Writing Grants like a Pro

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Three tips for writing winning grants, shared by grant writer Ashley Knapp


Imagine, you’ve got the perfect funder for your project, the grant deadline is a week away, and you desperately need the money now. So how on earth do you write a winning proposal?

Allow me to help. I’m a concise and creative grant writer with six years’ experience raising funds from both public and private grants. As an independent consultant, I specialize in writing grants for a greener world. I also work with The Trust for Public Land, where I’ve raised over $13 million in public funding for protecting precious lands and creating great parks.

Based on my experience, here are my top three tips for writing grants like a pro.


Tip #1: Research, research, research!

No matter the deadline, a good grant writer will always invest time in researching the funder: reading their website, grant guidelines, annual reports, lists of who they’ve funded in the past, and anything we can get our hands on.

We do so because we know it’s only worth investing the time in writing a proposal if the funder’s interest is strongly aligned with the project. Plus, the #1 reason funders reject proposals is that projects or proposals don’t meet their guidelines.

So, ask yourself, is the funder really perfect for you? If so, why? What goal do they want to achieve, and does it truly align with the goals of your project?

Even more basic, do they actually fund your type of projects? This is tricky for land trusts, since a lot of funders who care about natural lands don’t actually fund land acquisition. (Frustrating, I know!)

If you do apply, the time you invest in researching the funder beforehand will result in you being able to write a higher quality proposal, one that catches their attention and truly reflects the funder’s priorities.


Guest post author Ashley Knapp is a pro grant writer.
Tip # 2: Plan it Out

So, you’ve done your due diligence and discovered that this funder really is the perfect funder for your project. Awesome!

But now a blank Word document glares at you from your screen, mocking you while the minutes tick by… how on earth do you actually write this thing?

I suggest first planning what you want to say. Using the list of questions the funder has provided, jot down what points about your project best fit in each one. Gather all the data you need and plug each point into the most suitable spot. Bullet points are ideal. Now, you have an outline of what you’d like to say and in which order.

Now that you’ve got a plan, you’ll also be certain you’re giving the funder what they actually want to read because you’re addressing every question they ask. You won’t risk repeating yourself or leaving anything out.

Most of all, your blank Word document is no longer blank, and not so scary after all.


Tip #3: Postpone Perfection

Now it’s time to get down to the actual writing. I’ll let you in on a secret most writers don’t want you to know: our first drafts always suck. 

Yes – always.

That’s because we know the best way to write beautiful prose is to polish it, to slowly scrub away at it from a heap of run-on paragraphs, half-formed sentences, frivolous words, and tangents.

So, write like a writer: don’t demand that perfection spill from your fingertips on the first – or even second or third – try. Suspend your inner editor while you write that awful first draft. Aim for completion, not perfection.

Once you have an awful first draft completed, you can let your inner critique shine: edit, edit, edit! Refine the awful first draft into a decent second draft, a pretty good third draft, and an even better fourth draft.


I hope these tips help guide you in the right direction as you work to secure funding for the great work you’re doing. If you have questions, or are struggling with a tricky proposal, I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below or email me at eco.ashleyknapp@outlook.com.