What Does a Grant Writer Do?

Updated on April 6th, 2021

A grant writer secures a crucial element of any nonprofit organization: funding. Grant writers get just one application with grant proposals, so it’s essential to ensure that grant writers know what to say and how to say it.

In this article, you’ll see what a full-time grant writing professional does on a typical day and get answers to common grant writing questions. 

If you’re interested in learning through video, watch below. 

What Does a Grant Writer Do?

A grant writer acts as a documentation specialist and salesperson of a nonprofit organization, public institution, or entity looking for funding. 

Grant writers need to put their arguments in a written proposal.

They are also responsible for researching grants, federal or private. They gather the necessary documentation, prove why their fundraising venture requires assistance, and fulfill other requirements set by funding agencies. 

Grant writers need to be familiar with their organization’s mission to explain it to funders and supply the lifeblood of every organization: critical funds for operations. A grant writer must keep finding grant-makers and ensure consistent funding for the nonprofit.

The requirements for each organization are different for each grant writing project and job. If you’re interested in learning more about the grant writing process, check out our Grant Writing Certification course. That will teach you the fundamentals of grant writing and how to access ideal grant writing opportunities for your skill and education.

For example, some who rely heavily on grant proposals might be looking for exceptional writing skills, years of experience, and familiarity with the grant writing process. Other grant writing opportunities might be more lenient. 

Essential skills that every nonprofit (and small business) looks for in a grant writer include:

  • Persuasive writing skills
  • Excellent research skills for funding opportunities
  • A strategic approach towards writing proposals
  • Ability to understand an organization’s mission properly
  • An understanding of how funding agencies work (as well as utilizing that to secure funding)
  • Organizational skills
  • Proven track record of fulfilling complex requirements and crafting tailored grant applications
  • Being well-versed with Office applications

While a Bachelor’s degree or higher is not an absolute prerequisite for a grant writing job, especially as a freelancer, it is highly recommended. Some organizations may require you to have a degree on top of the above skills.

Grant Proposals Writer Qualifications 

Here are the qualifications for a typical grant writer:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a writing-intensive field (English Linguistics, Journalism, Marketing, or Communication)
  • Master’s Degree in Social Sciences, Creative Writing, or Nonprofit Management
  • Advanced certification or vocational diploma in grant writing
  • Experience in corporate or technical writing 

Online certifications are a great way to learn bankable skills such as grant writing. However, they are best when paired with a Bachelor’s Degree.

Grant Writer Roles and Responsibilities 

A significant part of a grant writer’s day includes writing and crafting the perfect proposal.  When working for a grant writing service, the writer speaks with clients to better understand the organization’s mission. They make notes to help them find funding opportunities for their specific needs. Meetings like this usually take about 25% of the writer’s time.

Then comes research. In some cases, clients need grant money but don’t know about any funders or their policies. It becomes the writer’s responsibility to find them private or federal grants. 

With a quick search, writers check clients’ eligibility for different funding programs and make more notes to present to clients later. 

Writers search on social media, too, trying out different keywords and sifting through RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to check eligibility. 

Research usually takes up about 50% of the writers’ time, on average. Research also includes hunting for statistics. 

With all the relevant data, writers will start writing grants and formatting. The proposal writing process usually takes about 10%-15% of the writer’s time. Depending on the complexity, it might take a bit longer. 

Lastly, grant writers will need to create custom illustrations, charts, and projections (with the client’s help) to make the proposal more relevant. The design takes up around 10% of the writer’s time.

These proposals aren’t just targeted towards private funders but may also be public foundations. Federal grants are much more attractive but are highly competitive as well. From healthcare to charity, animal care, research, and more, nonprofits and some businesses depend on grant writers and grant writing services.

Do Grant Writers Focus on Quick Deliverables?

On average, it takes about three weeks to a month to complete a well-structured and researched grant application. If writers are freelancers or working part-time, the process becomes more complex and takes longer.

However, some grant writing services and freelancers offer quick deliverables.

