Fall 2020 Guidance
In response to COVID-19, university courses and operations remain predominantly online for fall.

The Importance of Grant Writing for Non-Profits

The most common way for non-profits to continue servicing their communities is through securing grants. A grant writer requests financial help from an institution, typically a charitable foundation or through government funding, and to do so, they need to use certain strategies.

Non-profits benefit communities. For them to run, though, they need to obtain consistent funding. Because these organizations don’t profit off their vital services, they need to find outside sources of funding that will help them sustain their daily operations.

The most common way for non-profits to continue servicing their communities is through securing grants. A grant writer requests financial help from an institution, typically a charitable foundation or through government funding, and to do so, they need to use certain strategies.

Why Grant Writing for Non-Profits is Paramount

As grant writers gear up to help their organizations, they should realize that most awards are based on merit, not on need. Even though a non-profit organization may be struggling financially, another organization would sooner be awarded a competitive grant if it submitted a higher quality application.

The grant writing organization The Grantsmanship Center has given context to the way that grant-distributors avoid giving based on need. They wrote, “Since the point of a grant award is impact rather than money, the real point of a grant proposal is to rally the necessary resources to help the non-profit fulfill its purpose. A grant is a tool non-profits use to address important issues within their communities.” With this logic, it makes sense that gift-giving bodies tend to give more money to non-profit organizations that will more immediately and effectively help the community or otherwise spread awareness of an issue of local or national significance.

Grants effectively fuel non-profit missions. Further, while grants impact the organizations they disperse to, they more significantly effect change in the communities that the non-profit aims to support. As non-profit organizations apply for grants, they need to be clear with how the money they’ll receive will benefit their communities.

Establishing community needs should appear in a number of ways as organizations prepare their application materials. Centrally, non-profits should aim to identify measurable, realistic, and actionable outcomes, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission. They gave greater context to this practice with an example of how a river cleaning non-profit organization would detail their own achievable stream of goals.

Further, they write that as a river would become cleaner, more people would be incentivized to go swimming and boating, to fish and eat their catch, and to consider buying property along the river. These outcomes would attract a gift-giving committee because the objectives for the hypothetical river cleanup project would have measurable, community-changing benefits.

In sum, grants don’t exclusively benefit non-profit organizations. Instead, grants help non-profits facilitate urgent, positive, and lasting change across different communities.

Grant Writing Strategies

Grant writing for non-profits is a genre of writing that has its own set of conventions. As the Forbes Non-Profit Council states, grant writers should employ a number of tactics to the level of their own writing before considering contributing to a grant proposal.

Overall, they contend that grant writers need to express their organization’s needs clearly and digestibly. If writers need to use field-specific or higher-level language, they should also explain those terms for gift-giving committees. In sum, the Forbes Council recommended that writers:

  • Think outside the box as they communicate
  • Write with research
  • Build application materials across a process
  • Construct a case for an organization’s need through a narrative, storytelling progression
  • Conclude with a focus on community impact

While these general writing tips could be useful across genres, they are especially relevant to successful grant applications. The National Science Foundation, a governmental service that funds a number of non-profit projects around the country through grants, has provided more detail for how organizations can compile engaging application materials. They suggest the following:

Respond Directly to the Application Prompt

This point may seem overly simplistic, but it’s one of the most important strategies for effective grant writing for non-profits. Grant writers need to focus their responses to specific grant applications. When non-profits use the same responses across several applications verbatim, they risk submitting dull answers that don’t respond to the prompt. For every application, grant writers need to look closely at the way the funder asks specific questions so that they can provide the most compelling and focused information possible.

Provide a Clear Sense of Purpose

One of the biggest mistakes a non-profit organization can make is to assume a gift-giving body knows what their mission is. For major national grants, several thousand non-profits compete for project funding. Even though a non-profit may be well known, there should never be an assumption that grant foundations will know their mission. Grant writers have a unique opportunity to deliver their organization’s message and mission in engaging language.

Offer a Vision for Community Project

When grant writers seek funding for their non-profit organization, they shouldn’t focus on how that money would service the organization. Instead, non-profits should have a project in mind that will effectively service the community. In the grant application materials, writers should specifically highlight how the project will come to fruition and how the gifted funds will make a difference.

Measure Resources to Achieve Goal

For gift-giving bodies to want to fund specific non-profit projects, they need to understand how their money will be used, and to what effect. Grant writers for non-profit organizations can respond to this need by detailing in clear and measurable terms how grant money will result in benefits for a community. It’s important with this communication that non-profits again focus on how their community will best be served rather than how their organization will improve.

Demonstrate Project Innovation

Foundations will be more eager to fund a non-profit if that organization can show an innovative approach to a problem. Rather than rehashing old ways of responding to community problems, non-profit organizations that can illustrate new, unique, and effective ways of handling problem areas will have an advantage. While it’s still a good idea to keep projects based on successful frameworks, adding new and unique approaches could be beneficial.

Adopt Relevant Research

Research goes a long way in grant writing. When grant writers for non-profit organizations use data about a community problem or need, gift-giving foundations are better able to understand how their money will fund a productive project. Though grant applications without researched materials can still be successful, a grant writer who uses credible information to supplement their proposal will likely have an easier time convincing an application board to give to their organization.

One of the best ways to effect positive change in your community is to learn from professionals who have helped develop and shape their own. Lesley University’s fully online BS in Human Services provides a comprehensive framework to prepare you to become a leading community advocate. As you learn in the classroom how to secure funding for non-profit organization projects through proficient grant writing, you’ll apply that knowledge base to real-world experience before and after graduation.

Related Articles & Stories

Read more about our faculty, alumni, and students.