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August 16, 2023

How to Become a Better Grant Writer

by Pete Dulin

Grant writing is not only a learnable skill for beginners, but also a skill that can be developed for better results. UMKC TalentLink offers four courses to learn and improve grant writing skills.

Grant writing is not only a learnable skill for beginners, but also a skill that can be developed for better results. Let’s explore the preparation, skills, and mindset that can prepare you for effective grant writing, including several online courses to gain or strengthen those skills.

Preparation Overcomes Intimidation

“One of the main reasons grant writing appears intimidating is the lack of familiarity with the process,” writes Marcia Brevard Wynn, PhD, an independent nonprofit grant consultant and contractor, on LinkedIn. “Familiarizing oneself with the guidelines, requirements, and evaluation criteria of funders can significantly demystify the process and increase the chances of success.”

Learning fundamental steps and then mastering advanced tactics will smooth the pathway to become a more accomplished grant writer.

UMKC TalentLink offers several online courses listed below to learn and improve grant writing skills. 

Do Your Research

Research is a key stage of the grant writing process. Think of grant funding as matchmaking. A foundation or funder seeks to provide funds to an organization, cause, or project that aligns with their interest and mission. As a grant writer, it’s important to know the audience when applying for a grant award.

Study the foundation website for information about their mission, work, funding priorities, and application requirements. Assess past projects and organizations that the foundation has funded. Determine whether your grant application fits the criteria or not, rather than waste time and resources on an unlikely match.

As you do your homework, review the foundation’s website, marketing materials, social media posts, email newsletter, and other communications. Be attuned to specific language used to describe the grant opportunity, foundation’s mission, audience, and points of pride as cues to adopt similar messaging in your proposal. 

Express the Impact With Feeling and Figures

As you craft the grant application, be clear, specific, and compelling about the impact of funding the proposal. Identify and articulate your project’s expected outcomes and the resulting impact.

Also, strike a balance between supplying data that supports the need and delivering a message that resonates with the funder’s values. Combining an emotional appeal with rational facts and figures will be more effective than relying on either messaging tactic separately. 

“Grant writing is not just about presenting data and needs; it’s about crafting a compelling story that resonates with the grantor’s values and objectives,” writes Wynn in her post about persuasive grant writing.

Persuasive storytelling involves engaging the reader and establishing a connection between the grantor and the proposal. Appealing to emotion is only part of a winning formula. Supporting the appeal with well-researched data is a necessary component as well.

Overcome Adversity

“Challenges and rejections are inevitable in grant writing, but they should not discourage or intimidate individuals,” writes Wynn. Instead, they can serve as opportunities for growth and improvement. Analyzing feedback from funders, seeking constructive criticism, and revising proposals accordingly can enhance future applications.”

It is important to use feedback as a sharpening stone to learn what information and messaging funders seek and hone your message. Apply those lessons and develop techniques that speak more effectively to the audience who can fund the grant. Otherwise, repeating the same approach is likely not going to yield results.

Online courses to learn grant writing skills

A to Z Grant Writing

This course provides students with the hands-on experience and knowledge they need to successfully begin the planning process for projects in need of grant funding. The 12-lesson course covers the roles of a grant writer, the planning process, how to develop a statement of need, and more. 

A to Z Grant Writing II – Beyond the Basics

At the next level, build the skills you need to research funding sources, create a fundraising plan, and write winning grant proposals. You’ll learn about specific types of grants for arts and humanities, education, medical, science and agriculture, human services, and corporate foundation grants. You will go through every aspect of strategic funding research, preparing a fundraising plan, writing an award-winning plan of operation, and creating a project budget without red flags.

Advanced Grant Proposal Writing

Learn from an experienced grant writer how to research and write winning grant proposals. Become proficient in the proposal format used by the vast majority of public foundations. Learn what to do and what not to do on your cover sheet, narrative, background page, and your stakeholder and third-party evaluation plan.

Writing Effective Grant Proposals

Avoid the mistakes that get applications for wonderful projects tossed into the wastebasket. Learn how to become fully familiar with the institution or project for which you are requesting support. Learn how to deal with those inevitable turndowns Better still, you won the grant. Learn how to pave the road for the next grant opportunity.