Grant writing consultant shares top tips for a successful grant

Looking for boost your organization’s bank account? You won’t want to miss Written Progress’ resident grant writing consultant Isabelle Le Marois‘ top tips for grant application success.

Want more info? Follow Written Progress on LinkedIn to Isabelle’s upcoming series on creating great grant applications.

In brief: top ten tips for success from a grant writing consultant

  • Build a strong network.
  • Describe your project in writing.
  • Monitor opportunities.
  • Consider small donors’ location.
  • Consider sub-grants.
  • Do you qualify?
  • Take your time writing.
  • Follow guidance closely.
  • Work with a grant writer
  • Submit days before the deadline

Are grants right for you?

grant is funding awarded by a public body, charitable foundation, or a specialized grant- making institution to an individual or entity for a purpose linked to public benefit. A successful grant is always supported by a strong grant proposal – a very clear, direct document written with the purpose of persuading the donors to provide you with support because:

1- you have an important and fully considered plan to advance a valuable cause, and

2- you are responsible and capable of realizing that plan.

However, securing grant funding is far more complex than simply writing a compelling grant proposal. With that in mind, here’s Isabelle’s top ten tips on grant writing success!

Build a strong network.

Before doing anything else, new organizations should connect with well-established organizations in your sector to make a great impression. That means requesting informational interviews, attending conferences, and joining online communities to think about how your organizations can support each other. Many organizations don’t network because it doesn’t feel urgent, there are no tangible outputs, and staff are already busy with ongoing projects. However, a strong network will become your greatest dividend-yielding asset — including building awareness of your work among grant donors.

Describe your project in writing.

Why spend time on a project plan? It’s very likely you’ve never clearly explained every detail of your project to someone else in writing. Clearly articulate in writing your project process, your proven methodologies, your strengths and weaknesses, your action itemsand their importance, and what resources you need to be successful. Most importantly, this will help you clarify for yourself the areas where your project brings the greatest value; in turn, that will help you choose which grants to apply for. Later, that text will take you more than halfway to completing the grant application itself.

Monitor opportunities.

Most grants recur annually. For example, USAID announces their Annual Program Statements (APS) and their BusinessForecast one year in advance. Search online for grants in your space, get on mailing lists, and keep a calendar of important dates.

Consider smaller donors’ location.

Small donors such as funds, foundations, and centers typically prefer awarding grants to small organizations. These small donors rely on trust in your organization, and it’s important for them to be able to claim tax exemptions for their contributions in their base country. Their grant amounts are also much less, so aim for donors in your base country, or carefully consider the costs of gaining the appropriate tax status in the donor’s base country.

Consider sub-grants.

Small organizations are highly unlikely to win grants directly from large donors like USAID, UKAID, or World Bank. What’s more, these organizations’ applications are extremely time-consuming, rigorous, and competitive. Instead, these large donors typically give grants to implementing partners, such as multinational organizations, the corporate social responsibility arm of large companies, and universities. In turn, these implementing partners often give sub-grants they are much easier to access. Monitor large donors’ websites to learn about their implementing partners so that you can track down these subgrant opportunities.

Do you qualify?            

The grant announcement will generally contain a description of successful applicants. You must provide strong evidence that you fully meet every qualification. If not, it is probably not worth applying. In addition to these requirements, consider whether your organization is prepared for success. Do you have the staff, expertise, time, and infrastructure ready to conduct a project at the scale and timeline the donor specifies?

Take your time writing.                     

Once you’ve chosen a grant application to complete, start as far in advance as possible. Estimate the amount of time each portion of the process will need and double it. Take advantage of the extra time you’ve built in to set short deadlines for partners knowing that some will inevitably overrun them. Furthermore, take advantage of this time to schedule short writing periods for yourself throughout the week. Writing for an hour, stepping away, and coming back will give you more time to process the best approach for providing the solid evidence that you meet every qualification.

Follow the guidance closely. 

Closely follow the guidance provided by the donor and use any templates they provide. Try to ‘interpret’ your methodology through their lens so that they can see how you both align. Whenever possible, use similar language to the grant announcement rather than employing your own project terminology. Highlight key resources, such as a partner organization with outstanding expertise. Also highlight your challenges and explain how you are going to deal with them and what resources you need to do that.

Work with a grant writer.                 

A grant writer’s job is to ensure you are addressing every single point in your grant proposal to your greatest ability. Grant writers are intimately familiar with the grant application process, so they bring a strong understanding of best practices and ways to maximize your chances of success. In short, having a grant writer gives you a higher chance of funding success and saves your teams’ time and energy for other work. That said, grant writers must legally be paid out of your organization’s funding – you can’t use the grant funds to pay the grant writer, nor pay them based on commission.

Submit days before the deadline.

Donors, and particularly small donors and implementing partners, will often start reviewing applications as soon as they are submitted. If they like your work overall, they may reach out to you with questions or items you have overlooked. While this isn’t guaranteed, it is far more likely to happen if you submit several days in advance rather than a midnight on the due date.

Ready for more?

Like what you’re reading? Great news — here’s a downloadable PDF so you can keep these tips handy for your next grant application. Score!

Want more info? Follow Written Progress for more amazing advice on grant writing, copyediting, data visualization, writeshopping, and more! You can also register to hear from us once a month — no advertising, just great news about grant writers making the world a better place.

Ready to get some help with your grant? We’d love to take that off your desk — drop us a line to get started.


grant writer, grant writing, grant writing consultant

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