Four Essential Grant Writing Best Practices

Grant writing takes time, ample preparation, and attention to detail. A single grant application can take over 100 hours to prepare – but when funding is approved, it’s well worth the investment.

Health and human services organizations in particular rely heavily on private and public grant funding streams because they don’t generally profit from their service delivery. Grants provide nonprofits with a dependable revenue stream, alleviating pressure on fundraising efforts.

Yet just a fraction of grant applications get awarded. As the nonprofit landscape becomes more saturated with competitors all vying for the same limited funding streams, writing compelling grant proposals is a top priority.

So how can nonprofits create grant proposals that resonate with funders to secure dollars? In this article, we break down what to include in a grant proposal and four key grant writing best practices.

Looking for Grants to Apply For in 2023?

We rounded up everything you need to know about 38 of the top human services grants in our Ultimate 2023 Guide to Homeless Assistance Grants and 2023 Guide to Domestic Violence and Victim Services Grants.

What to Write About: Common Grant Proposal Elements

  • Executive Summary: Some grant writers prepare this section last. The executive summary provides a brief overview of your nonprofit’s proposal, including pain points, your project’s goals, organizational strengths, and why your project will be impactful. Executive summaries are typically one or two pages long, providing enough detail to educate the funder’s review panel, without getting into the weeds.
  • Nonprofit Profile: Some federal requests for proposals will outline certain characteristics that funders want to review – such as biographies for project leaders or disclosure of the organization’s financial interests and potential conflicts. For the most part, the Nonprofit Profile section is your chance to incorporate your organization’s history, infrastructure, mission, services, and success stories. Make sure to highlight relevant certifications, licenses, and insurance details if requested by the funder.
  • Needs Statement: What is the problem that you aim to address? Use data to clearly describe the underlying problem you’re trying to solve, why it’s important and urgently needs to be fixed, and how previous approaches fell short. Finish this section with a brief explanation of how your organization’s proposal will uniquely address the problem.
  • Goals and Objectives: Write your goals in a way that expresses widespread benefits and positive impact in your community. Then use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based) objectives to succinctly explain specific outcomes that you want to achieve.
  • Project Methodology: Lay out precisely how you will use the grant funding to achieve your goals. Will you hire more personnel and programming, build more infrastructure, or invest in new technology? Explain the project outline, key milestones, and detailed tasks that you’ll complete along the way to achieve your objectives.
  • Evaluation: Funders want to know that you will be held accountable and have a plan for evaluating success metrics. List the specific milestones you expect to achieve and when, and how you will measure progress over the course of the project. In this section, you’ll also want to explain how grantors will receive updates on how funding is utilized and how often reports will be delivered. 
  • Project Budget: Detail all operational expenses, line by line, and explain why they’re essential to achieving your project goals. This includes salaries, travel costs, personnel, marketing, resources, and infrastructure – no matter how big or small. 


CaseWorthyFour Important Grant Writing Practices

Strengthen Your Proposal With Data

Grant funders want to know that they’re supporting organizations with high-impact potential and proven results. Support your proposal by relying on data and facts that show why your nonprofit is worthy of financial support. How many lives have you impacted so far? What are your client’s key demographics? How many services were delivered? Make your proposal more credible by defining data-based priorities and anticipated outputs and outcomes.

Reliable, external data can also dramatically enhance your proposal, particularly when explaining your community’s needs and how your organization will address them. Remember: well-researched grant proposals are more likely to succeed.

Clearly Explain How You’ll Use The Funding

We can’t emphasize the importance of budget transparency enough. Funders want to know exactly how their money will be spent to ensure that they’re awarding worthy projects. Breaking out direct and indirect costs helps funders quickly analyze which funds will support general operating expenses and overhead costs versus direct project-related line items. Don’t forget to triple-check your budget sheet and documentation for errors. The last thing you want is to misrepresent your nonprofit’s proposed budget with mathematical or formatting errors.

Humanize Data With Storytelling

Client testimonials and case studies humanize your proposal and make it more relatable, just make sure not to go overboard with the emotional tone. While tugging at heartstrings may be effective in donor communications, grants are inherently more formalized documents that require an objective tone. Pepper in client testimonials, short success stories, and pull quotes sparingly to give your proposal some vibrancy while still maintaining a focused, professional quality.

Center Your Proposal Around Your Community, Not Your Nonprofit

While it’s exciting to receive a grant, remember that this funding isn’t for you – it’s for your community and your clients. While funders want to support successful organizations that will carry through proposed projects, they ultimately want to help communities for the greater good. The nonprofit profile section is a great place to emphasize your organization’s strengths, but beyond that, it’s important to highlight how your work will ultimately help others. Think about your community’s needs and objectives over your own organization’s goals, and craft your narrative accordingly. 

Four Essential Grant Writing Best Practices
With CaseWorthy Case Management Software, nonprofits keep detailed qualitative and quantitative data records tracking client progress – making quick work of reporting duties and grant writing

CaseWorthy provides a centralized platform for nonprofits to document client encounters, track service delivery, and so much more. Data is critical to writing compelling grants, and the right software should make it easy for you to access that data.

Don’t miss our on-demand webinar, “The Secret to Remarkable Reporting,” to uncover how to harness data management to write more compelling reports and effective grant proposals.

Watch the On-Demand Webinar


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