Grant Writing For Dummies

Grant Writing For Dummies

by Beverly A. Browning
Grant Writing For Dummies

Grant Writing For Dummies

by Beverly A. Browning

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Write award-winning grant proposals that build organizational capacity!

For nonprofit and for-profit firms alike, grants can be a singular generator of growth and impact. But many leaders are intimidated and confused by the sometimes-complex grant application process. The truth, however, is that anyone can learn to write and send a powerful grant letter with the right help.

In Grant Writing For Dummies, Dr. Beverly Browning draws on over four decades of experience writing grant applications and training grant writers to deliver a comprehensive and easy-to-follow roadmap to drafting and submitting grant applications that get funded. You’ll learn to craft the strongest application possible, find the best sources of funding from online databases, and present a realistic project budget plan.

You’ll also find:

  • Example types of funding requests that demonstrate how to apply the concepts discussed in the book
  • New and updated material walking you through the entire grant-writing process, from beginning to end
  • Writing techniques that capture the imaginations of grant reviewers who decide which applicants walk away empty-handed and which ones receive cash

Whether you’re looking to fund your nonprofit, grow your business, or develop your research venture, you’ll find the guidance you need in Grant Writing For Dummies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119868071
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 03/29/2022
Series: For Dummies Books
Edition description: 7th ed.
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 96,112
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Dr. Beverly A. Browning, MPA, DBA, is a grant writing superstar! Browning has worked as a consultant in this space for more than 40 years. She teaches online courses, publishes on grant writing, and manages a non-profit foundation. She is the author of all previous editions of Grant Writing For Dummies.

Read an Excerpt

Grant Writing For Dummies

By Beverly A. Browning

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-8416-2

Chapter One

Getting Smart, Getting Money

In This Chapter

* Starting with basic definitions

* Making a plan (and sticking to it)

* Talking and writing like an expert

* Knowing types of funding and formatting

* Aiming for timeliness and following up

Nearly two decades ago, I discovered the magic of grant writing. Never before had I been involved in an occupation where, every day, my job felt like that of a magician. Just imagine: taking a vision, researching it well, identifying a perfect funding match, and then writing an award-winning document. It just all seems too good to be true - write it and money will come. Early on in my grant writing days, I learned by reading and doing; I had no mentors, and resource books like this one weren't plentiful. The common sense I commandeered 20 years ago to figure it out is the common sense I use today.

Over the years, I continued to jump into the "we need funding now" fires and be the behind-the-scenes flame extinguisher for both start-up and established nonprofit organizations. Each time I discovered a special writing approach worked, I took note and mentally recorded my words, approach, research techniques, formatting, and more. At the time, I didn't know why I stored tips and skills like a squirrel collecting nuts for the winter. Now I know. Every effort to catalog my experiences,successes, and failures was directed at sharing them with you.

Especially now that I've achieved a 90 to 95 percent success rate, I assure you that you can have great grant writing successes, too. Dozens of grant announcements and contract bidding opportunities are published every day. With this book, you too can get smart - and get the money - almost all the time. And in this chapter, I start you down the right path to grant writing gold with the basics of the process.

What Does It Mean? Defining Grants, Contracts, and More


A grant or cooperative agreement is a monetary award given by a funder, such as a government agency, a foundation, or a corporation. You may think that the only grants out there are those that pay for college tuition, but you're in for a surprise. Grants pay for all kinds of things. And pursuing grants is one of the most interesting occupations in the world.


A grant or cooperative agreement application is a written request asking for money from a government agency, a foundation, or a corporation. Most grants go to organizations that have applied to the Internal Revenue Service for nonprofit status and received the IRS's blessing as a 501 (c)(3) organization, although a few grants are given to individuals (see Chapter 7 for details). Since I've been writing grant applications, I've seen a growing number of grant awards made to cities, villages, townships, counties, and even state agencies. While none of these governmental units are IRS 501 (c)(3) designees, they're still nonprofit in structure and can apply for and receive grant awards from the federal government, foundations, and corporations.

