Grant Writing Guidelines

By | August 4, 2016

With more than $50 billion in grants awarded annually, it is no surprise that a large number of nonprofits choose to invest time and resources into getting their share. While grants may be “free money” it is a highly competitive process to win one.

Too often nonprofits incorporate grant awards into their annual budget and are then unable to complete projects or fully fund programs when they aren’t won. It is in an organization’s best interest to not count on grant funding but to rather look at it as a bonus.

Ready to apply for a grant? Keep these thoughts in mind as you prepare your proposal.

Research. Research the funder. Research the specific grant. Research past grant winners. Oh, and did we mention — do your research?!?! Doing so ensures that your organization’s mission and this particular opportunity match. It is a waste of your time as well as the funder’s to apply for a grant that doesn’t mesh well with your overall objective.

Get started. As soon as you have found a grant you want to apply for, begin the process. It doesn’t matter how far out the application deadline is, this is the time to start. You are likely to have questions and having ample time to pose them to the project administrators will benefit you and your organization.

Terms. Surely you have heard the old adage that there is no such thing as “free money” – it is true! Grants are not entirely free. More often than not, they are restricted funds. What does that mean? It means you must adhere to specific guidelines when appropriating the funds. Be sure you understand them before you accept a grant.

Details, details, detail. As you embark on the grant application process, it is important to not leave out any details. Offer as many specifics as possible when describing your program, its goals and overall mission. The panel doesn’t want to read about theory, they want to see concrete information. Clearly explain who you are, what you stand for and specifically, where the funds awarded will go to. Grantors want to know that you have a plan and are prepared to put the award to use as soon as you receive it.

Credibility. Back up the statements you make in your application with individual references, those from other organizations or better yet, both. These references should attest to the work your nonprofit is doing and the milestones it has achieved. Begin collecting these references as close to the start of the application as possible so your references have ample time to provide them to you.

Proofread, proofread and proofread. This is so important we felt the need to mention it 3 times. The best way to NOT get a grant — submit a proposal that is full of spelling and grammar errors. It’s basic – if you can’t take the time to proofread your proposal, why should any organization award you with a grant?

Solicit an objective opinion. Once you and/or other members of your organization have completed the proposal ask someone from outside the organization to take a look at it. If they are moved by it, you have done well. Should they have questions or not fully understand your organization’s mission, you will want to go back and revise. For this step, it may be worth it to hire a professional to help you.


Grants are a wonderful way to create additional visibility to your organization and may even present additional networking opportunities. Has your organization successfully been awarded grants? Share your top tips with us!

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