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Category Archives: Grant Writing

All aspects of writing grant proposals.

This post presents when Grant Writers work. Others in the series will present where they work, what they do, what tools they use, what skills they need, and common career paths.

 

When Grant Writers Work

Grant Writers may be employed full-time or part-time and may work as exempt or non-exempt employees. A full-time position is usually one that is 30-40 hours per week. An exempt position is on that is not paid more for working overtime, which normally means anything past 40 hours per week. Grant Writers may also work as independent consultants. As consultants they may work any number of hours per week and never get any overtime.

 

Both as salaried employees and as consultants on a contract Grant Writers may work 40 or more regular hours each week, or 2,080 or more hours each year. They also may work extended hours when preparing complex proposals, when creating several proposals at once, and/or when facing two or more back-to-back deadlines.

 

Many Grant Writers work on contracts as independent consultants or freelance writers. Such persons often provide grant proposal development as one service from a menu of services in fundraising or organizational development. They may charge by the hour or by the project or they may work on a retainer.

 

Grant deadlines often come stacked one on top of the other. This can happen anytime, but it happens particularly near the end of some state and federal agencies’ fiscal years. Whenever it happens, Grant Writers tend to put in more hours than usual. During less hectic periods, many Grant Writers pursue prospect research, or they may recruit new clients if they work as consultants, or they may do both.

 

Working Hours

Consultants set their own hours, but they also need to be available when others are at work, which ordinarily means weekdays from 8am-5pm. Those Grant Writers who are on payroll usually report for work on weekdays. They remain at work from 8am-5pm and have an hour off for lunch each day.

 

Total time that Grant Writers work per proposal varies greatly. It can range from five to ten hours per short proposal (from one to five pages) to 200-plus hours per long proposal (from 25 to 300 or more pages). During any given seven-day span (or calendar week), the total hours that Grant Writers work can be as few as ten or fewer hours or as many as 100-plus hours.

 

If writing to a fixed deadline, which often happens, Grant Writers often need to work during all or parts of secular and religious holidays, on anniversaries, and on personal and family members’ birthdays. They also may need to work during school vacations, summer vacations, and other periods that other types of workers and/or family members may take off from work.

This post presents where Grant Writers work. Others in the series will present when they work, what they do, what tools they use, what skills they need, and common career paths.

 

Where Grant Writers Work

Grant Writers work in many kinds of organizations, large and small. They work in cities, suburbs, and rural towns. Many Grant Writers work in offices; others work at home or on the road as consultants.

 

Many of the non-profit and community-based organizations where Grant Writers work may have fewer than 50 employees. Other kinds of organizations where they work – such as school districts and local or state governments – may have more than 2,000 employees. If Grant Writers work as consultants, they may work alone or as part of a consulting firm with any number of other consultants.

 

Among the typical kinds of organizations where Grant Writers work are:

  • Universities and colleges (institutions of higher education)
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Community-based organizations
  • Multifunctional service agencies
  • School districts (particularly larger ones)
  • Federally recognized American Indian tribes and nations
  • Local and state units of government
  • For-profit corporations
  • Consulting firms

 

In the United States of America, the geographic distribution of Grant Writers is largely consistent with general population distribution. As one might expect, larger cities and larger metropolitan areas tend to have more opportunities for Grant Writers than the smaller ones. Among such larger metro areas with more numerous Grant Writers in 2017 are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Phoenix, Seattle, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco.

 

In addition, the country’s more populous states tend to have more Grant Writers than the less populous ones. Among such states in 2017 are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan.

 

Despite these urban distribution tendencies, Grant Writers also often work in high-poverty rural areas where social and economic needs are both chronic and acute.

This post presents some of the tools and skills used in grant writing. Others in the series will present what Grant Writers do, where and when they work, and common career paths.

 

Grant Writers need a specific set of tools and skills to be effective at winning competitively awarded grants. With the exception of some specialized databases, grant makers’ websites, and grants management software, none of them is unique to the pursuit of grant writing

 

Tools

In the late 2010s, all Grant Writers use hardware and software in many facets of their work. Among commonly used types of hardware are:

  • Laptop computers
  • Tablets
  • Handheld calculators
  • Cell phones

Among commonly used types of software are:

  • Internet browsers
  • Applications to support prospect research, grants management, email, databases, word-processing, calendars, teleconferencing, and presentations
  • Online calculators
  • Grant application portals

 

Grant Writers need to be comfortable with constant change in and among the technologies that they use daily. Among formerly often used technologies that are now increasingly out of use are:

  • Printers
  • Photocopiers
  • Facsimile machines
  • Desktop computers

 

Grant Writers need to know how to use the full range of contemporary telecommunications software and devices. They must be comfortable with devices used for creating and making presentations, such as digital cameras and projectors, and related software. And they should know all of their options among both traditional modes (e.g., UPS, USPS, FedEx) and new platforms (Grants.gov and foundations’ online application forms) for submitting timely proposals.

