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Use This Top Grant Writing Tip to Create a Winning Proposal Every Time

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

I’ve written hundreds of grant proposals for nonprofit clients. And I’m always looking for tips to streamline the process and write stronger grants. Yet my favorite grant writing tip has nothing to do with writing. 

Top grant writing tip with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #nonprofits #grants

It’s all about reading.

As a grant writer or grant writer-to-be, you’re schooled in the seven elements to include in your grant proposal.

Yet as you read grant application after grant application, you’ll notice this: they vary widely. Every request for proposal presents its opportunity in a different format, with its own eligibility criteria for grant applicants and its own unique application process. When applicants don’t adhere to the instructions, their applications are eliminated from consideration.

My Top Grant Writing Tip

At first glance, all those variations can make your head spin. Fear strikes with the dread that you’ll leave out a vital piece of information. But take heart! You can manage the grant writing process by using my top grant writing tip. I call this the Grant Proposal Credo. It is one that I adhere to without fail.

The tip? Every grant application is different. Read yours carefully. Then do what it says.

Notice what this tip says about writing: nothing. Instead, this grant writing tip focuses solely on reading. Reading carefully will help you write a winning proposal every time. 

How Grant Formatting Requests Can Differ

The first, most glaring difference between grant applications from different funders? Variations in how your answers are to be formatted. Note the variances before you start writing. When it comes to formatting, look for:

  • The specific page, word, or character counts
  • The specific page layout format, whether it’s online in answer boxes or a long-form document with specific margin sizes, font types, and font sizes

Some funders require all seven elements to be submitted separately, in a tidy order. Others want the same information wrapped up in one narrative document. Still other grant applications ask that the five narrative elements – the need statement, goals/objectives, project design, evaluation, and sustainability – be included as part of the project description. Save time by reading the application from cover to cover before you do anything else. Then you’ll know the required format for your proposal. 

How Grant Content Requests Can Differ

The content in your narrative, too, will depend on the application requirements. For instance, one funder may request a 200-word organizational history. Another asks for up to 500 words. Yet another might not require history but ask you to give a deep dive into your program outcomes.

Likewise, private funders typically call for a single project goal. Government grant applications are usually more complex and seek to achieve a larger overall project goal and separate, smaller goals in multi-year projects. Each goal requires associated objectives. As a general guideline, aim to write a minimum of three objectives for each goal. But as always, write what is appropriate for your project and what meets the particular grant application requirements.  

Moral of the story? Follow the Grant Proposal Credo. Read the application carefully. Then write. And include what’s requested.

How Grants DON’T Differ

Even with all the variations, funders are consistent in one matter: deadlines. If the grant application says proposals will be accepted until Friday at 4 PM, then make sure you click “Submit” before that time. Otherwise, yours will be eliminated from consideration.

Follow the top grant writing tip: read the application first. Then write. And you will have positioned yourself to offer a winning proposal for your wonderful cause.

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