A grant proposal that’s written haphazardly rarely results in a successful grant. Delivering a 40-page grant proposal within a few days will mean that the writer didn’t go into as many details as they should have. Of course, sometimes circumstances dictate that you need quick deliverables without compromising quality.

The only way to get a high-quality grant proposal in about a week or two is to hire a professional grant writer with at least 5-8 years of experience. 

It’s also better to find a writer who has worked on grants specific to your industry and niche. 

The research time decreases significantly with experience in a specific industry since these writers know what to target.

A Typical Time Table for A Grant Writer 

Let’s look at what a writer with a track record of winning private and federal government grants does during their workday.

They start their workday by spending the first few hours grant writing and editing their work. When writers already have research done, they have to put their thoughts down persuasively.

If writers need more research or illustrations, they create graphs or projections. Then, grant writers connect with clients via LinkedIn, Zoom meetings, or email. Other duties appear as needed.

How Much Do Grant Writers Get Paid?

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for grant writers is $49,661 yearly, while the complete salary range is between 35 and 70k. 

Nonprofits, educational institutions, and various community health centers are the biggest employers for grant writers in the US. Organizations such as American Red Cross and Salvation Army are better-known names for grant writing expertise. Additionally, according to PayScale, expert grant writers can earn up to $20k in profit-sharing and $11k in commissions.

The grant writer salary considers:

  • Written linguistic skills
  • Overall customer service output
  • Qualifications
  • Occupational history

Depending on where they’re employed, grant writers may get promotions that come with significant pay raises. 

How Do Grant Writers Interact With Clients?

As mentioned above, before starting work on a project, grant writers spend a considerable amount of time discussing requirements, fundraising opportunities, the organization’s mission, and other relevant subjects. 

The goal is to know as much as possible about their intentions with the grant and ask for all material that could help their grant application be more appealing.

For research grants, this discussion also includes asking about the research process, the incentive behind it, goals, progress, and coordinators. 

Suppose there are any prototype pictures or alpha/beta results. In that case, they strengthen their chances of winning the grant money. The resumes of all the people involved in the research process are also collected.

It usually takes about a day or two to collect everything necessary. After that, the writer is on their own. They create an outline before starting work to have something to guide them. From this point onwards, the research process begins. If writers need anything else, they let the client know of their intention to discuss the project via email or direct message.

It is important to remember that clients pay a sum to the writers. They, therefore, expect to remain in the loop on how far along their project is. 

The grant writing process is relatively slow, and clients know that well enough. Despite that, writers should make a point of welcoming any communication attempts from clients. 

Bottom Line for Grant Writers

Differences in actual responsibilities come from the host company from role to role. Some employers may have them working on multiple different kinds of grant applications. In contrast, others may require a single type of document.

Grant writing is a complex blend of technical and creative writing. It, therefore, has to be perfected over time if the writer is to succeed in the long term. It has mental stress factors, so grant writers must take leave when necessary.

For those just starting, we recommend you email a nonprofit organization or grant writing service for an internship instead of winging it from the start. 

You will learn a lot about what a grant writer does, the research process, how to handle clients, and more. Once you are confident about your abilities, feel free to apply for a job within the professional sphere and make the most out of your years of experience and exceptional grant writing skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to the most common questions about what a grant writer does. You'll see more in our grant writing course that teaches you how to use grant funding application principles to write grants and win business.

What does it take to be a grant writer?

To become a great grant writer, you need to have excellent communication skills and work well with people from various backgrounds. The grant process typically starts by reading through what grant is requested (i.e., research funding, community development), who’s asking it (the organization or individual), and why they need funding.

Is writing grants hard?

Grant writing is hard if you’re not familiar with grant processes. But if you know what to expect and do your research, grant writing can be a gratifying profession.

Can anyone write grants?

If you want to become a great grant writer, it’s helpful to have a certification or Bachelor of Arts degree in English or Communications with several years of experience in a related profession. These professions include researchers, journalists, or project managers within social services agencies on behalf of governments or private organizations.