 

Skills

Among the most basic skills that Grant Writers should have are to:

  • Listen attentively
  • Ask key questions
  • Engage in teamwork
  • Negotiate
  • Think strategically
  • Write and edit
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Coordinate
  • Budget
  • Calculate
  • Plan
  • Reason persuasively
  • Build rapport
  • Build relationships
  • Facilitate and lead meetings
  • Manage time effectively
  • Concentrate efforts
  • Forecast
  • Analyze
  • Interpret
  • Follow instructions
  • Attend to details

This post presents what Grant Writers do. Others in the series will present where and when they work, the tools that they use, the basic skills they need, and common career paths.

 

What Grant Writers Do

What Grant Writers do each day on the job depends upon where they work, with whom they work, what resources they have at hand for doing their work, what other roles they have in an organization, and what their contracts and position descriptions specify.

 

Despite the job title, there is far more than only writing to what Grant Writers do. The typical tasks that Grant Writers perform daily reflect the three processes entailed in competitive grant seeking: social, financial, and narrative. Put differently, they require a combination of collaboration, calculation, and communication.

 

Collaboration (Social Process)

Among the Grant Writer’s typical tasks in the social process are:

  • Confer and consult with executive leadership
  • Coordinate with subject area experts and other key individuals
  • Coordinate with partnering organizations and other stakeholders
  • Manage appointment and deadline calendars
  • Lead multidisciplinary planning sessions
  • Speak publicly before small and large groups
  • Explain proposal elements and their rationales
  • Explain grant program requirements
  • Prepare proposal status reports
  • Organize and lead pre-submission proposal reviews

 

Calculation (Financial Process)

Among the Grant Writer’s typical tasks in the financial process are:

  • Track best practices in grant seeking, cultivation, and stewardship
  • Monitor and research grant options
  • Track trends and innovations in grant making
  • Recommend grant and other funding alternatives
  • Research proposal-related budget items
  • Develop and justify detailed budgets
  • Negotiate budget components and grant awards

 

Communication (Narrative Process)

Among the Grant Writer’s typical tasks in the narrative process are:

  • Use business office technologies and applications
  • Analyze and interpret proposal solicitations
  • Analyze and interpret regulations and statutes
  • Navigate grant makers’ websites
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Manage information and data
  • Write and edit narratives and related materials
  • Review proposals for completeness and accuracy
  • Fill out online and printed application forms
  • Submit proposals or prepare them for submissions

 

In sum, the job title of Grant Writer is a misnomer. It is not merely writing. What the occupation in fact requires are specific complementary skills – in communication, collaboration, and calculation.

 

This post presents common career paths for Grant Writers. Others in the series will present what Grant Writers do, where and when they work, the tools that they use, and the basic skills they need.

 

There is no single universal career path. What Grant Writers do before they become Grant Writers, and what they do afterwards, varies considerably. Many persons learn how to write proposals as volunteers. Many others do it as just one facet of their jobs. After writing proposals on-staff for a number of years, many Grant Writers become independent consultants; others migrate to other aspects of fundraising or move into grant and contract management positions.

 

Career Paths

There are almost as many ways to enter grant writing as Grant Writers. One among them is to volunteer for a human services organization. Another way is to take an undergraduate or professional development course and make job connections through it. A third way is to help someone else in writing one or more (hopefully funded) proposals. What comes as the next step after one has apprenticed as a Grant Writer also varies considerably.

 

Grant Writers may start out with one of several similar job titles. With years of experience, generally, their pay will move toward the upper ends of the ranges, so long as they remain in the same occupation.

  • Grant Writer: $32,858 to $64,738
  • Grants Specialist: $36,098 to $68,078
  • Grant Proposal Writer: $58,496 to $73,351
  • Proposal Writer: $39,661 to $74,959

 

Since grant writing is one type of fundraising, and since a Grant Writer needs to get broad overviews of client and employer organizations, some Grant Writers become fundraising generalists. Other Grant Writers move into executive leadership positions at non-profit organizations (NPOs):

  • Development Coordinator (at an NPO): $30,386 to $50,137
  • Development Manager (at an NPO): $36,268 to $65,667
  • Development Director (at an NPO): $39,387 to $97,48
  • Executive Director (at an NPO): $36,977 to $116,439
  • Chief Development Officer: $72,493 to $176,271

