Small Business Tips and Tools

10 Tips to Write a Standout Grant Application

September 22, 2020
3 min read

From eligibility requirements to tight deadlines, applying for grants can be overwhelming. How do you write a standout application submission? And more specifically, how do you make a case for your business or organization?

In a recent newsletter, we asked you to share your best advice for writing an outstanding grant application. Below, read the top tips from professional grant writers, consultants, nonprofit founders, and business owners on how you can write a fantastic grant application.

Above All Else: Tailor Your Grant Application to the Specific Program

With the many grant opportunities available for owners, a common theme is to fully understand the grant you’re applying for:

“Always [understand] each funder with regard to focus, fit, funding amounts, deadlines, and approach before applying. Do this by reading the solicitation and asking the point of contact questions.”

— Christine E. B. Howard, owner of E.B. Howard Consulting

Similarly, another founder recommends to read (and re-read!) the details and requirements:

Shotgunning many grant proposals out at once is an exercise in futility. Each foundation has different requirements for a proposal and the way the budget is presented.

—Betty Mekdeci, founder of Birth Defect Research for Children

This professional grant writer emphasizes the importance of thoroughly reading the questions and eligibility rules before submitting an application:

“Read the entire the request for proposal (RFP) to make sure you meet the requirements of a grant. Second, answer all of the questions and provide all other requirements, documents, etc.  If you miss even one requirement of a grant application, you will likely not be funded.

— Kathi Barber, owner of 3rd i Press

Additionally, this founder says to analyze each prompt closely to ensure you are responding appropriately:

“Read the question and address only the question asked.  Second, don’t write a grant for a program unless you [understand] the program. Seek funding that fits your strategic plan, not just for the money.

— Orletta Caldwell, owner of Beyond Existing Enterprises

Keep a Summary of Your Business in a Document

Most grant applications ask for some general details about your business. To save time in filling out these questions, one owner says to write the key information about your business in a document:

“My best tip for grant applications is to keep a Word document saved with who you are, what your business does, and what you would use the grant money for. That way you have a clear, concise message ready to go when you start applying.”

—Brittany Washington, founder of My Beautiful Fluff

Another owner says that having your responses already fleshed out is helpful when advocating for your business or organization:

“Make sure your organization is ready for grants by having clear, well-written narratives, program descriptions, and proper policies and procedures in place. Many funders require you to have certain policies in place such as non-discrimination or whistle blower policies. You also need to be ready to administer and report on your results to the funder. Being prepared before you begin a grant application ensures you will produce a convincing case for supporting your nonprofit.”

—Michelle Crim, founder of Dynamic Development Strategies

Understand Your Audience

As you make a case for your business, this grant consultant recommended having a solid grasp of who will be reviewing your application:

“I have found that when an organization takes the time to write a strong case statement first, they are more successful in their grant pursuits. Why? Because, it allows everyone involved to agree to the story, the need, and the numbers (number of staff/FTE, number of volunteers, financials, as well as SMART outcomes). I have also found that it is useful for an organization to contract with an outside person to develop the case statement. Some organizations will balk at this. Too often, employees are simply too close to the subject to develop a narrative that will resonate with funders (or individual donors). Many times over, I have come in to fix a case statement because as hard as the organization tried or no matter how talented the writer, it missed the ‘audience’ mark.”

— Lori Bumgardner, owner of Goddess of Grants

This founder says that making the connection between your mission and the funder helps your application stand out from the crowd:

“Express to grantors why you would like to be aligned with their organization and how their mission can align with that of yours.”

— Aisha Babilonia, founder of Habakkuk’s Vision

Finally, It’s Okay to Pass on a Grant

Kathi Barber, the grant writer above, cautions owners to not apply for the wrong reasons:

“A grant opportunity may seem enticing because your organization needs funding. If you don’t have the time required to submit a quality application, let it go. If your staff is already overwhelmed with competing projects and deliverables, don’t try to squeeze in another project just to get more money. There will always be other funding opportunities available to meet the needs of your organization.”

— Kathi Barber, owner of 3rd i Press

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