Pull back the curtain to see how other grant writers get it done

Hot Tips From Savvy Grant Writers

I love getting my hands on grants written by other grant writers. It’s a fascinating way to learn new tips, tricks, and different ways of approaching grant application questions. I’m also fortunate that, through my work at GrantsEdge, I get to hear about how hundreds of other grant writers approach grant writing.

Today, I’m sharing with you some of the hot tips I’ve received from grant writers. Keep reading to find out what they are.

Here’s What Grant Writers Have To Say About How They Write Grants

1. The Preparation Stage

Preparing to write a grant is as important as actually writing the grant. You can learn a lot in the preparation stage to help you successfully develop your proposal, including laying a solid foundation for writing and establishing an undeniable fit with the funder’s objectives.

Here’s what some grant writers have told me about how they prepare to write a grant:

  • “We start with a thorough review of what the funder has provided as far as guidelines and purpose. We try to understand what they are looking for before we ever write our first word.”
  • “We read through the information the funder has provided and ask a few important questions. Does our request meet their criteria? What’s the timeline and can we meet it? Will this be a major effort for us to write and how much time will it really take? Who on our team needs to be involved? After answering those questions, we put together a work plan and begin to connect with the appropriate people.”
  •  “We plan to have a meeting with the funder to ask questions and identify any issues.”
  • “We do a lot of work up front to decide if it’s worthwhile even writing the proposal. We don’t want to waste our time… or the funder’s.”
  • “I like to connect with like-minded organizations in our community to find out if they have plans to submit a proposal. If we can do something bigger and better together, I like to explore those collaboration opportunities before we get too far into the process.”

2. The Writing Stage

For some grant writers, the writing stage is fun and exciting. For others, it’s challenging, time-consuming, frustrating, and just plain hard.

Here’s what some grant writers said they do during the writing process:

  • “I start writing at the top and work my way through, question by question, starting with bullet points initially. I’ll move past some questions if I feel stumped at all. I’ll come back to those questions later, but will have had more time to prepare my thoughts about how to answer.”
  • “I will write a first draft in a Word document. I also go back to previous proposals to look for helpful information and ideas I can use in the new proposal. As I write, I am very focused on making sure the proposal resonates with the funder’s language and priorities.”
  • “I try to set aside uninterrupted time to write, but that can be incredibly difficult. With some of the bigger grants, I plan to work from home during portions of the week as I have fewer distractions there.”
  • “Our organization often has as many as three people writing within the same grant. We plan to collaborate often during the writing process so we ensure some consistency in our messaging, style, and tone.”
  • “If time allows – and I work really hard to ensure I have the time – I will write one section of the proposal at a time. I find I’m much fresher that way and don’t feel overwhelmed if I write smaller sections over the course of a number of days. Trying to write everything all at once, for me, is a recipe for disaster. If I want a funder to get my best work, I need time to sit with it.”

3. The Review Stage

Funders tell us all the time that it seems, based on the hundreds of proposals they have reviewed, that many grant writers don’t take the time to review their proposals before hitting the submit button. A thorough review process gives grant writers the chance to correct spelling and grammar mistakes, revise content, and make sure the proposal generally makes sense.

Here’s what some grant writers had to say about their review process:

  • “I include my wife in the review process. If she’s confused by what we are trying to say and do in the proposal, there’s a good chance a review panel may have the same issues.”
  • “We like to use the “Track Changes” tool in Word to provide feedback as it’s easy to read and an easy way to accept changes and revisions directly in the proposal.”
  • “We have a specific person in our office who is brilliant with reviewing and editing spelling, grammar, and general consistency in the writing, and we have her do a review of every proposal before it leaves our office. We make sure to build her review time into the work plan so she isn’t always having to do it in the late stages of the process.”
  • “Our leadership team is always involved in the review process to ensure the proposal is highlighting the program in the most effective ways.”
  • “We use our regular bi-weekly managers’ meetings to check in often throughout the process. We would rather review on an ongoing basis compared to taking only one look at it.”

Some Bonus Input From Grant Writers

What was the most helpful piece of advice you read? What can you implement into your grant writing to ensure you produce the best proposals?

The preparation, writing, and review stages are important parts of the overall process and the areas where grant writers have given us the most feedback. Occasionally, we get ideas and feedback from grant writers that don’t always fit neatly into one of those three stages of the process.

Here are a few additional pieces of feedback you might find helpful.

About Budgets:

  • “We involve our finance manager in the grant writing process from the very beginning. It’s so helpful, especially when looking at the budget.”
  • “I like to start with the budget to help me see what’s possible. From there, we can narrow it down to the key goals.”

After Submitting The Grant:

  • “We always follow up with the funder to make sure they have received the grant.“
  • “I set up a tracking system when we are granted funds in order to follow it through to completion. This definitely helps us make sure we complete all the final reports.”

Relationships With Funders:

  • “I didn’t understand how important it was in the first year to get on the phone with funders.”

If you like reading about what other grant writers have to say, we encourage you to have a look at “Confessions of Embarrassed Grant Writers.” Discover some of the things grant writers are embarrassed to admit. You’ll likely feel better about your own situation.

We’d Love To Hear From You

We’re always interested to know what you have to say about grant writing. Do you have some insight or a few ideas you think other grant writers might find helpful?

  • How do you prepare for writing grant proposals?
  • What process do you use for writing?
  • What does your review process look like?

Connect with us on Facebook (@GrantsEdge), on Twitter (@GrantsEdge), or through email to share your thoughts, frustrations, brilliant ideas, or questions. We look forward to connecting with you!