Unit 5: Writing Your Grant Proposal
Grants are like a puzzle: you need to connect all of the pieces in the right places to capture the full picture. In this unit, we help put the puzzle together. You should go through this unit before you sit down to write your proposal and review it after you have written your first draft.
Remember that you are writing to convince a specific audience to fund your project – namely, your grant-funding agency and the individual grant readers or reviewers who will examine your proposal. A key ingredient for success is understanding all of the funding agency’s guidelines, so you can present your best possible case that convinces them to support your project. The internet has a wealth of guides and lessons on grant writing. In this unit, we review some resources to help you write a winning proposal.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.
5.1: Grant-Writing Tips
When it comes time to start putting words on a page, here are some style tips to help you write the text for your proposal. Once you have a complete draft of your proposal, review these tips again as you edit and revise your draft.
- Avoid using technical, scientific, or industry-specific words or jargon without explanation. Spell out or define any acronyms since you cannot assume your reading audience (which will include outside grant reviewers) will understand the language of your organization or industry. For example, does FTE mean full-time equivalent or full-time employee?
- Keep it simple. Avoid using big words and make sure someone who is completely unfamiliar with the subject area can understand your description.
- Be specific and explain who will conduct any activities, and who will benefit. For example, "ABC students need this program so they can … ", rather than simply, "XYZ college needs this program".
- Use titles, headings, and subtitles throughout your proposal that correspond with the guidelines in the request for proposals. This will make it easier for reviewers to find the information they need while scoring and evaluating.
- Use consistent fonts and formats for text, headings, captions, and charts to make it easier for reviewers to understand the needs, descriptions, and activities you outline in your proposal.
- Use bulleted or numbered lists for series.
- Use charts and diagrams to explain complex ideas or show timelines.
- Use whitespace, as constraints allow, to make your proposal appear less crowded.
- Use proper grammar. Enlist a proofreader to review your work so you do not miss simple mistakes.
Once you have a rough draft of your grant proposal, read it over critically to make sure you covered all of the components listed in the RFP. Note any omissions, rough transitions, or incomplete ideas so you can correct them.
5.2: Proofreading, Revising, and Finishing Touches
Now that you have put forward your best effort, here are some additional resources with advice on perfecting your work. Be sure to edit your proposal carefully to ensure your submission is free of minor and major errors. Simple mistakes and omissions can undermine your credibility and make reviewers believe you will be equally careless as a project manager. Review the RFP one last time to make sure you have not forgotten to include anything.
5.3: Funding Agency Training
As you prepare your application, keep in mind that many large grant programs offer webinars and seminars to help applicants write a successful grant proposal. Government agencies may also require you to attend mandatory in-person training sessions with advice and guidelines on managing your project should it receive funding. Be sure to include your expenses to attend these meetings in your budget narrative.