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We’ve talked about grant writing for nonprofits. If grant funding is a part of your annual fundraising plan, actually tackling the grant process can be daunting.

Before you begin to apply to grants, you need to do your research. Have you identified potential funders who are a good fit for your mission and the work you are doing? Have you considered your probability of winning an award? Is it worth the resources to start the application process?

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Once you’ve found your best grant opportunities, it’s time to address your grant writing strategy. Every grant application will be different. Some grants may simply ask you to answer a few questions in short form. Others will require lengthy essay sections, supporting documentation, and more. Most grants will fall somewhere in between. Developing a clear, comprehensive protocol for your grant applications will save you time and resources.

Research the Foundation’s Grant Process

Visit the funder’s website. Is there a frequently asked questions section? Grant instructions and/or guidelines? A sample application? Perhaps an example of a previous grantee’s successful application packet? Read it all. Before you write a single word, you should be an expert on what’s expected of you to successfully obtain funding.

Create a Plan to Address Each Requirement

We cannot emphasize this next point strongly enough. When your potential funder tells you what they need from you, give it to them. Thoroughly review the requirements and establish a strategy to address each and every line item.

Do they want your application in triplicate? On purple paper? Paper clipped instead of stapled? No matter how insignificant the details may seem to you, comply with them. The trashcans of grant foundations are laden with applications that have been rejected simply because of noncompliance.

Compliance is not the only issue here. Keep in mind that you will be working closely with funders. You need to establish positive rapport and trust early. One great way to do this is to prove that you can pay attention to the details.

The best way to approach this is to create an excel spreadsheet that has a column for each grant requirement, your plan to address that specific requirement, who is responsible, and a checklist for completion.

Make the Connection with Funding Organizations

Are you still not entirely sure whether you’re a likely candidate for funding? Are any instructions unclear? If you require clarification, flush that out before you dive in. If you’ve already created a spreadsheet with the relevant contact information for each funder, you’ll know exactly who to reach out to with any questions or concerns.

Curate Your Content

Your job will be to prove to the people with the funding that you are a good investment. While each grant application will vary, there is core information you can have at the ready. Be prepared to address the following:

  • What problem(s) does your organization address?
  • Why should a funder care about that problem?
  • What does your organization do to help solve the problem?
  • What kind of outcomes could a funder expect?
  • How will you evaluate yourself/your program(s)? What are key benchmarks?
  • How will you sustain the great work you’re doing (beyond the funding)?
  • What’s your projected budget?


HCS Pro-Tip: You’ll be able to repurpose much of this language as you write many different grants. That doesn’t mean you should cut and paste, but it does mean that you can provide yourself with consistent language to reference across grant proposals. Keep consistent and up-to-date records of content that really excels.

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If you have done your research, obtained a clear sense of what your funder requires of you, and are prepared to talk about your organization in a compelling and transparent way – you’re ready to start grant writing! Stay tuned to the Heeren Content & Strategy blog for more tips on effective grant writing.

Heeren Content & Strategy provides full-spectrum content strategy, inbound marketing, and brand development for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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