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The Art of Grant Writing
by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz

Return to Business & Technical Writing · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

Do you enjoy writing factual material? Can you present your facts in a convincing manner? Do you feel strongly about a particular cause? Then, perhaps, grantwriting is for you.

Depending on where you live and the organization for whom you're writing, experienced grantwriters may earn between $250 to $600 per grant and as much as $1,000 to $2,000 for writing federal grants. Hourly wages can run between $40 to $100 per hour, or $20 per hour plus a percentage of the grant money requested.

Who needs grantwriters? There are many areas open to grantwriters including, human rights groups, women's crisis centers, environmental groups, humane societies, programs for developmentally disabled, schools, museums, theater groups, arts councils, medical centers, mental health centers and other non-profit groups.

How do you go about finding a job as a grantwriter? If you have no experience as a grantwriter, start by volunteering at a community non-profit. Let the director know that you're a writer and interested in joining a grantwriting committee. Becoming part of an established committee will give you an opportunity to learn from other successful grantwriters.

Where do you take classes? Many community colleges offer classes in grantwriting. These classes offer a broad overview as well as specifics. Working in a classroom setting can give you confidence while learning basic skills.

If your local college doesn't offer classes and your chosen nonprofit doesn't have an established grantwriting committee, here are a few pointers to follow in preparing a grant:

1. Always read the grant application thoroughly before preparing the grant. Follow the specific instructions as each funding source has its own rules and policies. Each proposal should be geared to the specific funder, not generically written.

2. Attach a brief cover letter to your proposal which has been signed by the Board Chair.

3. Prepare a clear, concise Summary which explains your request to the funder.

4. Describe your organization's qualifications and give credibility to it in an Introduction.

5. Clearly document the particular needs and problems of your community which create a climate for your project.

6. Establish measurable benefits if funding is approved (e.g. how many people will be served).

7. Describe what your agency will do to accomplish its goals. 8. Be sure to include an evaluation which establishes the plan for defining how well your objectives were met or methods were followed.

9. Your funder will want to know what plans you have for future funding. Be sure to include information on fundraisers, other grant sources, and whether you are requesting start-up or operating funds.

10. Finally, a clear budget is required delineating the costs involved in achieving your organization's goal.

Remember, when writing your proposal, create a clean, neat and easy to read product. Don't rely on large quantities of rhetoric -- write in simple English without abbreviations, initials, jargon or verbs turned into nouns. Be concise and to the point; flowery words are not appreciated by funders who must wade through hundreds of grant applications. Always be positive in your attitude. You're offering your funding source a unique opportunity to get involved in an important, worthwhile project. Support your beliefs with facts. It's not enough to make general assumptions, you must be prepared to let your funding source know why your project is relevant to your geographic area.

After you have written the grant, have someone else read it for clarity and mistakes. When you've worked intimately on a project, you may overlook information which is unknown, but important, to your funder.

Be prepared for rejection. Funders receive far more requests than they have funds. Don't allow your ego to get involved with your proposal. If one funder says no, check your resources and try another source.

A few common errors to watch for in creating a professionally written grant are:

  1. Failure to explain project aims clearly
  2. Budgets too high or too low for project or failure to explain exactly how money will be used
  3. Inadequate or irrelevant evaluation plans
  4. Failure to adequately describe the need for the project

Being a successful grantwriter requires, research, patience, clarity, powers of persuasion, neatness, and the ability to follow directions precisely. If this sounds like you, here's your opportunity to find employment doing what you enjoy doing -- writing -- either as a freelancer or within an established organization.


1. Grantsmanship Library Monthly News, Whole Non-Profit Catalog, California, 1989.

2. "Program Planning & Proposal Writing," Norton J. Kiritz, Grantsmanship Center reprint, California.

3. "Suggestions From A Foundation Executive," Bill Somerville, San Mateo Foundation, Grantsmanship Center reprint, California.

4. "Confessions of a Grantsperson," Murray L. Bob, Grassroots Fundraising Journal, February 1988, pp. 3-9

5. "The Big Search," Philicia Malo, Grantsmanship Center News, October-December 1977.

6. The Foundation Center Catalog of Resources, Foundation Center, New York, 1991.

7. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Washington, D.C., Jan. - Dec. 1991.

Find Out More...

How to Become a Successful Grant Writer - Kathleen Ewing

Writing-World.com's Links to Grant & Funding Sources

Helpful Sites:

The Grantsmanship Center
Excellent resources and publications for developing well-written proposals.

Copyright © 2001 Penny Ehrenkranz
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz has published more than 80 articles, 60 stories, two e-books, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children's publications and non-fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and online publications. Her writing blog is available at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/.


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