Grant Writing For Dummies book cover

Grant Writing For Dummies

Published: March 29, 2022

Overview

Write award-winning grant proposals that build organizational capacity!

For nonprofit and for-profit firms alike, grants can be a singular generator of growth and impact. But many leaders are intimidated and confused by the sometimes-complex grant application process. The truth, however, is that anyone can learn to write and send a powerful grant letter with the right help.

In Grant Writing For Dummies, Dr. Beverly Browning draws on over four decades of experience writing grant applications and training grant writers to deliver a comprehensive and easy-to-follow roadmap to drafting and submitting grant applications that get funded. You’ll learn to craft the strongest application possible, find the best sources of funding from online databases, and present a realistic project budget plan.

You’ll also find:

  • Example types of funding requests that demonstrate how to apply the concepts discussed in the book
  • New and updated material walking you through the entire grant-writing process, from beginning to end
  • Writing techniques that capture the imaginations of grant reviewers who decide which applicants walk away empty-handed and which ones receive cash

Whether you’re looking to fund your nonprofit, grow your business, or develop your research venture, you’ll find the guidance you need in Grant Writing For Dummies.

Write award-winning grant proposals that build organizational capacity!

For nonprofit and for-profit firms alike, grants can be a singular generator of growth and impact. But many leaders are intimidated and confused by the sometimes-complex grant application process. The truth, however, is that anyone can learn to write and send a powerful grant letter with the right help.

In Grant Writing For Dummies, Dr. Beverly Browning draws on over four decades of experience writing grant applications and training grant writers to deliver a comprehensive and easy-to-follow roadmap to drafting and submitting grant applications that get funded. You’ll learn to craft the strongest application

possible, find the best sources of funding from online databases, and present a realistic project budget plan.

You’ll also find:

  • Example types of funding requests that demonstrate how to apply the concepts discussed in the book
  • New and updated material walking you through the entire grant-writing process, from beginning to end
  • Writing techniques that capture the imaginations of grant reviewers who decide which applicants walk away empty-handed and which ones receive cash

Whether you’re looking to fund your nonprofit, grow your business, or develop your research venture, you’ll find the guidance you need in Grant Writing For Dummies.

Grant Writing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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 how to document your productivity and impact. This Cheat Sheet provides the critical aspects of grant writing for quick reference.

Articles From The Book

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Nonprofits Articles

10 Ways to Continue Building Your Grant-Writing Skills

You can always improve at grant writing Here, you find ten great tips on how to continue building your grant-writing skills. All the advice here comes from the school of hard rocks and hard knocks.

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 Blogger, Squarespace, or WordPress) or for other publications and companies that continually update their websites with contributions from guest writers.

Continue your formal education

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.

Nonprofits Articles

10 E-Grant Tips

Today, e-grants are the norm for most funders. Unfortunately, grant writers and others working in e-grant limitations tend to have the misconception that e-grants are a piece of cake. The reality is that e-grants aren’t easy to write. Here are some tips to stay on top of the e-grants game and reduce common errors (and stress!) when the grant application submission time rolls around.

Log in and set up a password immediately

The first step in writing an e-grant application is to log in so you can see what the requirements are. Read over all the questions and note how many characters you’re allotted for your answers. Then, as you work on your application offline, you can make sure that all your answers fit. (The last thing you want to do is try to write your grant application on the fly in the online system.)

Make a note of your password and keep it someplace safe where you’ll be able to find it if you forget. Also, set your online calendar alert with the due date so you don’t forget.

Fill in routine organizational information

The first step in most e-grant applications is to provide routine information about your organization. Before you log in again, assemble all the following:
  • Your organization’s name
  • The year for IRS 501(c)(3) incorporation
  • Your organization’s physical address
  • Your organization’s mailing address
  • The name of the contact person and that person’s job title
  • The contact person’s telephone and fax numbers and email address
  • Your organization’s employer identification number
  • Your organization’s DUNS number
  • A copy of your most recent annual operating budget
Have all this organizational information within eyesight because the e-grant portal may automatically log you out after a certain number of minutes of inactivity.

The organizational information fields required can differ from funder to funder. If you don’t have some of the requested information on hand and ready to enter into the online e-grant application template, start looking at previous grant applications and have these files open on your screen with all possible organizational contract information.

Review the entire online application template

Now that you have access to the online grant application template, it’s likely that you’ll be viewing one page of instructions at a time from a multipage grant application template (a set of questions that you must fill in the answer for online). In some e-grant systems, you can’t advance to the next screen until you fill in the requested information on the current screen. In other e-grant systems, you can advance and see every page remaining in the online template without entering anything. Review as much of the e-grant application template as possible. Take notes on the information you need to assemble to complete the rest of your grant application.

If you can’t advance to the next screen or page until you fill in the information on the current page, stop and log out. Call the funder to see if you can get a Word or PDF copy of the entire blank application template via email.

