7 Tips to Ace Grant Writing

Now that you know why your organization should consider applying for grants and where to find them, I wanted to share some helpful hints for grant writing.

While there is no guarantee that your nonprofit organization or business will win a grant award, these tips will ensure your application is thorough and help you stand out from the rest.

Consider creating a checklist for each grant application.

Triple-check your check list

Most grantmakers provide a list of required supporting documents to include with your application or proposal. Typically, these include an organization’s bylaws, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and proof of nonprofit status as provided by the IRS, and a list of board members, among other necessities. It is imperative to submit all needed paperwork. Failing to do so can make your organization instantly ineligible for consideration. I suggest creating a check list for each grant application and ensuring all documents are available before beginning the application itself.

Pay attention to details – there are many

Every funding opportunity is different. Before spending the time completing and submitting an application, it is a good idea to first review the grant guidelines. Does it require a matching contribution? If so, is your organization able to contribute the match? Does the fund disbursement time frame align with your project timeline? If not, is your project start date flexible? Does the grant provide full or partial funding up front or require reimbursement upon project completion? Does your organization have the necessary funds to expend until the grant is reimbursed? These and other important questions should be considered in the early stage of the process.

Put your elevator pitch to use

How would you introduce yourself – or your organization – to a stranger in an elevator?

Win over grantmakers with a short, succinct overview of your organization. Be sure to highlight past achievements and future goals like the elevator pitch you might share when networking or meeting someone for the first time. Now that the grantor has a better feel for who you are and what you do, it is time to persuade them to support your project. (And yes, you should have a project).

Having a specific project in mind and clearly explaining it will increase your chance of receiving funding. Grantmakers tend to award grants more readily for specific purposes as opposed to general support. The more details you can provide the better. It will illustrate that you not only have a plan, but that you thought through how the project would be undertaken. Extra credit if your project aligns with a grant’s goals or objectives.

Be complete

Once your organization decides to seek a particular grant, you can formally move on to the application process. It may sound obvious, but make sure all questions are answered. I have seen applications with blank budget statements and incomplete sections. If you are unsure about what is needed for a particular section, reach out to a representative ahead of time. It is far better to clarify and include all necessary information than skip a section and risk your organization being passed over. In my experience working for local municipal governments, I see how precise the Request for Proposal and Request for Bid process is. Proposals and bids can be rejected for an applicant’s failure to sign the form, include a phone number, or provide proof of liability insurance, for example. Grant applications carry similar weight. If a question is on the application or RFP, it needs to be addressed.

Toot your own horn

Sing the praises of your organization as part of your grant application.

Nonprofit organizations rarely sing their own praises. When it comes to grant writing, this can be detrimental. It is important for groups to outline the positive work they have undertaken, how it has helped a community or target population and the impact of previous efforts coupled with future objectives. Bonus points for sharing quantifiable results. This is also a great opportunity to outline what sets you apart from other organizations. How is your work different?

Answer the “why”

Just needing money is not enough. Your application should explain why your organization needs this funding, how it would be beneficial and the ways in which it will make a difference. Outline what your organization hopes to accomplish with the grant funding and illustrate the needs that you intend to address. What are your goals and how would the award help you reach them? The clearer you can be about the need for the grant, the better chance your organization has of obtaining an award.

A budget worksheet is an important part of your grant.

Make a budget – and stick to it

Assuming your organization receives the grant, how will you spend it? Perhaps you are seeking funding to provide housing assistance and food to those in need. Be sure to spell out the details of your budget as part of your application. How much will you allocate for each initiative? How many people do you expect to serve? What is the timeline for fulfilling the grant objectives and spending the funds? Once you have a budget established, be sure to stick to it. Most grantors require post-award reporting to ensure funds are spent appropriately and based on previously submitted budget plans. Another thing to keep in mind: administrative costs and indirect expenses, such as travel, are often not funded, or only minimally funded.

I submitted a grant application … now what?

It typically takes several months (or longer) for a grant award announcement. While you wait for the outcome of one, you can always apply for another. Depending upon the type of grant and the available funding, it can be a competitive process. While you may not receive the first grant you seek, just know there are many more opportunities available.

Does your nonprofit organization or business need assistance applying for grants? Email Theresa Katalinas or call 215-519-8833 to learn how Katalinas Communications can help. Katalinas Communications oversees the grant writing and application process for the Bucks County Wine Trail. Most recently, Katalinas Communications completed a grant writing project for Salute 2 Service, a nonprofit organization focused on assisting military veterans. 

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