A proposal is usually a more free-flowing grant request. It's you putting down on paper your ideas about your organization and the program you want funded. You can dash off a proposal foolishly, simply writing what pops into your mind at the time. Or you can create a proposal the smart way, using a national or regional template format (see "Putting Together and Writing a Winning Request," later in this chapter for more details).

Whether you're writing a grant application or a grant proposal, both types of funding requests require planning, organization, good research, and writing skills.


Think of contracts as cousins to grants - similar but clearly different. A contract is a legal instrument reflecting a relationship between the bid-letting agency (government unit or private sector business) and a business. The bid-letting agency is seeking to purchase services or products. The offeror, or business seeking to provide the deliverables, must respond to an RFP (Request For Proposal) or RFQ (Request For Quote) in writing and submit it by a deadline. For-profit businesses apply for and receive contract awards; nonprofit organizations apply for and receive grant or cooperative agreement awards. A grantmaking agency (such as the government, a foundation, or a corporation) can issue an RFP; a business seeking a contractual relationship with another business can issue one as well. An RFP or RFQ is very similar in format to a government grant application.

Get into Gear: Planning for Grants and Contracts

Rule number one is that you don't ask for a grant without thinking first.

You'd be surprised how many nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses lurch from one crisis to another. They never plan ahead in terms of grant seeking or contract bidding. They lack a planning tool to give them direction. What they lack is a funding plan, an internal examination of the organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A funding plan answers questions such as

  • What programs are strong and already have regular funding to keep them going?

  • What new programs need funding?

  • What opportunities exist to find new funding partners?

  • What existing grants will run out before new funding is found?

    When you answer these questions, you can begin to look at the multitude of areas where grants are awarded and begin to prioritize the type of funding you need. I write more about funding plans in Chapter 2.

    What's the Word I'm Looking For? Knowing Grant Language

    Before you jump into the grants fire - I think of it as a fire because the competition is hot - you need to be sure that you can speak and understand the language. The following list presents the terms and phrases that grantmakers use regularly. (In Chapter 3, I cover additional terms in the language of "Grantlish.")

  • Annual campaigns: Money to support annual operating expenses, infrastructure improvements, program expansion, and, in some cases, one-time-only expenses (such as a cooling-system replacement).

  • Building/renovation funds: Money to build a new facility or renovate an existing facility. These projects are often referred to as bricks-and-mortar projects. Building funds are the most difficult to secure; only a small percentage of foundations and corporations award grants for these types of projects.

  • Capital support: Money for equipment, buildings, construction, and endowments. These types of large-scale projects are not quickly funded. It often takes two to three years for total funding to be secured. This type of request is a major undertaking by the applicant organization.

  • Challenge monies: These funds act as leverage to secure additional grants from foundations and corporations. They're awarded by funders and are contingent upon your raising additional grant funds from other funding sources. You must use internal organizational funds to meet the challenge grant requirements.

  • Conferences/seminars: Money to cover the cost of attending, planning, and/or hosting conferences and seminars. Funding may be used to pay for all the conference's expenses, including securing a keynote speaker, travel, printing, advertising, and facility expenses, such as meals.

  • Consulting services: You may want to secure the expertise of a consultant or consulting firm to strengthen some aspect of organizational programming. For example, if you bring in a consultant to do a longrange strategic plan or to conduct training for a board of directors you're paying for consulting services.

  • Continuing support/continuation grant: If you've already received a grant award from a funder, you can turn to that funder again and apply for continuing support. Be aware that many funders only fund an organization one time.

  • Employee matching gifts: Many employers match the monetary donations their employees make to nonprofit organizations, often on a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1. If you have board members employed by large corporations, have them check with their Human Resources departments to see whether their employers have such programs.

