How To Win at Writing Grants

How To Win at Writing Grants



The major impact on grant requests throughout the years is the condition and state of the economy. It’s a given fact that when the economy is down, so are the streams of grant funding. If I’m looking for federal or state grants because my organization depends heavily on these money streams, then I watch for any “economic climate” changes very closely.


I meet with local, state and federal legislators regularly to discuss my organization’s financial status and what is anticipated from their government funding streams. I’m known by my legislators as the “Champion of Grants” because my organization only operates under competitive grant funds.


Take this advice and “never put all of your eggs in one basket” because in lean times, your one funding source may dry up and leave your organization stranded. Competition for grant funds is difficult even in good economic times, but nothing is

more challenging than to write proposals in an economic downturn when funding becomes scarce. I like to say that scarcity of funds makes me work even harder because I envision that there are always going to be streams of funding. When I work hard during these downturns in the economy, the victory of winning a grant is even greater due to this challenge.    



An extremely important part of all proposals is to share with the grant maker the expertise and “track record” of the organization that will be responsible for administering the grant if and when it’s awarded. The Request For Proposals (RFP) will state where to place this information and the importance of these data must reflect an impressive background of the organization.


It’s important to identify something or anything that makes this organization stand above all the other organizations competing for the same pot of funds. I highlight that the organization which I’m writing about is unique, has a stellar track record of prior accomplishments that lend proof to their ability to produce an outstanding program, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The transparency of the organization should also be made evident when detailing their history.


You should highlight the organization’s Mission Statement, their Board of Directors and specific projects that were successful, especially if they are similar to the one in this proposal request. Community involvement activities are always important to include along with any partnership and collaborative initiatives. The most recent financial reports, along with the table of organization that document administrators, the financial manager and staff who will be involved with this proposal should be included, along with their background and expertise.



My ultimate role is to build a partnership with the grant maker that is truly a partnership. I have the ideas and capacity to solve problems, but no dollars with which to implement them. The funding agency has the funding, but not the other resources needed to create a program. Bring these two together and the result is a dynamic collaboration.      


I learned many years ago that there are no specific rules to follow in becoming a successful grant writer. There is no single set of skills or specific educational qualifications to achieve to become successful at producing proposals.


My relationship with numerous grant writers leads me to believe that many became writers to bring in grant funds for their organization and others got into the grant writing business to make money. Whatever the case may be, successful writing only comes with time and after numerous attempts in producing proposals. I keep a continuous file pertaining to my grant-producing skills and what I’m capable of doing. The purpose is to promote me as a seasoned grant producer and a supporter for their particular cause. When an outside organization wants to contract with me to write their grant proposal, I share with them my profile of prior and current grant producing initiatives.


Now that we covered what makes an effective grant writer, let’s review some of the basic rules to start the grant-producing activities. Once the subject matter of the proposal has been identified, I assume that anyone reading my proposal will have some knowledge on the subject of this specific program, so I’m aware that I must possess this knowledge too. When I engage in a subject area related to my proposal, my education and experience had better be evident in this specific field. I also contact some of my grant-writing colleagues who are seasoned in a particular field that I want to write about and seek their advice. They are only too happy to help a “struggling proposal writer” because someday they may need my expertise.


If I’m considering a new field related to producing an upcoming proposal, I often enroll in a “crash course” needed to effectively deal with this new subject matter. A good writer should author a compelling proposal by being able to write in an authoritarian way so that the reader will continue reading. There are five steps that I owe my writing success to and these are by identifying:

  1. The exact amount of funds I need to secure and who is the grant maker
  2. My target population
  3. What do I intend to do with these funds
  4. Always adhere to the instructions in the Request For Proposal
  5. Read these items over at the start and end of everyday


Grants are most often awarded to support special programs or activities of an organization for a specific amount of money and for an exact time. It’s defined simply as an exchange of services for money.  A grant is the award of money for a program or service and this is not considered a loan that has to be paid back to the lender. If you are fortunate enough to receive a grant award, you do not have to pay it back unless you do not complete the project or fail to meet the grant requirements. Grants are primarily awarded to nonprofits by government agencies, foundations and/or corporations.


After you have identified your own or another organization that has a need for outside grant funding then your tasks commence. The rationale for a proposal is:

(1) For your own organization to address specific needs for funding or,

(2) For an organization that you contacted or has contacted you to write their proposal for a fee. The techniques for writing a proposal for all of these organizations are similar.