 

Some Grant Writers simply move on to more advanced, grant-focused roles. These roles often combine leadership and administration with the usual writing tasks. Such positions often involve more compliance monitoring, fiscal management, and fiscal accountability in the job’s duties and responsibilities. Among these positions are:

  • Senior Grant Writer: $48,848 to $80,000
  • Grants/Contracts Specialist: $38,786 to $68,641
  • Grants Director: $43,948 to $101,491
  • Grants Administrator: $39,213 to $76,827
  • Grants/Proposals Manager: $38,908 to $78,674

 

Other Grant Writers may be hired to work for one or more of their funded projects or for programs that include such projects. Typical management and administrative roles in such situations include:

  • Program Director/Principal Investigator: $34,400 to $82,426
  • Program Manager: $34,820 to $70,901

 

Sooner or later, many productive Grant Writers who start as internal employees will accept invitations to do some consulting. Some of them will set up shop formally as independent contractors on an ad hoc basis. Some of these same Grant Writers will become full-time consultants. Among such consulting roles are:

  • Training Consultant: $43,631 to $98,191
  • Program Evaluator: $36,452 to $82,127

 

All data reflect compensation in late 2016. Further information about what Grant Writers earn and their common career paths is at PayScale or eHow or Salary.

 

All factual material presented here is intended strictly for informational purposes only.

This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is cover letters. Its context is the United States of America.

 

Sometimes an applicant must send a brief cover letter or a letter of transmittal with its proposal – particularly when seeking a grant from a private foundation. Such a letter introduces the proposal to a potential funder. It creates a first impression among those who receive and process proposals and sometimes also among those who read and rank them.

 

Tips

 

In preparing a compelling and cogent cover letter, be sure to:

  1. Use organizational letterhead
  2. Use the grant maker’s correct and complete address
  3. Address it to a specific person
  4. Insert a reference line before a salutation line
  5. Keep the letter short (one page only)
  6. Use standard margins and a standard 12-point font
  7. Use left-justified text – not center-justified text
  8. Send it from the applicant’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  9. Send it signed by a human hand and in blue ink, when possible
  10. Include prepared by and enclosure lines below the signature
  11. Proofread it to ensure that it is error-free

 

In developing the cover letter, use up to four paragraphs to:

  1. Open by describing the organization, community, and target population
  2. Describe the undertaking and two of its major selling points
  3. Explain the reasons for applying for a grant
  4. Close with a thank-you and contact information

 

In all cases, always follow each specific grant maker’s instructions for a cover letter. If a grant maker does not want to get one, then do not send one. Government grant makers are far less apt to expect, require, or accept a cover letter than are private grant makers.

 

 

This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is tables of contents. Its context is the United States of America.

 

Grant makers often require a table of contents for longer proposals. Its visual appeal, structure, and coverage – as well as its completeness and its compliance with instructions – can suggest a great deal about an organization as a potential grant recipient.

 

Tips

 

Look at the proposal’s headlines, headers, and sub-headers as a possible starting point for the table of contents. Use the table of contents to make a strong and positive early impression on the proposal reviewers.

 

In preparing a table of contents when one is required:

  1. Use the request for proposals (RFP) as an outline and guide
  2. Use the grant maker’s specific order of parts and sections
  3. Use the grant maker’s specific names for parts and sections
  4. Present a separate line entry for each part and section
  5. Break up the proposal narrative into multiple indented subheadings
  6. Present a separate line entry for each budget year’s form and narrative
  7. Present a separate line entry for each item attached in an appendix
  8. List all forms included in the proposal

 

The proposal’s table of contents is an early opportunity to convince a grant maker of an organization’s worthiness for funding. Reviewers may refer to it often. Applicants need to be sure that it is clear, accurate, and easy to use.

 

 

 

This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is proposal attachments. Its context is the United States of America.

 

Most public and private grant makers require applicants to include a number of attachments (or appendices) as part of their proposals. Applicants omit forget or omit attachments at the risk of becoming ineligible for proposal review.

 

Tips

 

In writing proposals requiring attachments (or appendices), an applicant should:

  1. Follow each specific grant maker’s instructions
  2. Provide all required attachments
  3. Observe all limits on number of pages to be attached
  4. Observe all limits on types of documents to be attached
  5. Number all pages consecutively
  6. Label every document clearly
  7. List attached documents in a table of contents, if one is allowed and used
  8. Refer to or cite attached documents clearly in the proposal

 

Always attach documents only if they are allowed or required. And always follow the funder’s instructions, if available, for where and in what sequence to attach them.