  • Endowments: A source of long-term, permanent investment income to ensure the continuing presence and financial stability of your nonprofit organization. If your organization is always operating in crisis-management mode, then one of your goals should be to develop an endowment fund for long-term viability.

  • Fellowships: Money to support graduate and postgraduate students in specific fields. These funds are only awarded to institutions, never to individuals.

  • General/operating expenses: Money for general budget line-item expenses. These funds may be used for salaries, fringe benefits, travel, consultants, utilities, equipment, and other expenses necessary to operate a nonprofit program.

  • Matching funds: Grant funds that are awarded with the requirement that you must find other grant funding that matches or exceeds the initial grant's matching-fund stipulation. Matching funds are a type of leverage grant. To qualify for a matching funds grant award, the grant applicant must come up with matching funds. The funds can be internal (from the grant applicant organization), from a partner agency, or even from another grant funding agency.

  • Program development: Funding to pay for expenses related to organization growth, the expansion of existing programs, or the development of new programs.

  • Research: Money to support medical and educational research. Monies are usually awarded to the institutions that employ the individuals conducting the research.

  • Scholarship funds: Scholarship awards to individuals. Remember that when funds are awarded to an individual, they're considered taxable income.

  • Seed money: Most often, these types of grants are awarded for a pilot program not yet in full-scale operation; hence the term seed money. Seed money gets a program underway, but other grant monies are needed to continue the program in its expansion phase.

  • Technical (consulting) assistance: Money to improve your internal program operations. Often, this type of grant is awarded to hire an individual or firm that can provide the needed technical assistance. Alternatively, the foundation's personnel may provide the technical assistance. For example, a program officer from a foundation may work on-site with the applicant organization to establish an endowment development fund and start a campaign for endowment monies. In some instances, the funding source identifies a third-party technical assistance provider and pays the third party directly to assist the nonprofit organization.

    The following terms are used by contract bid-letting agencies:

  • Acceptance: When a bid-letting agency or business accepts the deliverables outlined by the offeror in the bidding document.

  • Deliverables: Detailed information about the services or goods the offeror plans to deliver under a contract award.

  • Financial proposal: A document separate from the scope of services proposal that outlines the offeror's cost to provide the needed services or goods.

  • Offeror: The individual or business bidding on the needed services or goods.

  • Responsiveness: When the bid-letting agency examines the offeror's contract bid proposal document to determine if all the areas in the narrative guidelines have been responded to and at what level.

  • Request For Proposal (RFP) or Request For Quote (RFQ): A legally prepared document issued by the bid-letting agency or business requesting a proposal or quote for services or products from qualified vendors.
  • Services proposal: A full, written description by the offeror of what will be provided should a contract be awarded by the bid-letting agency.

  • Terms and conditions: The circumstances for awarding a contract, which are developed by the bid-letting agency. You may be required to provide proof of liability insurance or to submit a list of demographics for all personnel assigned to the contract work.

    Connecting Your Needs to a Governmental Source of Funds

    Grants, grants, everyone wants a grant! You're constantly hearing about other organizations winning grant awards, but no one tells you how they found the money. Is your organization being left out in the cold - no money, no luck, and no clue? When you realize how easy it is to find and get the money you want, you'll rejoice and sing praises like everyone else.

    Conducting a funding search leads you to the money. But before you start your search, you need to know what type of grant money will fund your idea, project, or program.

    Federal government funding: Cashing in with your richest uncle

    The first place to look for money is with Uncle Sam. You always knew that you had a long-lost relative somewhere with money, right? The money (government funding) originates from the federal, state, and local levels. Using the Internet, you can locate and cash in on the available dollars. In Chapter 4, I give you the complete scoop on using the Internet to find government grants.


    Peruse the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), and then log onto The CFDA is the encyclopedia of grant and contract funding programs, which means that it doesn't tell you about open grant competitions that you can apply for at a particular time. For that information, go to Grants. gov, which gives you daily funding announcements on money you can apply for now.