The organization that I founded two decades ago operates 100% of the time under competitive grant funding and I write all of my own proposals with my team.      



As a successful grant writer, numerous organizations contact me or I contact them regarding how to secure outside funding to launch or refinance one of their projects. My first reaction is to research and analyze the history and credibility of the outside organization. If they pass the “test” then I agree to produce their proposal.


The first question I ask is whether or not this organization is eligible to submit a proposal. It’s very simply to determine this by reviewing the “Eligibility Applicants” section found in all grant applications. There is no reason to submit a proposal if the organization has to be a not-for-profit and it does not qualify.


Once I’m satisfied that this is a worthy organization and there is a definite need for outside funding, we discuss a formal contract agreement for me to write this proposal. Only after the contract is signed, do I begin the search for matching the needs of this organization to appropriate funds.   If you are hired as a consultant to write a grant, you should charge a flat fee and not a percentage of the funds allocated. You may have to register as an independent consultant with the State Attorney General’s Office.


My name is Dr. Pat and my passion for grant-writing is evident in the success rate of the hundred of proposals that I have written at the Federal, state, local, community and private Foundation levels. I have authored the workbook called “How To Win at Grant Writing” that is far different than any other proposal-writing texts that are currently on the market. It spans the personal conversations between me, who has secured millions of dollars in grants and you, the aspiring grant writer who wants to achieve this level of success by learning the specific skills to produce an award-winning proposal. I’m unaware of any author who has ever shared their inside secrets with the readers to such a personal level as you will discover in my workbook.  My mission is to make you an outstanding grant writer and producer of proposals aimed at winning grant awards. In my workbook you will learn about the vital steps to produce proposals that are reinforced by my inside trade secrets  that add another dimension to successful writing by alerting you to common errors made by other proposal writers.


In my workbook I refer to the funding organization as the grant maker. I’m passionate about learning who these grant makers really are, what is their funding intention, when do they typically make their awards and what part of the country do they specifically target. My goal in speaking to them is to let them know who I am and what grant proposal I may be submitting which will meet and exceed their expectations.


What better way to learn about what comprises a winning proposal than to be one of the grant reviewers. For over fifteen years, I have been an evaluator of state and Federal grants and one of those evaluators who make the decision about numerous proposal submissions.  In the future, you may also want to become a grant reviewer.


Productive grant-writing takes specific skills that are absolutely needed to succeed in this field. Let’s begin by assessing whether or not you have these ten skills:


  1. Effective Leadership Skills           6.  Researcher & Data Analyst
  2. Precise & Capable Planner           7.  Decision Maker
  3. Well Organized          8.  Problem Solver
  4. Critical Thinker           9.  Effective Communicator
  5. Time & Stress Manager 10.  Able to Deal with Change

Don’t despair if your expertise in these areas is limited at this time. When I first began my writing career I lacked some of these skills so I partnered with other grant writers until I was ready to go out on my own. You could consider this same approach if you need to acquire some new management skills.



Where do you begin?

I’m Dr. Pat and I have written hundreds of proposals and been awarded over fifty million dollars in grant funds. There are certain secrets that I will share with you if you want to succeed as a successful proposal writer.


The first thing that you must locate is the Request For Proposal (RFP) because without this, there is no reason to write a proposal.  This is a request for a proposal and states that the grant maker is seeking an organization that they will give grant money to in exchange for implementing a specific service or project. Without the RFP there is no reason to write your proposal.


I have always predicted that a grant is awarded to those writers who exhibit energetic and leadership skills that include being an expert in the field of interest that you want funding for, can accept challenges or problems as opportunities and be the “take charge” grant producer. Problem solvers and effective communicators tend to bring a proposal to successful fruition.


One of the major dilemmas that I have found over the years is that there are great proposals written that “never get off the ground”. Many times an organization seeking a grant award will gather together several talented individuals who comprise the proposal-writing team. I usually find that they have omitted one winning factor; they lack the leader whose job is to pull all of the proposal sections together and to get the proposal submitted by the deadline. 


I strongly recommend that to produce an award-winning proposal, one person must be clearly designated as the team leader whose sole responsibility is to get the proposal written, assembled and submitted on time. It’s as simple as that, yet many times, organizations do no have that specific person and the grant-writing process fails. More of my winning secrets can be found in my book called “How To Win At Grant Writing” found on Amazon or Barnes & Noble sites.