 

Although an applicant should not expect to need to attach every type listed here in every proposal it submits, among the attachments (or appendices) that it may need are:

  1. Biographical sketches (resumes or vitae) of key staff
  2. Position descriptions
  3. Organizational charts
  4. Program design flow charts
  5. Logic models
  6. Timelines (Gantt charts or PERT charts) or milestone charts
  7. Letters (commitment, support)
  8. Contracts or sub-contracts (consultants, service providers)
  9. Partner agreements (memoranda of understanding, memoranda of agreement)
  10. Sample survey instruments
  11. Sample assessment instruments
  12. Technical specifications for products or construction/renovations
  13. Tax-exempt letter (IRS non-profit status determination letter)
  14. Organization’s most recent audit statement
  15. Organization’s board of directors (names, positions, and affiliations)
  16. Required standard forms (certifications, assurances)

 

Every attachment (or appendix) is an integral part of a proposal. Reviewers consider them in deciding which proposals to recommend for funding. Applicants should take as much care in preparing and presenting them as they do with the rest of their proposals.

 

This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is budget justifications. Its context is the United States of America.

 

The budget often makes or breaks a grant proposal. It is a focal point for deciding its merits. It is also one of the main reasons for asking for funding in the first place. It is vital, therefore, for an applicant to present a clear and well-reasoned budget; otherwise, it can be all for nothing.

 

Tips

 

Clarity is critical. The assumptions underlying line items need to be clear to proposal reviewers. The need for clarifying assumptions increases with the length of a proposal and the size and duration of the grant being sought.

 

Many state and federal agencies require all applicants to explain their assumptions in a budget justification (also called a budget narrative or a budget justification narrative); some private foundations require one as well. Applicants may need to explain every line item in every cost category or only some of them.

 

Always follow the specific grant maker’s instructions for justifying budget line items. If an item is not clear to an applicant’s red team reviewers, it is unlikely to be clear to the proposal reviewer.

 

In preparing an item-by-item budget justification, applicants should:

  1. Present each budget line item in the same sequence as in the itemized budget
  2. Present locally established authority as a basis for calculations (salary schedules, rates, policies)
  3. Adopt regularly updated state or federal per diem reimbursement rates (mileage, lodgings, meals, fares)
  4. Describe or explain factors in the formulas used for specific line items (numbers of units or events, costs per unit or event)
  5. Associate line items with specific goals, objectives, or program design components
  6. Explain unusual or unique budget line items or costs
  7. Use real costs – not estimates – as they exist at the time of application
  8. Avoid vague and opaque line items, such as ‘miscellaneous’ or ‘contingency’
  9. Give only as much detail as will clarify or explain or justify each line item

 

 

This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is itemized budgets. Its context is the United States of America.

 

Budgets are the epicenter of grant decision-making. Applicants should propose a budget in only the format and degree of detail that a specific grant maker requires. The budget should be cost-effective for the expected benefits and results that a proposal describes. It should be reasonable with respect to the objectives. And it should be adequate to support the proposed activities.

 

Tips

 

In creating an itemized budget, an applicant should:

  1. Propose items that reflect the applicable rules, regulations, review criteria, and instructions
  2. Observe a funder’s limits (e.g., on administrative costs or on indirect costs)
  3. Align line-items with objectives, activities, and the rest of a proposal narrative
  4. Ensure that every line-item is neither a surprise nor a ghost nor a stray
  5. Defend line-items with well-established rates or schedules
  6. Base line-item calculations on actual costs, not arbitrary estimates
  7. Use formulas, where possible, to show the elements of calculations
  8. Calculate costs per participant and/or per unit
  9. Justify calculations with local, state, and/or federal guidelines, as appropriate
  10. Check and recheck the accuracy of all calculations

 

In presenting a budget summary for a grant proposal, it often helps to:

  1. Complete the summarized budget as a spreadsheet or a table
  2. Indicate funds from other sources (e.g., matching cash, matching in-kind)
  3. Complete all applicable budget cost categories for each year of requested funding
  4. Indicate the applicant’s indirect cost rate, if any, and its type and source
  5. Calculate the total cost and the total grant budget request

 

The larger the grant maker and the larger the amount requested, the larger the number of cost categories that may appear in a proposal. Among typical cost categories in a grant budget are:

  • Personnel
  • Fringe benefits
  • Travel
  • Consultants
  • Equipment
  • Materials or supplies
  • Contractual services
  • Other

 

A grant maker, particularly if it is a government agency, may require a budget justification narrative for all or some of the line-items in a proposed budget. Writing such justifications is the subject of another post.

 

 

 

 

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