My Top 5 Tools for Grant Writing

top 5You could be one of two categories of people reading the title of this blog post – (1) yes, yes, and yes! or (2) quickly closing your browser or deleting the email notification. Everyone has a reaction to “grant writing.” I admit that when I first starting in nonprofits I was the second category of person – running for the hills. Grant writing process is indeed daunting, requiring specific parts and a different style of writing. I became more confident as I learned some useful tools for writing proposals and grant applications.

 Here is a top 5 list for grant writing:

 5. Statistics

In graduate school, my statistics book was titled “Statistics Without Tears.” I did not shed one tear; however, I am thankful that gathering statistics is a lot easier than having to do the math myself! Consider yourself fortunate that there are statistics out there for you to use in your grant proposal. Statistics will help quantify your project and specifically in your need statement. Finding statistics too just got a lot easier. On the PCNRC’s home page under “Links,” you’ll find a whole page of creditable sources for statistics. Click here to go directly to the statistic PCNRC page.

4. Budget

There are two budgets you need. First one is the organization’s general operating budget and the second one is a budget of how much the project will cost. The general operating budget will give you a understanding of how much of your resources that can be added to the grant proposal and good internal statistics about how money is spent.

The second budget, how much the project will cost, will get you thinking about your project and how much money you will need. When I have written proposals, I like to do a rough budget first before writing. It helps me identify different pieces in the project, such as material or personnel costs. I will also research costs and perhaps vendors. I can then wrap my brain around the entire project and what is involved, including who, when, why, and how.

 3. 990s

I was asked once, “why all the excitement about 990s?” I’ll tell you why! It is because the 990s is a treasure trove of information.  For one, it offers a financial picture about their overall health. Secondly, there may be qualitative information about their board of directors and even mission statements. Thirdly, and my number one reason to get excited about 990s, is you will be able to look at who funders give money to and how much! This is imperative to determine how much to ask for and if they give to organizations like yours. You most certainly want to review 990s (and at least the last three) before you write.

 2. Grant Readiness

In the Grant Basics I class we offer at PCNRC, we ask “Are you grant ready?” Well of course, right?! You are ready to get those funds into the organization’s bank account. Nope, that’s not what I mean. Asking if you are grant ready has to do with important questions about competitiveness and creditability as an organization. In this context, creditability means having 501(c)3 status, board of directors, positive track record, etc. All of these pieces of the puzzle need to be in place before writing grant proposals. Why you might ask? Well, I answer you with a question – why would funders award a grant if you weren’t a 501(c)3, or had a solid infrastructure, or strong leadership? You are an investment and they want to give to a sustainable entity.

 1. Strategic Plan

Having a strategic plan at your fingertips will greatly help you stay in line with the organization’s long term direction. Think of it in terms of not mission drifting. It is key to match the organization’s mission with the project being proposed.


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