Grant Writing Facts Nonprofit Members Should Know About

Grant writing is everything but simple – it’s difficult, confusing, frustrating, overwhelming, and competitive.

Because grant writing is often intimidating – especially for small nonprofits whose staff wear many hats – it’s easy to cut corners or rush through an application. This makes it difficult to produce a highly competitive proposal. When you send a subpar proposal out into the world, you might leave important foundations with the impression that your organization is disorganized. If they see you as a shaky investment, you might have a hard time convincing them otherwise.

No nonprofit can afford to leave a bad taste in a foundation executive’s mouth. Anyone who has researched grant prospects knows, the opportunities for funding partners are few and far between.

For future reference, keep these grant writing facts nonprofit members should know about in mind to vastly improve your grant applications.

1.  You should never apply for a grant if your organization isn’t truly ready. While the money may be attractive, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by submitting an application that’s less than attractive. If your organization is too new and doesn’t have a strong track record of success, a capable staff, financial stability, and a fully formed board, it’s best to wait and put your time and resources into a better opportunity when you’re set up for success.

2.  You can save yourself a lot of work by picking up the phone. Just because a foundation lists their contact info, guidelines, deadlines, and meeting dates online, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is accurate. It’s best to call the foundation directly to double-check that its contact info is up to date, its deadlines and board meetings are accurate, and that its grant focus and guidelines are all updated.

3.  You should try to reach out first. Calling the foundation BEFORE you apply can be very beneficial for your organization in the long run. Foundations review hundreds of grant applications each cycle, and it’s no doubt that they’re likely overwhelmed with new applicants. Help you and your application stand out by calling and having a brief conversation about your project or to simply introduce your program.

4.  It’s best to add credible sources, scientific studies, and strong data to your need statement. This is because your need statement sets up the “why” of your grant proposal. Your sources should be recent (within the last six years) unless you can explain why you need to use a data set or study that is older. Potential funders will stop reading if you can’t convince them that your project is serving a worthy cause.

5.  Following directions is not an option—it’s mandatory. Each foundation wants the grant proposal submitted a certain way. Some may want you to write and submit in a certain font and maintain a strict page limit. Others may want you to mail it to their P.O. box and specific attachments, for example. It’s important to follow these instructions to the T or else your application may end up in the trash.

6.  You must ALWAYS Proofread. There’s no excuse for spelling and grammar errors with today’s technology. Your proposal should be clean and error-free. If you’re fighting tired eyes or feeling fatigued, take a break. Get someone else to look over your proposal. Clean work = professionalism points.

7.  Always incorporate the foundations list of questions in your answers. The foundation will love you for this! Adopting the funder’s own wording and headings when you lay out your proposal will make it easier for them to find the answers to their questions.

8.  Following up with a foundation if they deny your request. Pick up the phone and call, request a meeting, or otherwise try to determine what you can do to improve for the next cycle. Maybe someone at the foundation can share reviewer notes with you or give you some tips before you reapply. Take those words to heart, and your chances of future funding go up significantly. This will prove to the foundation that you really do care about partnering with them.

With persistence, organization, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes, your nonprofits grant-writing program can become successful, and it never hurts to ask for a little help. (:

Don’t want to worry about doing all the grant writing stuff yourself? Let Ascend NBS help you out! We’re grant writing experts with years of experience who have won hundreds of millions of dollars for nonprofits, schools, businesses, and governmental agencies. Learn more by calling 210-610-2440 or emailing Visit us at to learn more.