Grant Writing Best Practices: 5 Tips from 5 Experts

Grant writing is a great way to secure funding for your organization and has a multifaceted pathway to success. Finding the grants is half the battle, writing the grants is a whole other animal, and we’re not even going to start on reporting after the grant is awarded. You’ve got to know where to find grants for your nonprofit organization, but you also need to know the best tips and tricks to write a stellar grant proposal. We asked five of the top nonprofit leaders to dish out their secrets and grant writing best practices. Go ahead, take these tidbits back to your organization and watch as the grant writing process take off. Did we leave something out? Tell us your best tips for the grant writing process in the comments below. 


Claire Axelrad — Use a 4-Step Framework for the Proposal

My grant writing best practice advice is to use a 4-step framework for your proposal:

  1. Need in the Community
  2. How You Address That Need
  3. What it Costs
  4. How the Funder Can Help (specific project and cost)

It’s best when you can connect the need and how you’ll address it to the funder’s guidelines/priorities. In preparing your budget, be sure to include how you’ll develop sustainability moving forward. Do these four simple things well, and you’ll be surprised how far they’ll take you!

(Founder at Clairification)


Marc Pitman — Phone It In (Literally)

One surprising tip is to call the grantor before writing an application. Funders are increasingly willing to talk by phone and can help you shape your request.

(Founder at the Fundraising Coach)


Rory Green — Make Sure the Guidelines are Clear

Read the instructions and follow them, if anything is unclear ask if you can speak by phone to learn more. It may sound basic, but many charities don’t pay very close attention to the grantor’s wishes and guidelines.

(Associate Director of Advancement at Simon Fraser University)


Pamela Grow — Use Time Wisely

It makes sense to tailor two or three boilerplate proposals for general operating support from 20 to 30 smaller grant-making foundations than to spend that same amount of time dealing with the headaches of one proposal from a major funder.

(Pamela Grow Consulting Basics & More™ Fundraising Fundamentals)


Jeff Kutash — Share Data and Stories, Build Relationships

  • Don’t be trapped by the app. Tell your story.
  • Don’t share data or stories. Share data AND stories. Engage their head and their heart!
  • Make sure it is worth your time to fill out the application based on strong mission and goal alignment.
  • Foundations should cover the true operating costs of the organization. Be unabashed and unapologetic in sharing that information.
  • The relationship matters. Before putting in the app, do your best to meet with foundation staff so they can hear about and hopefully see your work in action.
  • Getting the grant is not the end of the process. It is the beginning of a partnership.

(Executive Director of the Peter Kiewit Foundation)

grant writing best practices

Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

May 31, 2017

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