Tips for Writing Successful Grants


Grant writing can feel intimidating if you have never done it before.  However, by following a few quick tips and getting a little hands on practice, you will get the hang of it in no time.  What is a grant anyway?  Grants are non-repayable funds disbursed by grant makers, often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to a recipient, often a nonprofit, educational institution, or business. In order to receive a grant, some form of “Grant Writing” often referred to as either a proposal or an application is required. Proposals or applications vary greatly depending on the funding source.  The content, format, and method of submission are all different.  However, there are usually some common elements.  Most grantors want to know a bit about your school or organization, the history of the project you are seeking funds for, the capacity of the organization to implement and manage the project, a detailed budget about how the funds will be spent, a sustainability plan for when the grant money is gone, a description of the needs of the community and why the funds are needed, and most importantly your project idea to meet those needs.  Grant writing can be time consuming, but successful applications can make a lasting impact in communities that have unmet needs. You can receive generous amounts of money to implement ideas and programs that otherwise would not be possible.


  1. Read the entire Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Applications (RFA) multiple times.  Read it once to understand the funder’s purpose for putting out the request.  Read it once to see if your organization is a good fit.  Read it once to determine the specific requirements in regard to performance and reporting if funded. Read it once to determine the specific requirements of the application.  Read it once to be sure you didn’t miss anything the other times you read it.
  2. Ensure you have the support of the community and your organization’s leadership in applying for funding.
  3. Make a checklist of all of the parts and pieces you will need to include in the application as well as supplemental attachments.
  4. Ask someone else not associated with the project to read your application to make sure they follow what you are proposing.
  5. Double check all formatting specifications to ensure you are meeting all requirements. Many grants have very specific instructions in regard to font size, font type, number of pages etc.
  6. Organizing ideas, having standard information about the organization or school on hand, and forming partnerships ahead of time can help immensely in a time crunch. The timeframe between RFP lease and proposal deadlines for submission are often very short. 
  7. Register in the federal government’s grant management and submission system at
  8. Register in your state’s grant management system.  In New York State that is
  9. Apply for grants that meet your mission and provide a connection between your goals and the funders goals. Don’t “chase the money.”
  10. Ensure anyone you hire to write a grant is a certified grant writer and follows the standards of professional practice that include the grant writing code of ethics.

Quite honestly, the best way to get better at grant writing is to practice.  Start with a mini-grant that might not be as in depth as a state or federal grant and give it a try.  Mini-grants can often be found through local corporations or businesses, community foundations, and local health departments. Whether you are funded or not, ask the grantor for feedback about your application in order to improve your next attempt.  See the diagram below for a picture of the grant writing process.

grant map


Read Part II: Grant Writing Tips Part II: 10 Ways to Improve Your Grant Application


Amanda Root, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Jefferson County


Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!), The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill