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Introduction to Grant Writing

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Professional grant writers use clear, specific language to focus the reader’s attention, and to persuade the reader to fund their proposal. Learning to write successful grant proposals is no small task, but the writing process can become easier with practice and awareness of a few common missteps.

No doubt, the first step of successful grant writing is to plan the project, but the second step is following the directions of the granting organization (called, the grantmaker). In most cases, grantmakers require a(n): cover letter, executive summary, problem statements/need description, work schedule, budget, qualifications, conclusions, and appendices (or, supporting materials). Each section will have specific requirements and while keeping to a word limit is straightforward, being specific is less easy.

A Note on Following the Grantmaker’s Rules

Following directions helps the grantmaker read applications efficiently. Specificity of content will not only vary by grantmaker, but also by proposal sections. For example, a grantmaker may limit your application in general terms for background information on the contexts of your proposal:

“Please tell the grant committee in 2 to 3 pages about the support your institution or community will provide for your project if your proposal is granted the requested funds.”

Likewise, a grantmaker may explicitly limit your response to a section on the grant applicant’s qualifications by stating:

“In no more than 350 words, please summarize the grant applicant’s specific qualifications to manage the finances of the proposal. Discuss any financial experience (for example, certifications in accounting services), or other relevant office managerial duties that will help the applicant distribute funds and write regular quarterly financial reports.”

Keep in mind that many grantmakers will not read past the point of your departure from the application rules, no matter how worthy the project is or how neat and well designed the application package looks. So, while there is no guaranteed way to win a grantmaker’s funds, not following directions is a sure fire way of losing your chances at getting any funds. Ultimately, not following directions indicates carelessness—which is not a characteristic of a promising proposal.