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What is Grant Writing

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Knowing Your Purpose and Community

Grant writing is defined as the process of crafting a written proposal to receive grant funding from a grant-making institution (typically known as the funder or donor) in order to fund a program or project.

Nonprofit organizations start with a community in mind. They are driven by a distinct purpose to aid and support a community of people through defined programs and initiatives that meet a significant need that would otherwise go unmet. One of the first priorities of grant writing is knowing WHO you serve and WHY. The why behind what you do will be the driving force behind any grant application.

Having a mission and vision is great; additionally, what propels an organization forward is the ability to translate that into story, to captivate a funder to believe as strongly in your work and in your community as you do. Knowing your purpose and community deeply, alongside the skill of grant writing, leads to developing stronger funding relationships and opportunities that keep your nonprofit growing.

The Basics of Grant Writing

Now that you understand the importance of purpose and community, you’re one step closer to understanding grant writing. Writing grants in its entirety involves planning, researching, drafting, submitting applications, and following up with reports when funding is awarded. In the beginning, this can sound like a lot of work. But taking each task step-by-step will make this process easier to understand, and you’ll be on your way to writing and submitting your first grant.

Being Grant-Ready

Lack of grant readiness is one thing that inhibits an organization with a great mission and vision from submitting applications. Knowing your purpose and being able to articulate it in tandem with these basic questions sets you on a path to submitting your first of many grants or perfecting your skill. However, grant-readiness means more than having an IRS Determination Letter or an EIN/Tax ID.

The basics of grant writing begin with knowing the common questions asked of a potential funder and the typical information required when submitting a grant request. It is important to note that each application differs from the next, but these five things are the most common items you will encounter in your drafting process.

  1. Organization Background
  2. Project Description/Summary
  3. Project Narrative
  4. Budget
  5. Intended Results and Evaluation

Grant writing typically begins with planning, which looks like asking the right questions:

  • Who can I submit grants to?
  • What is my organization’s greatest need?
  • How do I craft my grant to meet the funder’s requirements?
  • How many grants do I want to write this fiscal year?

Types of Grants & Types of Funding

Depending on the needs of a nonprofit, there are multiple kinds of grants that can be applied for. The types of grants range from simple to tedious. Examples include:

  • Foundation (Public or Private/Family-Owned): Private foundations acquire their funds from individuals, families, or corporations. Public foundations gain money through fundraising and receive donations from a variety of sources
  • Corporate/Business: companies that have foundations to help them centralize their charitable efforts.
  • Government (Federal, State/Local)l: financial awards from the U.S. government to fund projects and ideas that support public services and the economy. Grants are funded by income tax revenues and are not loans, so they don’t need to be repaid.

For grants you apply for, the funding you receive will either focus on a specific project/program or general operating support, resulting in your funding falling into two categories: restricted or unrestricted funding.

  • Restricted Funding: funds given for a specified purpose and only to be utilized for what is outlined in the giving guidelines.
  • Unrestricted: funds given to nonprofit organizations that can be used for any of the organization’s expenses or objectives

Being aware of the kind of funding you apply for will ensure that funds are being expended appropriately and that, once funded, you meet the funder’s specific giving guidelines and priorities.