Copy and re-create the template in a word processing program

When you access the first page of the e-grant application template, copy and paste what you see on the screen onto a blank word processing page. Save your word-processing file early and often, in case your power goes out or the computer freezes up. When you’ve copied and pasted everything required in the online e-grant template, log out and get ready for the next step.

If you’re timed out of the grant application website, you can always log back in. Any information that you’ve entered and saved will remain intact.

Determine if you’re counting characters or characters and spaces

Look at the instructions for each information field box. There will likely be limits on the number of words, characters with spaces, or characters with no spaces that you can enter. As you type your responses in the same word processing document, monitor or track what you’re typing so you can make sure you’re fitting within the space allowed.

Stop your writing at about 50 characters less than what’s allowed. That way, you have a little wiggle room. Also, check with the funder to see if your understanding of the formatting requirements (spaces and characters) is correct.

Live without traditional graphics

When you work in an e-grant application template, you can’t insert graphics. You’re going to have to ditch your use of tables, maps, charts, and figures. In the coveted space that you’re allowed to respond, everything will need to be in narrative format. The first few times you create your narrative for this type of limited uploading environment, it may be challenging to communicate your point with words alone. But after you have a few e-grant applications under your belt, you’ll know the true meaning of the term plain and simple.

Live without traditional formatting

E-grant submission systems usually aren’t so good about special formatting — stuff like bold, italics, underlining, and different font colors. You just have to settle for plain text. Typically, the font doesn’t matter either, because when you paste it into the e-grant system, it’s all the same.

Convert your text into RTF format before pasting it back into the online application. This will prevent formatting issues that can come up with Microsoft Word and the HTML interface.

Recheck the funder’s website daily for modifications to the guidelines

Just like the federal funding agencies that post endless modifications and amendments to their initially posted grant application package, foundations and corporations that use e-grant application systems can also post changes. If you’re registered and you’ve started your grant application by entering the organizational information, you’ll likely receive an email notification of any changes that are made. Still, you should develop the habit of logging on every day to look for notes or changes posted and follow their instructions accordingly. That way, you don’t have to change your narrative content or find out that you’re missing another required financial document at the last minute.

Confirm the due date time and time zone

This snafu happened to a colleague of mine. She planned to enter her e-grant application text and submit it the same day it was due. The deadline was published as 12 a.m. on Saturday, March 1. In her mind, she thought she had until Saturday night before midnight. But the deadline was actually Friday night. It took some frantic weekend communications to get the funder (someone she knew) to extend the portal’s submission system to accept her grant application on Saturday morning. You may not be that lucky, so always double-check with the funder on the due date time and time zone. Your funder could be located out of state across three time zones. If you want to be even safer, plan to submit your application a couple days before the deadline, to reduce your chance of problems.

Hit submit

You’re ready to submit your online e-grant application. Sweat is pouring down your forehead and you’re letting every doubt possible enter your mind. Did I? Should I? What if? If you’ve followed the funder’s instructions, read and reread and reread (yes, read your text three times or more) your entries and edited them, you’re ready to hit Submit. Just do it! Make sure to look for a receipt confirmation in your email or in the viewing window after you submit, indicating that the application was received by the funder. What’s next? Either onto the next grant application or a well-deserved day off of work!

Nonprofits Articles

How to Build Relationships with Grant Funders via Email

Prepare, prepare, prepare! If you don’t prepare and cultivate the relationship before asking for grant money, you and your organization have a double loss when it comes to winning grants from newly identified potential funders. In order to build a relationship with a potential funder, you need to start by researching corporate funding sources thoroughly.

When you’ve thoroughly researched funding sources, you’re ready to review all the language in the funder’s profile to find its initial contact information. Typically, funders will state one of two possible initial contact preferences: a phone call or a letter of inquiry. Calling to introduce yourself and your organization or ask for a face-to-face meeting is preferable, but the funder may prefer that you write an email instead — and if that’s the funder’s preference, you should honor that request.

If you contact your funder by email, follow these steps:
  1. Introduce yourself and your organization to the funder.
  2. Explain why you are contacting that funder. For example, maybe you have a shared mission, you’ve gotten funding from it in the past, maybe you know someone on its board of directors, you’ve attended one of its technical assistance meetings or webinars, or you have some other attention-grabbing connection.
  3. State your problem.
  4. Give the solution.
  5. State the amount of funding you need.
  6. Ask for permission to submit a full funding request based on the funder’s guidelines.
  7. Thank the person you are speaking with for his or her time.
  8. Proofread and send your official request.
  9. Follow up in five days.

If you’re able to make telephone calls to potential funders, here are some tips:

  • Write a script of what you want to say on the call. Your script should provide the same information you would provide if you were sending an email.
  • Time yourself and make sure to keep your spiel under three minutes. Keep that timer in front of you during your phone call so you don’t start to ramble.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Speak with a smile. It’s true: When you’re smiling, people can hear it.
  • Take copious notes.

If you get lucky and score a face-to-face meeting with a potential funder, take advantage of that opportunity! Write a script before the meeting and practice it over and over until you can say it naturally, without referring to your notes. Your script should communicate all the same things you would by email or over the phone.