Tips for Writing Grants

Read through the entire grant packet

Read over guidelines, application, necessary attachments, budget requirements, etc. Be sure to pay close attention to giving priorities, and eligibility and other requirements. If your organization does not meet the eligibility requirements, or if what you want funding for does not comply with the grantmaker's giving priorities, even a perfectly written grant application will not gain your organization funding. READ CAREFULLY.

Contact the grantmaker directly

If possible, contact the grantmaker to discuss your proposal idea. They will tell you upfront whether or not your idea is fundable through their organization. This is also an appropriate time to ask them the question, "What makes a proposal good?" You may even ask to see a sample of a successful grant.

You'll need time

Give yourself adequate time to complete the application and narrative, and gather the necessary documents. Do not wait until the day before the grant deadline to begin your work. Grantmakers can tell when an application has been "thrown together."

Follow Instructions

Follow all instructions outlined by the guidelines and application - this is not the time to be creative. Save your creativity for the project/program title, design and implementation.

Watch your deadline

Observe the application deadline, and do not submit after the required date.

Answer all questions

Thoroughly, clearly, succinctly answer all questions included in the application and narrative. Be consistent with your phrasing and terminology, and, when possible, use the same phrasing and terminology in your narrative as was used in the grant guidelines and application.

Consider your data

There are many ways to collect quantitative and qualitative evaluative data for your organization. Consider more than your annual attendance and membership total when determining the success of your organization. Visitor guest book comments, feedback through Facebook, PR samples, number of volunteers and annual volunteer hours, size and scope of the collection (number of pieces in the collection), annual dollar donations, etc. can be used.

Depending on which data you use, you can show proof of community support for your organization or your organization's capacity to manage.

Quantitative success

Measurable outcomes and sustainability are important to discuss in your narrative. How will you determine whether or not your project/program has been successful? Once the grant funding is gone, how will you sustain the project/program?

Appropriate support

When appropriate, support your claims with data collected from your own organization and/or contemporary research and/or professional standards. This will strengthen your "case" for funding.


Recruit 1-2 qualified people to proofread your application and narrative. This may or may not include a representative from the grantmaker's office, but it certainly should include someone who has a good understanding of grammar and writing and can think critically.

Retain a copy

Be sure to make a copy of your full application for your records. This may be an electronic copy or a hard copy. And, since you've done such a great job completing the application and assembling the necessary documentation, this is good time to begin a "Grant Material" file which may include copies of your IRS determination letter, annual report, 990/990 EZ/990N, PR samples, board list and contacts, by-laws, strategic plan, photographs, and a general organizational history. If you intend to write other grants, this file will come in handy.

Things to avoid

Lastly, here are a few “don’ts” to keep in mind when you are preparing your project budget:

  • Don't forget to include in-kind donations. Organizations rely heavily on donated services and supplies. These all have a dollar amount.
  • Don't forget to include volunteer hours as in-kind contributions. The US Labor Department determines what the in-kind hourly rate for volunteers in our region.
  • Don't have your expenses exceed your income and vice versa.
  • Don't create a "miscellaneous" budget line with a high total. Grantmakers prefer to know what they are funding.
  • Don't "pad" your budget or request funds you do not need to accomplish your project.
  • Don't expect the grantmaker to fund 100% of the budget. Most grantmakers require other sources of funding.