless hours and resources over the year.

Once you have more than one grant going, keeping up can be hard. In addition to having a calendar, you might want to store all that information in a new, shiny, cloud-based application. Cut your ties to clunky Excel and enjoy the time savings you'll experience in the cloud.

Searching for and Cultivating Funders

Researching a grant.
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Looking for appropriate organizations that might fund your grant can be overwhelming. Cut it down to size with a system. Follow these tips for a start.

A little-known trick to finding grants has to do with examining the tax documents (the 990) of foundations you might be interested in. Those documents can tell you where the foundation's money goes and to what types of charities. 

So you're small. Does that mean you can't get grants? How can small nonprofits compete for grants and where should they look for grantors? The answers are "yes" and "locally."

Working Through the Grant Writing Maze

Businessman making his way through a maze.
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There are at least three ways to request funding. Two are rather short. Check out these descriptions and then decide which works for your proposal. 

Most full grant applications require the same necessary information. Many grant-making organizations have their own proposal/application forms, although a few may only give you some basic guidelines. In any case, here are the most common sections of grant proposals and the information you should include.

Martin Teitel gives us the view from the other side of the desk as the ED of a foundation who has seen thousands of proposals over the years. He says that there are five common mistakes that proposal writers make.

Polishing Your Prose

Proofreading a grant proposal.
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Are you even sure that you want to write grants? Perhaps it would make more sense to hire a professional grant writer for a fee. Here's what you should know about enlisting outside help.

Probably no part of your grant proposal is more important than your cover letter. Don't make it an afterthought. Use these tips to make sure it catches the eye of the first person who reads it 

You might not think of a grant proposal as fundraising material, but it is. As such, you can apply this nifty aspect of personality theory to make your proposal more appealing no matter who reads it.

How good is your storytelling? Stories are not just for your direct fundraising materials; they work well in grant proposals too. Learning the stories of some of the people or animals that you help can be decisive when selling your project to a grantor. Brush up on your story techniques and adapt them to the grant writing process.