Freelance Fridays: Writing Grant Applications

Applying for grant funding on behalf of a client is one of those very occasional things that comes up in my job. Competition for funding sources can be fierce, and while I certainly can’t claim to be the best grant writer evah, and there’s never any guarantee of a win, a little extra preparation can at least help prevent the application from getting immediately tossed out on a technicality. Below are seven tips to ensure a complete, timely grant application:

Melissa King, “Bills and a Piggy Bank,”

1. Identify the project.
Writing state, private, or federal grant applications isn’t like applying for college financial aid, where one basically checks a few boxes that say, “I need money” and hopes for a Pell Grant. To get funded, you need to have done your homework first. That means planning out your project, in detail. Be prepared to explain exactly what needs to be done, why the grant monies are needed, and how they will be spent.

2. Identify the stakeholders.
Knowing who the project is for, and who will be doing the work, is important for a couple of reasons. It shows the funding agencies that you have a serious proposal, and it helps you quickly determine whether or not your clients are likely to qualify for a given funding source.

3. Identify the funding source(s).
Once you have the basic project needs and interested parties clear, you will need to see how well the interests of those stakeholders align with the interests of your target funding agencies. Your proposal may need to be modified in order to meet eligibility standards or otherwise comply with one or more grant application requirements.

4. Make a checklist.
Grant application packets can easily be dozens of pages long, and requirements are not always especially straightforward. Read the entire packet through once, then reread. Note all deadlines, and make a list of all the documentation you will need to complete the application: maps, cost breakdowns, photographs, diagrams, letters, surveys, client signatures, funding match sources. If you are missing anything, start making calls. You need to get going on this process early, because for a large grant application, rounding up all the necessary data from the various parties involved can easily take weeks.

5. Draft an outline.
Go back through the grant application packet and locate any and all information you can about the formatting that will be required for submissions. Outline your proposal, paying extremely close attention to all of  the formatting guidelines provided — these are not suggestions, they are mandates. If they’ve asked for A, B, and C, don’t give them P, Q, and X, unless you want to get booted.

6. Start writing. And rewriting. And writing some more.
Your grant application will probably have several distinct written sections, such as an overview of your proposal, cost analysis, site description, presentation of interested parties, and explanations regarding the applicant’s eligibility, the applicant’s plans for matching funds, and the relevance of the proposed project to the funding source’s stated objectives. It’s entirely possible that you will need to consult with your client or another stakeholder before finishing your first draft,so you will want several days, minimum, to complete the actual writing and editing portion.

7. Submit your finished application materials as instructed.
Once you have the appropriate n

umber of completed copies in the requested medium, you should take a few moments to do a final review and proofreading session. If you are submitting by mail, package and label everything in accordance with the formatting directives in the grant application packet. It’s a good idea to hit the post office and have the parcel weighed to avoid accidentally underpaying for shipping and having it all sent back to you.

Having a good understanding of the project to be funded is essential to writing a successful grant application. Start well in advance — those deadlines will be here before you know it!


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