Grant writing (or ‘proposal writing’ for the linguistic purists among us) is a type of technical writing. All grant writers (or ‘proposal writers’ if one prefers) do research on many aspects of their proposals – both by meeting with various individuals and groups and by doing print- and Internet-based research. Most grant writers tend to be both creative and analytical. They are equally comfortable with both words and numbers. They tend to manage time efficiently and to organize information effectively. On many occasions, they may write, coordinate, and/or manage multiple proposals at the same time.
Attributes of Grant Writers:
Grant writers must establish an applicant’s credibility with proposal reviewers and other decision-makers; to this end, they must apply logic, analysis, statistics, and appropriate research citations, as well as rely upon the quality of the ideas or innovations themselves. Grant writers must select the information and data they will use, organize and sequence it, and present their ideas simply and directly. They must be both thorough and precise. They should expect to revise sub-sections or sections or even entire proposals several times. Often they must do so not only to improve the quality of their writing, but also to make a proposal fit a funder’s limits on the allowed number of characters or words or pages.
Some grant writers are specialists; others are generalists; virtually all have a bachelor’s degree and many have advanced degrees. A degree in English, Communications, or another writing-related discipline is helpful, but seldom required. Formal training in grantsmanship or fundraising is available, but also seldom required. Membership and participation in professional associations is available, but not compulsory. Some states require a grant writer to register as a professional fundraiser; others do not.
Some grant writers work as consultants or independent contractors. Others work for a public or private organization, which may be of any size and nearly any type. In either setting, some grant writers work full-time, others part-time. Some prepare proposals as one of many job tasks; others have grant writing as their primary or exclusive task. Some work in an office, others at home. Many grant writers set their own hours, particularly if they freelance or do contractual work. Given the high-pressure nature of the work when a deadline looms, most of them must be willing to work for as many hours as it takes to complete a specific proposal on time.
Skills of Grant Writers:
Grant writing is trend-driven, knowledge-based, and technology-intensive. Virtually all grant writers use a computer as well as writing-related software. Such software may support composition, graphics, statistics, data analysis, communications, and publishing, among other core tasks. Grant writers often scan and convert documents or images to match required file formats. They use and integrate mobile phones, cameras, and myriad other devices. Very frequently they deliver proposals over the Internet, using a grant maker’s online application forms or its web-based submission portals.
Specialized technical vocabulary is useful, but grant writers often can be acquire or borrow it by engaging the expertise of other professionals. Mastery of essential writing skills is indispensable, regardless of a grant writer’s level of educational attainment, or degree of specialization, or access to others’ deep subject area expertise. In addition to such basics as diction, grammar, and spelling, a grant writer’s must-have writing skills include proofreading, editing, and synthesizing materials. In addition, strong mathematical skills are useful for developing budgets and analyzing statistical data.
For some basic information about Writing as a Career look up the United States Department of Labor at http://www.bls.gov/oco/pdf/ocos320.pdf. For similar information about Technical Writing as a Career, see http://www.bls.gov/oco/pdf/ocos319.pdf.
This is the first of a series of posts discussing grant writing as a career.