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One way that grant writers can improve their insights into effective grant writing is to serve as a peer reviewer of competitive grant proposals. A second way they can do the same is to read books on grant writing and related topics.


The 15 books listed here (in alphabetical order) comprise a small library about grant writing and fundraising. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it does include the most current editions available for each title.


Some titles focus on how to plan and write proposals; others cover the entire grant life cycle from cradle to grave. Some titles zoom in on getting grants from foundations; others focus more broadly on getting grants from both public and private sources. Finally, some titles offer samples and/or models or provide templates and/or checklists. Many of the titles are available at no cost from public libraries or Foundation Center Cooperating Collections.


Shorter List on Grant Writing:

A short list of books for persons wanting to learn how to win competitive grants might include:

  1. Karsh, E. and Fox. A. (2009). The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Ever Need: Top Grant Writers and Grant Givers Share Their Secrets. 3rd Edition.
  2. Thompson, W. (2011). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grant Writing. 3rd Edition.
  3. Wason, S. (2004). Webster’s New World Grant Writing Handbook.


Longer List on Fundraising:

A longer list of books for persons with some experience in writing proposals and an interest in other aspects of fundraising might include:

  1. Bray, I. (2010). Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work. 3rd Edition.
  2. Brewer, E. and Achilles, C. (2007). Finding Funding: Grantwriting From Start to Finish, Including Project Management and Internet Use. 5th Edition.
  3. Collins, S., ed. (2003). The Foundation Center’s Guide to Winning Proposals.
  4. Geever, J. (2012). The Foundation Center’s Guide to Proposal Writing. 6th Edition.
  5. Greenfield, J. (2002). Fundraising Fundamentals: A Guide to Annual Giving for Professionals and Volunteers. 2nd Edition.
  6. Grobman, G. (2011). The Nonprofit Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Start and Run Your Nonprofit Organization. 6th Edition.
  7. Klein, K. (2011). Fundraising for Social Change. 6th Edition.
  8. Margolin, J. and Lubin, S., editors. (2005). The Foundation Center’s Guide to Winning Proposals-II.
  9. New, C. and Quick, J. (2003). How to Write a Grant Proposal.
  10. Smith, N. and Works, E. (2006). The Complete Book Grant Writing: Learn How to Write Grants Like a Professional.
  11. Warwick, M. (2009). How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters. 2nd Edition.
  12. Wells, M. (2005). Grantwriting Beyond the Basics: Proven Strategies Professionals Use to Make Their Proposals Work. Book 1 in series.


Again, these are both short lists. If you’ve discovered other titles that have worked for you in competing for grants, please do let me know!


Among the world’s earliest leaders in elevating fundraising (and thus grant writing) to professional status is the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), formerly the National Society of Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE). Its principles, standards, and practices represent a dominant paradigm within which many grant writers in North America now work.


Association of Fundraising Professionals:

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) was founded in 1960. Its website is The AFP has a searchable online Fundraising Consultants and Resources Directory for nonprofit organizations looking for them. Sorted more or less by fundraising functions, it subsumes grantsmanship as one of many other campaign services or activities. Grant writing is by no means a primary focus of the organization.


Certified Fund Raising Executive Credential:

The 30,000-member AFP has a global reach. It hosts international and hemispheric conferences on fundraising, as well as academies for faculty and leadership. It also offers the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and Advanced CFRE (ACFRE) credentials. Valid for three years (and renewable thereafter) and costing $650 (members) or $815 (non-members), the CFRE is a four-hour, standardized, 225-question exam on topics in Donor Research, Securing Gifts, Relationship Building, Volunteer Involvement, Leadership and Management, and Ethics and Accountability. For more information on the exam itself, see the dedicated site,


Individuals must belong both to the AFP at large and one of its state and regional chapters. The Association offers nearly a dozen different types of individual and organizational memberships with correspondingly varying dues. Its regular active membership dues are $250/year. Chapter dues vary from $25/year to $125/year.


Professional Benefits:

All AFP members must adhere to the Association’s ethical principles and standards, its bylaws, and a bill of rights for donors. Among the extensive (and sometimes members-only) benefits are: a members’ magazine, online discussion groups, 24 webinars/audio-conferences yearly, and mentoring for new fundraising professionals. Chapters offer their own benefits. These vary by location, but they may include a job bank, volunteer opportunities, networking, mentoring, scholarships, discounts, and a newsletter.


The general association offers many job-related services, such as a members-only job center for job seekers and job posters, a toolkit for jobseekers, annual compensation and benefits study reports, and online professional job postings. If any grant writer wants to become internationally recognized as an expert and as a fundraising generalist, the AFP is one very reasonable place to start.



Discussion of the existence of the AFP is intended only for informational purposes. Endorsement or sanction of the Association is neither intended nor implied. More posts on grant writing as a career will appear here intermittently.

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 For similar information about Technical Writing as a Career, see

This is the first of a series of posts discussing grant writing as a career.

If your organization intends to compete to win a highly coveted and widely sought grant award of $50,000, $500,000, or $5,000,000 or even much more, teamwork and persuasion often will prove indispensable. A funded proposal is a product of both attributes, which are key aspects of nearly every effective grant proposal.

1. Teamwork:

Ours is an era of ever more intense competition for grants from public and private sources. Strong teamwork is invaluable.

Virtually anyone can play a valuable part on a grant-seeking team. For example, in the context of grants for public education, specialists, experts, and technicians can serve as contributors of professional knowledge and research-based rationales. Parents, students, and other types of clients can share perceptions and insights about needs and priorities. Teachers, clinicians, and other types of practitioners can identify appropriate activities and effective strategies.

Although good technical writing helps a proposal to command attention and win approval, shared commitment, networking, energy, and imagination are equally indispensable.

2. Persuasion:

Grant proposals both describe and persuade. They appeal to both heart and mind. Good proposals respond meticulously to selection criteria. Their narratives support identified needs with data and research findings and build compelling arguments around them. Since successful applicants keep their decision-making audience in mind at all times, the proposals also incorporate the grant maker’s interests and priorities. They offer cost-effective solutions to problems regarded as important on both sides of the grant funding equation.

3. Product:

It is seldom enough these days only to use a team to develop a proposal or to make a compelling case for funding. The finished proposal, as a final product, will play a critical part in funding outcomes as well. Its outward appearance must connote the quality and completeness of its contents and the processes used to generate them. It must look the part it plays as a fund-raising document and an instrument of persuasion. In all respects, both its appearance and its contents – in every detail – must match the specific grant-making occasion.

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