Learn from Grant Writers’ Hindsight

Grants writing can be a discipline, a skill, or an art form. It all depends on whom it is you are talking to. Learning how to write a grant sometimes is the consequence of on-the-job experience and grant writers will often admit to superior hindsight. They won’t hesitate to talk about those things which, had they known about earlier, would have made jobs much easier.

1. Draft an organization profile

Grant writers compose proposals for organizations and too often start with very little information about the nonprofit itself. Having a better understanding of the mission and objectives of the nonprofit would certainly allow the grants writer to have better focus. The habit of drafting an organizational profile is something that grant writers should learn to do in the early stages of their career.

These are no more than 250 words but if approved by the organization, the profile can be easily inserted into the grant and is excellent reference source (see swipe files) to be used during the writing.


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2. Use funding search engines

Grant writing beginners will rush to the Internet search engines and try to find available grants online. The result can be wasted effort. The reason is that going through foundation by foundation to find grant prospects is very tedious work, and may produce no prospects. A given foundation may have geographical limitations and it is possible the deadline for submission has already passed. Moreover, the grant writer’s project may not coincide with the mission or objectives of a foundation and the search has to continue. It all becomes an incredible waste of time.

There are search engines that have links and information about possible funders and available grants. Perhaps the most popular on the Internet is The Foundation Center. This search engine for foundations and grants has a database of thousands of funding sources.

Additionally, the advanced services will allow a person to add filters to the search so that geographic limitations, fundable areas, and any pertinent information about a given foundation can be extracted. The results are better search results in a short amount of time. Using the advanced services will require a subscription, but the efficiency of the search is well worth the money spent.

3. Create a budget

A better understanding of how to construct a budget is something all grant writers wish they had known at the beginning. It is the most important part of any grant, and knowing how to construct a good one is practically an art all by itself. There are various forms of budgets depending on the grant.

Government agencies will require a certain format, and academia may ask for an accounting of overhead costs. Community foundations ordinarily have the easiest budget requirements, but they still want to know what the money is being spent for and why. The budget part of a grant is so essential that it would merit attending a workshop in budget preparation.

4. Format your grant proposal

Formatting includes not just the APA style. Certain grant proposals will require items such as an abstract or literature review to be a part of the paperwork. How to best use the Appendix to provide information is a skill that grant writers need to learn early in their career.

Creation of accurate timelines is also necessary. A review of the more common grant applications is a good place to start the learning process, and the common proposal form used by the Associated Grant Makers is a good example.

Sometimes it seems that there are a lot of very minute details involved in being a good grants writer. It has to be understood that the individual is writing a request for what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. The foundation or grantor is not going to hand the money over to just anybody.

The earlier a grant writer understands that those small details can influence the award of a grant, the more attention he or she will pay them. Grant writers will also tell you that they should have started with smaller grants and work their way up to the larger awards. Cutting teeth on a mini grant or a community foundation is a great way of getting ready for submissions to places like the Ford Foundation or the federal government.

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