Grant Writing 101: The Art of Writing Better Grants in 2020 to Fund A Nonprofit

The primary goal of a nonprofit organization should be to achieve its mission for the community it supports. Anyone who runs a nonprofit organization or is trying to start a nonprofit needs money to make it work best. One great way to fund a non-profit is gaining access to grant money. Billions of dollars are out there waiting for organizations to act.

Thousands of foundations, corporations and private charitable groups want to give away free money to fund nonprofits. In order to snag a share of this “free” money, a grant(s) must be written.

The difficult part of this is that not just anyone with a computer, no matter how much of a wordsmith or keyboard warrior they think they are, can write a precise and compelling grant proposal, the kind that will shine among the brightest of proposals that are likely to prompt foundations to select an organization to give money too.

Grant writing takes a different set of skills than writing a story, a blog post or a post on social media.

The work involved in producing an outstanding grant proposal is challenging, and it demands lots of time, energy, patience, and dedication. Hard work can pay off, though, because most grant writers agree that winning money from foundations and corporations is a great cause, to help mankind during various stages of life, uplift communities, feed the hungry, tend to the most needy, the sick, and find cures for diseases.

Being successful at writing a grant proposal is overwhelmingly satisfying.

grant writing
Grant writer. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay, cropped by NewsBlaze.

Obtaining a government or corporate grant isn’t always an easy process, as stated, because the dynamics behind grant money can be extremely competitive due to other organizations trying to get a piece of the free money action as well. Expert grant writer and consultant Dr. Bob Zeanah shares his expertise on what it means to write an effective grant proposal.

“The first step for an organization is to determine its needs,” Zeanah said in an interview with an online media website.

“As obvious as that sounds, many organizations skip this step and move straight to ‘we want money.” Zeanah further said that once an organization determines the needs of its clients, “The organization begins a search with the purpose of linking the mission and goals to a funding source.”

Grant proposals are important written projects with a defined focus to achieve the end results to obtain funds provided by foundations and corporations. The nonprofit must have 501(C)(3) tax-exempt status to apply for a grant.

Proposals must clearly illustrate tangible results or funding will be rejected. There’s no 100 percent guarantee that a nonprofit will be awarded money each time you apply, but a well-crafted grant application stands a better chance of obtaining funds because the proposal is superb work that is carefully planned and delivered within a time frame, and adhering to the foundation’s requirements.

All grants work similarly in scope, yet there’s a slight difference between a government grant and a non-government grant.

What are Government Grants; How does it work?

Government grants provide funds for people’s ideas and specific projects that provide public services which stimulate the economy. Grants serve many purposes including critical recovery initiatives, innovation research, medical research, science, the arts, agricultural projects and numerous other programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and the Federal Directory Online (FDO).

Everyone who considers writing a grant must first plan, plan, research, and re-plan, then plan all over again. The work can be tedious.

“Grant funders are social investors,” Jules C. Colvin, president of Grant Pathways, said during a webinar interview. “If you look at Shark Tank and see the Sharks’ approach to how they invest (then) you can draw similarities between social investors and Shark Tank investors because they want to know will you have a beneficial return on their money.”

Colvin points out a second factor, drawing comparisons between Shark Tank investors and foundations that give grant money to nonprofits: “Is your agency capable of doing what you say; will you handle their money well, and most importantly, will you have a beneficial return on their money?”

Non-government Grants

Non-government grants include major corporations, foundations and individual philanthropists that provide grant money to nonprofits or individuals for various worthy causes.

These non-government grants are often owned by corporations that disburse money as a grant to give back to people who may need seed money to start a business, scholarship grants, including grants for environmental studies, research projects etc. For example, non-government entities like Walmart Stores provide scholarship grants of different amounts based on motivation and need (there are numerous others).

Business Development Grants

State Farm Insurance provides grant funds for non-profit agencies that focus on community development, education and safety.

Angel Investing Network is a unique program, composed of wealthy individuals who provide grant money for entrepreneurs starting a business ( Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream offers two types of grants each year to support grassroots activism and community organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.

Non-government and direct government grants can as well provide

    1. business development grants
    2. grants for minorities
    3. low income grants
    4. rural development grants.

Advertise Non-Profit “Free” With online Google Ad Grants

It doesn’t hurt to advertise your nonprofit causes on the internet for the betterment of humanities and communities in need of support and guidance for a better life.

As a nonprofit, you may or may not have heard of the “Google ad Grant.” Google ad grants provide $10,000 of free advertising annually to qualified nonprofits. Over 45,000 nonprofits use Google’s free grant “ads” to promote their organizations online.

Your nonprofit can use the grant to elevate your ads at the top of search engine queries to attract more donors and volunteers. Example: with billions of searches happening 24-7 on Google search engine, this powerful, magnificent technology attracts innumerable visitors, individuals, and generous donors.

