How to Apply for Grants and Write Effective Grant Proposals

grantsCrafting effective requests for funding can be a daunting prospect. Competitive, confusing and overwhelming for newcomers, but the good news is that grant writing can be learned.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of and GrantWriterTeam, said good grant writers need skills beyond strong grammar and punctuation.  Think about what makes your proposal unique. What will set your application apart from others? Find a way to capture the funder’s attention. Is the writing creative? Imaginative? Does it evoke any emotion? Touch their hearts?  Evoke images for them?

The layout and questions on funding applications are generally straightforward, but every application is different depending on the type of funding body you approach and the kind of funding you’re applying for. receives a high number of requests from organizations that seek qualified grant writers. The process and the ability to communicate a vision should not be underestimated. Nonprofits, without the funds to hire a full-time in-house grant writer often turn to GrantWriterTeam.

The Letter of Inquiry and Applications

Many trusts and foundations require a letter of inquiry or letter of application prior to submitting your application. The letter should be no longer than two pages. Keep your sentences short and use active language, including specific accomplishments. If there is an application form, don’t exceed the word limit. Include only the important information and the data that support it.

If you’re working with others, start by talking through the funding application with your colleagues to get their input on the proposal. Collate all the information together and ask them to continue to update you directly if they have anything new to add in future, and to get it to you before the deadline.

Read the application requirements and form several times. Break down each question into its various parts, and make sure you answer every aspect of the question. Be as specific as possible. Add examples in a concise, succinct manner. Keep language simple and avoid ambiguous or general, generic statements.

Fresh Outlook

Assume your funder isn’t familiar with your organization or the issues you address. Look at your application as if through their eyes. Avoid jargon that only people in your organization or your field are familiar with. When appropriate, use the same language they use in their guidelines.

Make sure you address the key questions:

  • What is the issue?
  • Why is it a problem and what evidence do you have for this need?
  • How will you address it – what activities and outcomes?
  • What will you not be able to do (scope)?
  • Why should they choose you versus another organization to address this? What’s your track record?
  • What difference will their funding make? How will you meet their objectives?
  • How will you measure success (monitoring and evaluation)?

Funders will lose interest if your application is too difficult to understand or takes too much of their time to figure out what you’re trying to say – or what you’re asking for the money for. Be clear and straightforward in your request.

Getting and Staying Organized

  • Make a Checklist.
  • Choose a title for your project that’s clear and self-explanatory
  • If you’re responding to a problem, outline why it needs to be solved.
  • Allocate time for research. Gather facts, statistics and quotations to prove the importance of your proposal and why they should choose to fund you.
  • List how you will go about achieving your short, medium, and long-term goals with the funding you’re requesting.
  • Make it clear to those who will be reading the proposal what you will be creating or providing with the money received, and how you plan to be able to continue to operate once the funding period is over.
  • Decide who you will be working with to implement the plans and why.
  • Outline your progress to date.
  • Build a timeline detailing all that’s required to take your project further: any positions that will be needed, or number of hours per week it will take you or other employees already working with you, the next steps you want to take and the time this will take you.
  • Use assertive language. Choose confident words and keep the funders objective in mind at every stage. Does your proposal fit with their mission?

Create a Budget

Create clear breakdown of costs, outline the costs for pilots, development phase or an investment-ready proposal. Be realistic when breaking down costs: budgets should accurately reflect the planning, research, project delivery and evaluation. Grant and funding assessors will always look out for over and under-estimated costs. If you don’t have a financial officer in your organization to help you with this, it is worth seeking advice from an external financial expert so that your budget will be as precise and realistic as possible for the achievement of your goals and objectives.

List any other funders you’ve received funding from, and the terms you have with them. Give details about the other investors and in what capacity you’re working with them. Some funders will only take on projects where they’re the sole granter, so be sure before you apply that you’ll be eligible.

Reporting Results

Make sure you have a clear way of identifying your impact and prove your organization has the capacity to manage, deliver and evaluate your proposed activity.

Show how you will be able to continue the project once the funding period is over. Let the funders see what their money has accomplished and how the good you plan to do with their money will continue after the grant funding ends.

Before Submitting Your Proposal

Review your final draft and proofread it. Make sure you haven’t skipped any sections and that you’re submitting all documentation requested. Get someone impartial to proof your final draft as well. Ask for the opinion of someone your trust and be open to any constructive criticism and feedback they provide. Use it to refine your answers and project plans.

Even if you’re not required to detail your timeline, building one for the rest of your project will give you clearer vision of the whole. By fully understanding your proposal, you’ll be able to break down, outline and respond to each part of the process or delivery.

Are your vision and objectives achievable? Can you see any areas in which you’ll need assistance to bring it to fruition? Identify where you’ll need assistance, whether that’s from legal advice, marketing, accounting, administrative or professional support outside of what your organization currently has.

Be ready to supply key information about your organization that will be requested if your application succeeds. Make sure you have these ready to present prior to any consultation meeting dates set with funders.

To be effective grant writers need to know how to communicate and convey a message to different audiences; research funding opportunities; and build and maintain relationships with funding sources.

Grant writing is a skilled craft that involves time. It’s important to develop accurate management plans and have accurate reporting mechanisms. receives a high number of requests from organizations that seek qualified grant writers. Nonprofits, without the funds to hire a full-time in-house grant writer often turn to GrantWriterTeam.

Grant writers from all backgrounds who have the talent to craft a compelling grant proposal should sign-up on, a service of Joining GrantWriterTeam is easy. Create a profile, fill out the application and begin to bid on grant writing jobs.

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for