How to Write a Grant (And Win!)

Over $50 billion in grants are awarded every year. These amounts can range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a million dollars plus.

With cash like that on the table, it’s fair to say that competition is fierce. Many organizations vie for the chance to win such grants, and it’s usually a good tactic to go after several at a time as they can be difficult to obtain.

Many go down the same path by the time it comes to submitting the actual proposal. We’ll run through the basics for you, and offer some resources where you can go more in-depth. Then, we’ll share our secrets on how to actually win them.

How To Find Grants

There are several places to find grants. You can start as simply as the government’s grant page.

You can also sign up for The Chronicle of Philanthropy newspaper, which has upcoming application deadlines and endless information on grant-writing. But luckily these days you can find just about all of the grants you want online.

Make sure to check out the Foundation Center, Grantwatch, and Guidestar to get started. Narrow your search to find the most relevant sites — grants are given to many different categories: federal, state, local, corporate, for female entrepreneurs, minorities, veterans, new small businesses, individual, and more.

How To Best Prepare For Grant Writing

Make sure you do your research. Know the grant’s mission statement and guidelines inside and out, and be sure that what you’re proposing is a perfect fit.

Oftentimes, grant seekers wonder if it’s better to contact the foundations directly and make their names known. This can be a good tactic if the foundation is open to talking with you. Make sure to ask meaningful questions and make the conversation as valuable and worthwhile as possible for the both of you.

Another important step is to check your current network — scan Facebook and LinkedIn to see if you’re connected to, or closely connected to, individuals working at grant organizations or have experience at one. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and if appropriate, warm introductions to establish credibility and spread your name.

Once you’ve found a few grants to submit proposals to, double check all of them to make sure you qualify. It is possible that grants are only allotted in certain geographic areas or have other small-font requirements that you want to make sure you’re aware of.

How To Write The Perfect Grant Proposal

You’ve found the perfect grant to apply for and scoured the requirements with a fine-tooth comb — now it’s time to win it.

Step 1: Make sure your focus is clear. Target who you’d like to help, why this is a notable problem, and how you expect the grant will help achieve the goals you’re striving for.

Step 2: Your problem statement should be descriptive and urgent. The funders should understand how the community is being impacted by the current situation, why help is needed, and why you need to take action right away.

Step 3: Include powerful statistics and examples. These genuine stats should be sprinkled throughout from beginning to end. You want them to trust you know what you’re doing — whether you’re already an established organization or just getting started.

Step 4: Do your research. Reading up on the history of the foundation and looking over past recipients as well as recent 990’s also help you with tailoring your proposal. How did the previous winners categorize their proposal and what did they focus on or do very well? How did they come to the research they’re presenting? Also seeing the range of assets the foundation has can give you a good idea of how much to ask for. Ask for a little less if you’re newer in the scene, and feel welcome to aim higher if you’re better established.

Step 5: Be fascinating. Use storytelling to bring forth empathy to encourage action now rather than later. A compelling proposal is more likely to be remembered and elicit an emotional connection to your cause.

Step 6: Follow the application rules. This is the number one reason that grants get rejected. If they ask for 12 pages, don’t squish in another page or seven with .5 font — that’s just torturous. If they want two copies of each document, make two copies of each. This simple step will put you ahead of the game substantially.

Step 7: Proofread, proofread, proofread! Make sure your math adds up and your words flow flawlessly. Nothing commands attention like a mistake-free proposal.

As a final note, this article on Getting the Grant 101 dives deeper into the questions you need to address, and is an excellent resource to go over as you begin drafting.

Do’s and Don’ts Before You Submit Your Grant Proposal

Do talk about funding important causes that will deliver results for funders and the community.

Do be very clear with what your goals and plans are, and how you intend to maximize the charity’s resources.

Do demonstrate how you plan to make spending more efficient.

Do have someone with experience look over your proposal, and ask for all the advice they’ll give.

Don't send in multiple copies. It’s confusing, unprofessional, and extra work for the foundation. Serve your proposal on a pristine platter, not a heap of repetition.

Don't write a vague grant proposal and send it to multiple grants. This doesn’t cast a wider net, it just dulls a potentially sharp hook.

Don't apply for all of the grants within a foundation in the hopes that one is selected. Making your proposal tailored with a dominant purpose is something that is far more likely to get picked.

Don't wait until the last minute! Most proposals sent at the end of the year are simply too late, and have an extremely low chance of even getting viewed. Be early, and you’ll already be more likely to win.

Once You’ve Submitted Your Grant

As grant organizations receive enormous amounts of applications, it can take roughly 6-12 weeks before hearing back from one.

If you have won any grants in the past, it’s just good conduct to keep them updated on your project and thank them again deeply for their generosity. These relationships are key if you plan on securing more grants in the future.

If you happen to receive a rejection letter, continue to stay in touch and thank them for their time. It can take a few tries with the same foundation before you’re successful, but always follow through and maintain a pleasant demeanor in your communications — they are the ones with the wallet, after all.

With these tips, you should be well on your way to securing that grant for your dreams. Happy grant-hunting, and even happier grant-winning!