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5 Must-Know Tips for Writing a Grant Proposal

So you’re the leader of a new nonprofit, and you’re ready to dive into the world of grant funding – congratulations! 

While every grant will vary slightly based on the needs and preferences of the funder, there are some universal tips and tricks that will keep you on track for them all.

Read on!

A woman in jeans and a yellow top stands over a calculator with a pen in her hand.

Preparation tops the list of tips for writing a grant proposal.

Taking the time to thoroughly prepare before you start writing is critical to a low-stress application process. 

Gather all of the materials available to you – the application questions, Request for Proposals (RFP), budget guidelines, and anything else provided by the funding institution. Print them if you can, and go through them all with a highlighter to note important considerations and deadlines. 

Get as clear as possible on exactly what the funder is looking for, and pick out key terms that give a sense for their core values and what kinds of projects they’re looking to fund. Use these terms in your writing, and communicate clearly how your work satisfies their funding goals.

All of the tips for writing a grant proposal in the world won’t help if you don’t fully understand what a funder is looking for!

Know what information is generally expected.

Most grant applications touch on the following information:

  • General eligibility, including your tax status and IRS-provided Employer Identification Number (EIN); whether you’re fiscally sponsored; if the funds will be used for lobbying; and if you plan to use the funds domestically or internationally
  • Contact information for your organization’s leadership and any staff who will have primary responsibility or oversight for the program or project you’re requesting funding for
  • An organizational overview providing basic and background information about your nonprofit, the work you do, and the communities you serve
  • A statement of need, which incorporates facts and figures to illustrate the issue your program is addressing
  • A description of the activities or program you’re looking to have funded and how they will benefit your community
  • Your plans for evaluating the success of your program
  • Your budget and how you plan to spend the grant money, if awarded

Master the art of the portal application.

Many funders now require grant applications to be submitted through a digital portal. While this offers a level of convenience for both funder and applicant, there are things to be mindful of when submitting your grant proposal online.

Log into the portal right away to review all application questions, required documents, and any due dates. Plan to submit your application at least two days prior to the deadline to leave yourself time to iron out any last-minute technical challenges.

Note any limits on text input. Most application portals will only allow a certain number of words or characters for each answer. Make sure you know ahead of time what those are – there’s nothing worse than realizing at the last minute that you left the input limit in the dust and need to make significant cuts to your writing!

Do the bulk of your writing outside the portal. Use Word or Google Docs to write your proposal and collaborate with your team, as appropriate. Paste the information into the portal when you’re ready to submit.

A woman in glasses and a yellow sweater reviews her nonprofit grant application.

Don’t skimp on the finishing touches.

Editing is an important final step in the grant application process – don’t skip it. Hire a professional proofreader, if you can, or ask someone outside your organization to review your proposal. They can help you identify areas of improvement or where you need to clarify your message.

Additionally, the Hemingway Editor is a free tool that will assess the grade level of your writing and help to pinpoint convoluted sentences, passive voice, or overuse of adverbs.

Most importantly, try not to stress too much.

It’s important to be strategic in the grant opportunities you pursue, but at the end of the day, it can be a numbers game. 

Once you’ve submitted a proposal, the decision whether to fund your program is out of your control. Sometimes, the best proposals aren’t funded simply because there’s a full grant docket already or too many similar applicants.

Get feedback on your proposals from funders when you can, but try to stay positive, work to consistently improve and refine your programs and services, and just keep at it!

There's more! Get access to the extended version of this article and lots of other great resources by joining NPO Centric. NPO Centric’s membership program brings regular tips, tricks, and best practices to nonprofit leaders across the country. Join us today!

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