    Seeking public funds closer to home

    Each state receives grant monies from the feds. After taking their fair (or unfair) share, states regrant the money to eligible agencies and organizations in the form of competitive grants or formula grants.

    Examples of some state agencies that regrant federal monies are agriculture, commerce, education, health, housing development, natural resources, and transportation. Contact your state legislator at his or her local office or at the state capitol for assistance in identifying grant opportunities within your state, and use the Internet to search for state agencies that award grants and contracts.

    The Other Pot of Gold: Looking at Foundation and Corporate Funding

    The rainfall of private-sector grant money is continuous. Private-sector funding sources are either foundations or corporations.

    Where can you find out more about these no-strings-attached grants? You can locate sources by visiting a Foundation Center Cooperating Collections site (usually at a state university library, community foundation, or other nonprofit information center) or on the Internet. The Foundation Center's Web site address is Chapter 6 has details on finding foundation and corporate grants, too.


    Using technology to find money is a good idea because it's so quick and easy. Throughout this book, you'll see lots of Web site listings.

    Discovering private and public foundations

    Private foundations get their monies from a single source, such as an individual, a family, or a corporation. Think about all the wealthy individuals who have started their own foundations, like the John Templeton Foundation or the Heinz Foundation. You can find hundreds of private foundations in the Foundation Center's online directory.

    Public foundations, on the other hand, are supported primarily through donations from the general public. That's a no-brainer, right? They also receive a great deal of their funding from foundation and corporate grants. Again, the Foundation Center's Web site can give you loads of information on these types of foundations. There are lots of public foundations focused on the arts, environment, and faith-based initiatives. Remember, there's no difference in public or private foundations when it comes to grant seeking or grantmaking.


    Excerpted from Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

  • Table of Contents

    Introduction 1

    Part 1: Getting Started with Everything Grants 5

    Chapter 1: Grantwriting Basics for Beginners 7

    Chapter 2: Preparing for Successful Grantseeking 23

    Chapter 3: Understanding Grantmaking Entities Expectations 41

    Part 2: Researching Grantfunding Opportunities 55

    Chapter 4: Venturing into Public-Sector Grants 57

    Chapter 5: Navigating the Federal Grant Submission Portals 71

    Chapter 6: Researching Potential Private-Sector Funders 83

    Chapter 7: Finding Legitimate Grants for Individuals and Businesses 97

    Chapter 8: Finding Grants for Academia and Fellowships 107

    Chapter 9: Identifying Funds for Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) 115

    Part 3: Maximizing Your Chances of Winning a Grant Award 121

    Chapter 10: Finding Federal Grant Opportunities That Fit Your Needs 123

    Chapter 11: Winning with Peer Review Scoring Factors 139

    Chapter 12: Resuscitating Your Writing 155

    Part 4: Following the Funder’s Guidelines 167

    Chapter 13: Preparing Preliminary Documents 169

    Chapter 14: Developing the Organizational History and Capability Boilerplate Narrative 183

    Chapter 15: Validating Your Needs with a Compelling Narrative 197

    Chapter 16: Incorporating Best Practices to Build the Program Design Narrative 209

    Chapter 17: Preparing Project Management Plans and Sustainability Narratives 231

    Chapter 18: Creating a Budget That Includes All the Funding You Need 247

    Part 5: Triple-Checking Your Application, Submitting, and Following Up 269

    Chapter 19: Checking Off the Mandatory Requirements for Compliance 271

    Chapter 20: Knowing What to Do after Submitting Your Application 287

    Chapter 21: Winning or Losing: What’s Next? 297

    Chapter 22: Requesting Matching Funds and Other Goodies from Corporate Grantmakers 307

    Part 6: The Part of Tens 317

    Chapter 23: Ten e-Grant Tips 319

    Chapter 24: Ten Steps to Making Grant Writing Your Career 325

    Chapter 25: Ten Ways to Continue Being Viewed as a Grant Professional 331

    Index 335

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