January 2004 Issue
Approaches to Grant Writing
By Bruce Steele, North Dakota State University
a grant proposal is challenging and sometimes intimidating.
Some individuals may actually prefer giving public speeches to putting a
grant proposal together. The
challenge is to convince complete strangers that the project you represent will
put their money to good use. The
intimidation often comes from a fear of the unknown, like success or rejection.
The objective of this article is to discuss grant proposal basics.
Following is how to approach grant writing.
are generally two approaches to grant writing.
The first approach is when there is solicitation from grant makers.
They generate the ideas for the program or project and supply the funding
source. Solicitations come in the
form of program announcements, requests, or calls for proposals.
The unsolicited proposal is the second approach.
In other words, you target the appropriate funding source with an idea
that is your creation. Researching unsolicited funding sources requires
significant effort and is time-consuming yet may be worthwhile doing.
No matter the approach, always write proposals to very specific funding
sources. There are generally five
common guidelines to follow when preparing a grant application:
Seek program support because
there is a significant need or problem requiring a solution, not because
“money is there.”
Most grant makers have
strict guidelines they want applicants to adhere.
Follow the exact guidelines grant makers specify.
Far too many otherwise good proposals go unread because applicants exceed
page limitations set by the grant maker.
Prepare the proposal budget
carefully. Remember to include
overhead expenses. However, expenses relating to writing the grant are often not
permissible, so do not include grant writing in the budget.
Be sure to specify any other resources (in-kind, donation or real
Adhere to assurances,
especially if a federal or state government agency is the grantor.
Depending on the project mission, standard assurances may or may not
include research activities, civil rights, management, environment and
protection, and construction. Everyone
involved in the grant application process needs to read and understand any
assurances and their implications.
the opportunity to ask the grantor for advice.
Start by briefly explaining your cause and that you believe the cause
meets their criteria for support. Three
critical bits of information to gather are (1) what the grant cycle is, (2) what
the proposal acceptance deadline is, and (3) what the proposal submission
criteria is, i.e., postal or electronic and the number of copies to submit.
Ask the grantor for a copy of a successful proposal.
Finally, find out who recent grant recipients are.
The intention is to compare your needs with the needs of other
like-organizations. This will also
help you to tailor your application to grant makers’ requirements.
of writing grant proposals as an investment rather than a sacrifice.
No immediate compensation other than knowing you did the best job you
could do may happen. On the other
hand, think of the excitement when a grant maker notifies you of a successful