Grant Writing is Not a Creative Writing Exercise

Grant writing is not a creative writing exercise. Writing grant applications is like writing research papers for a college class. Each professor has their own set of instructions and requirements. If the student does not follow those instructions and requirements, the paper is marked down. Same is true for grantmakers. They each have their own set of instructions and requirements for their grant application. Some have many requirements. Others have few. And if you do not follow their instructions and requirements, your grant application might get thrown out.


To avoid this, you need to plan ahead and conduct thorough research before even starting to write a grant application.  


The first thing to research is the qualifying requirements:

  • Geographic Scope:  where in the world does this grantmaker want to fund projects?
  • Areas of Interest/Mission: what areas does this grantmaker want to fund?
  • Type of Funding: what type of projects does this grantmaker want to fund?
  • Amount Range: what are the typical amounts this grantmaker gives funded applications?
  • Funding Cycle: what are the deadlines for this grantmaker?


If your nonprofit aligns with the grantmaker in these areas, then you can move on to researching the actual application requirements.


It is important to look at the requirements of the application. Always read through all requirements before starting a grant application and share the information with your grant team. By reading through beforehand, you can allow enough time to complete all sections.

  • Is the application an online application, email submission, or a hard copy?
  • If a hard copy, how many copies of the application does the grantmaker request?
  • What are the page requirements of the application?
  • What font and font size is required?
  • What sections are required in the proposal? Needs statement, project description, budget, capacity, sustainability, etc.
  • What attachments are required? – Letters of recommendation and/or support, Determination Letter (501(c)(3) letter), Operational Budget, List of Board Members and/or Staff, Project Budget, etc
  • Do you need to have a partner?


Be sure to follow ALL requirements in filling out grant applications. Just like a professor will mark down a paper for not following all requirements, a grantmaker will throw out applications that don’t follow all of their requirements. This means no funding. So don’t give the grantmaker reason to throw out your application before even reading it.  


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