Grant writing is a creative and multi-faceted field. It requires constant self-development and improvement to write with the kind of flow one needs to complete the process successfully. Your education counts, but your business acumen and professional training are what set you apart from the rest.
We wrote this article that addresses the grant writing skills necessary for success in winning grants. In brief, there are a total of 10 essential skills that you should focus on when starting as a grant writer. If you're interested in learning about them, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead to keep reading:
Develop them as it is one of the top tips for applicants to win grants for their organization.
10 Essential Grant Writing Skills
Let's begin by explaining them one by one.
1. Understanding Your Target Audience
Funders want their grants to help solve problems they believe are important, so it is vital to show them you understand their priorities when developing proposals/applications for support.
Usually, the better you align your project proposal with their mission, the greater are its chances of acceptance. Funds in the world we live in are not easy to obtain with much competition. Be sure to study the guidelines of submission on their website before writing your proposal.
The next grant writing skill that you want to master as a grant writer is research. Research skills are key to your career as a grant writer, whether you accept it or don't. They will not only help you when it comes to writing a proposal but will also be your guide for tracking down information and data. Many books on grant writing talk about the power of research and the time it saves.
Part of your job is to use the Internet to find organizations that have grants available, so be prepared with at least two or three options in case one doesn't work out.
What do I mean by using the internet? You know those websites that list all of these potential grant providers from which you need to pick just one because they don't offer much variety? Yeah, those sites can make your life exponentially easier if you're looking for resources where typically there is none, once again, showcasing how valuable research skills are.
3. Power of Persuasion
This is the skill you need most when it comes to writing a proposal. It's not always about how strong your argument or research is, but how well you persuade grant providers that you're the right person for their money.
The first step in this process is being persuasive yourself - convincing others of why they should give up their time and energy on reading through an application because there is something special inside worth investing in. Being able to do this means making your work as clear, concise, and compelling as possible by broadening out any ambiguities before submitting anything for review (a good idea anyway).
Lastly, be realistic with what type of funding opportunity best aligns with your skillset. You don't want to miss something that was right there for the taking.
4. Take Ample Time for Preparation
To be successful in any type of grant writing, being prepared is necessary. You need to know your content well enough that you are not wasting time on research or editing at a later stage and can focus on what matters most: getting it accepted.
For example, if you're applying for an arts-related grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), thoroughly researching their guidelines will increase your chances of being awarded compared to someone who doesn't have as much knowledge about NEA grants.
The second example could be a research grant that you need for your science project. Funding agencies like the NSF and NIH support anything related to human health and disease. Especially if you are a student at a college or university, NSF is where you can hopefully get your grant approved.
Therefore, take the time to read their respective guidelines and use them as part of your grant writing skills of persuasion and accuracy of the narrative.
5. Pay Attention to Detail
When you are writing and submitting your grant proposals, the most important thing is to pay attention to detail. It includes spelling mistakes, grammar errors, or anything that would show a lack of care in the work you have done.
Even though it might seem like something small when you're looking at multiple pages of text for one proposal, if there's even one mistake on any page - like an extra word - it can create confusion with everything else written.
If this happens, then people will be less likely to comply as they'll think it was poorly done; all of these little things that could've easily been fixed matter. If you pay more attention throughout your writing, the result is in your favor.
6. Stay Concise and Clear
Being concise and clear are major aspects of writing grants. It's important to keep your sentences well-formed, while also being as short as possible. Concise language makes the process not only easier but creates content that appeals more to readers who are looking for something specific at the time.
If you're trying to show how an idea will work or what it can do, then make sure there's plenty of detail on those points so that people understand where you're going with this plan altogether.
7. Don't Try to be Over Clever
Keep in mind that being clever or witty doesn't always work. When you try to be over-ambitious with it, the chances of success are lowered, significantly, because people aren't as likely to take your content seriously and feel like they're not getting a clear message from what you have written.
Instead, stay on topic and don't get too cocky about yourself by trying things that just won't work. Your audience will appreciate it if you keep these ideas out of your content altogether and focus more on staying focused than showing off how well-read you might be.
8. Follow Your Interests
Interests for the particular idea you're requesting a grant for counts a lot. It is the one factor that really sets people apart in terms of which grant proposal will succeed and which won't. You'll always have better success if you're passionate about your subject; it's a lot easier to be convincing when you're genuinely enthusiastic about what you want to do with this grant.
It might seem like an obvious point, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless: showing genuine interest in what you are requesting help with can never hurt.
If the person reviewing your request knows from experience that they personally care about this topic, then chances are higher than ever that they will feel inclined to support or fund whatever idea came up on their screen.
It may sound counterintuitive (since all grants require some level of commitment) but asking someone else to take a leap of faith with you is the best way to make them feel like they're involved in your vision.
9. Ask for Help
Once the grant writing process is over, ask someone who is an expert or another colleague to look at it and offer constructive criticism. It is feedback ensuring your grant applications are on-point and fundable.
It's hard to be successful in any industry without some help from your friends, and this includes grants as well. When you're applying for grant funding, it can't hurt to have some supporters on your side by asking someone who has experience with what you are requesting assistance with whether they would like to give feedback or sign off on it before submitting anything for review.
Of course, if you decide that an expert opinion isn't needed, then feel free to follow through with no one other than yourself as support; but sometimes all anyone needs is their cheerleader telling them they've got this.
10. Don't Be Discouraged
Grant writing is a tricky game that requires patience, research, and dedication. If you're not willing to put in the time it takes to be successful, then don't bother with grant proposals because odds are someone else will beat you out for the funding regardless of how badly your need maybe just by having more free time on their hands.
If it's worth going after, go all-in; but if there isn't much hope or you feel like things aren't working as quickly as they should, then cut yourself some slack so that when opportunities do arise, you'll have enough drive left over to make a stand for what was important all along. But no matter what happens, always know that giving up never solves anything either way.
The grant application process is tough, but the first rejection doesn't have to be your last. If you're not getting through on one end of things, don't give up and leave it there - resubmit or submit elsewhere.
The bottom line when it comes down to good grant writing skills in 2022 is knowing how best to engage potential funders through your application by using sound grammar and spelling techniques - without these fundamentals, getting funds is difficult to happen.
Continuous self-development in this field, once you have a grip on the basics of writing, is what makes your grant funding chances brighter.
Whichever universities or organizations you belong to, the above grant writing skills will get you through the process like a pro.
Government agencies publish on sites like Grants.gov any available grant opportunities. So if you are a professional who wants to enhance their grant writing skills, you may use resources like NSF, NIH, and Grants.gov to apply for grants matching your objectives.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.