Just think, (if) a donor wants to financially support a cause similar to yours, a simple search on Google for nonprofit (your nonprofit type or cause) positioned at or near the top of the “results,” not only will the person(s) learn about your nonprofit, but they’ll be able to instantly click through to your online donation page. You can learn more by applying for free Google ad Grants at:

Compiling Documented Evidence

How to Include Data and Statistics into Grant Proposals

Grant writing is nonetheless a simple way to pitch an idea to swing foundations in your corner to bring in funds for your nonprofit. It is imperative to pitch well-documented facts to make the strongest efforts to build a solid case for support, and explain, how your constructive plans are simultaneously meaningful and achievable. Another key point of your grant proposal is to convince a foundation or city/county/state agency that your nonprofit is a stable and responsible steward of funds, driven by your actionable initiative.

A person’s passion and goals are only part of the equation. But data/statistics are usually the deciding factors for grant foundations that receive “tons of applications” from nonprofit organizations across America. Will the proposal shine to approval and sway those in charge to green light funds for your organization?

Since data/statistics are vital to include in a grant proposal, include additional information below into the grant application:

    • The nonprofit’s finances and financial trends
    • Sociological or economic data of the problem the nonprofit will address
    • Include fundraising statistics that are usually kept with the donation list
    • Supporting data that highlights your work and community involvement
    • Describe the target population and community

Here is a partially written example illustrating how to present a cover letter request for funding:

The need for our nonprofit organization is tremendous. Our community has struggled to cope with _______________ for several years, and its effects have been amplified by the rise of ________ changes in ________, and the loss of ____________. Statistics show that this issue is on the rise in communities like ours. ( then properly cite statistics from an authoritative source.)

Next, move on to show how your nonprofit has dealt with specific community issues or whichever subject the grant proposal is about.

In addition to other local groups, our nonprofit organization has confronted this issue in the past, including governing bodies have addressed this community problem, as well. Yet we believe that a more coordinated effort with greater support will solve the issue.

Give a timeline of the issue in your community and any past outreach initiatives, legislation, etc.

To describe numbers (data statistics) try this writing style: between 2000 and 2300 people (19.4% of the local population) live below the poverty level in Eudora Arkansas.

By all means, make sure the grant proposal establishes clear data reporting protocols across all operations during the early stages. Your fundraising, accounting, marketing, and management tools should automatically provide the reporting you need.

Best grant writing practices make the writing process much easier for two simple reasons:

  • Well-organized, accessible data will verify claims about your community work and previous successes.
  • Complete, well-supported data allows you to make the in-depth connections likely to win a grant.

Bottom line: If the writer cannot understand data statistics and geographic areas, find someone who can.

Find grant writing samples here:

Searching for Grants to Fund a Nonprofit

At this point, the key goals and the financial needs of the nonprofit have been identified. Next, start the search for grants to match financial needs. The great benefit of having correct information resources at your fingertips is to narrow down the grants you’re planning to pursue (or your hired grant writer & researcher).

Federal or state law requires tax-exempt foundations to file annual information returns with the IRS, specifically; (IRS Form 990 or 990-PF).

There are four major grant sectors to research:

  • Foundations and corporations
  • Federal, state, and local government agencies
  • Large organizations and endowments
  • Private grant-giving foundations

Foundation and Corporate Funding

Just a reminder that foundations are nonprofit operations that give money for charitable purposes. Numerous foundations and related funders are located across the United States. An organization’s primary focus is to learn what it takes to identify these programs. Assuming the members of your nonprofit may not know the name of a foundation(i.e. independent, corporate, community or grantmaking public charities), try using Foundation Directory Online to locate a grant to match the organization’s needs.

Foundation Directory Online(FDO) covers approximately 120,000 grant foundations and corporate funding programs in the U.S.

FDO allows researchers to search for grants in the following manner:

  • Grant maker’s name and location
  • Geographic focus (localities where the foundation gives its money).
  • The kind of financial help the grantmaker provides from organizations including the amount of seed money or funding for buildings and equipment.

Guidestar is the world’s largest information network about nonprofits. Its massive database provides comprehensive details to verify a recipient’s organization is credibly established and that donated funds are sent to where donors intended for the funds to go to individuals looking forward to give in the wake of disasters, according to Wikipedia.

National Center For Charitable Statistics (NCCS) is a clearinghouse of data related to U.S. nonprofit sectors. NCCS builds national, state, and regional databases. And the company develops standards for reporting the activities of tax-exempt organizations throughout the nation.

Hiring a Grant Writer

Does all the information mentioned thus far pertaining to writing a grant make sense? For those too busy trying to keep things running smoothly in the organization to buckle down and write a comprehensive grant proposal, there are other options.

Many non-profits consider hiring an experienced grant writer.

Whichever grant writer you choose, grant writers should meet the following requirements:

  • Experience writing grants
  • Can provide examples and references
  • Communicate clearly
  • Knows how to thoroughly research data and statistics, if needed.

Nonprofit organizations in need of grant writers should check out the following websites to post a “Grant Writer Needed” advertisement.

For whatever reasons, if a grant proposal is rejected, revise it, and re-apply at a later date. Persistence can pay off.

The year 2020 is almost gone, but there is still time to bring in funds for your nonprofit.

Additional writing sources:

Journalist Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]

Clarence Walker
As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker's work can be found at American, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.His latest expansion is to News Break.Six of Walker's crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh's America's Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the "Cold Case Murder Series" hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]