There are two catchphrases that you'll hear in my grant writing workshops and webinars. The first is "Grant writing is more than writing." The second is "Grant writing is like a three-legged stool."

A three-legged stool functions most efficiently when you have three legs of equal size. If one leg is bigger (or smaller) than the rest, then you'll be off balance. And your stool may fail altogether.

In grant writing, if you're only focused on "writing," then the legs of your stool need to be adjusted. Otherwise, you'll be writing a lot of proposals, but you won't be winning many grants.

That's why grant writing is more than just writing. And why your grant writing stool needs three legs.

The first leg is Research

When you're looking for grant funding, you want to find foundations whose mission and interests align with your own. You're looking for foundations that accept applications. (Fun fact: an estimated 60% of foundations don't accept applications.) You need to understand a foundation's capacity to give, what they've given historically and what they're likely to give to an organization like yours. And, of course, you need to know when and how to apply.

If you use Google to do your grant research, you're just scratching the surface of what's available. (Another fun fact: an estimated 70% of foundations don't have a website.)

Never fear. The information is out there. You just need to know where to look for it. Better yet, a grant prospect report will put everything you need right at your fingertips.

The second leg is Writing

Grant proposals must be written to each funder's specifications. This means answering their questions (not offering boilerplate language or writing only what you want them to know) and presenting the material in the format they request (e.g., adhering to word counts, page limits, font styles and sizes).

Successful grant proposals will clearly document a need and how you, as the requesting organization, will address it. Nonprofits will often be asked to state their goals, objectives and outcomes related to the request. Also be prepared to address the timeline and activities to be undertaken during the funding period.

Remember, if you've done your research, you'll be competing against organizations that do similar work and/or that serve a similar population. So be sure to explain why your nonprofit is the best suited to do the work and is most deserving of the funding.

The third leg is Review

Obviously, you want to proofread your proposal. Spell check is a fine place to start, but there's more to check than spelling. A lot more. Like grammar. Punctuation. Consistency. Clarity. General readability.

And don't forget to review your budget, especially if you're using Excel. Double-check all of your formulas for errors.

You can review your work yourself (or ask a coworker or board member), or you can hire a professional proofreader/editor. Regardless of who is doing the review, your goals should be to find and fix avoidable mistakes and make your proposal the very best that it can be.

Send me a message if you'd like to learn how I can help you with your grant research, grant writing or proposal review. I'm always here for you.


Remember, there's more to grant writing than just "writing." Also remember, there's more to fundraising than just grants, although grants can be an important part of your strategic fundraising plan.

This month, I have three recommendations for books that will help you get started and improve your grant writing efforts.

Grant Writing for Dummies, book by Beverly Browning
(includes information on foundation and government grants)

The Only Grant Writing Book You'll Ever Need, by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox
(includes information on foundation and government grants)

The Grantseeker's Guide To Winning Proposals, book published by The Foundation Center
(includes 35 actual proposals, printed in their entirety)

Third Sector Consulting helps nonprofits find more funders and win more grants.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.