Grant Writing for Public Service: How to Secure Funding for Your Social Impact Project
From funding community improvement programs to financing social impact projects, learn how to align social good with financial backing through skilled grant writing.
Meet the Experts
Nonprofit Professional and
Tara Houston is a nonprofit professional and public servant in Nashville, TN. In her current role, Tara works with patient advocacy groups seeking therapies and cures for the rare, genetic disorders they represent.
Thomas Grant Richardson
Freelance Traditional Arts
Thomas Grant Richardson, Ph.D., is a freelance traditional arts consultant, fieldworker, and
documentarian based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has worked for state traditional arts
programs, universities, and various nonprofits across the country. He has also served as a
grant panelist (several times over) on the state and federal level.
If you’re in (or want to be in) the business of serving the public, you need resources. The more money you have, the better you’re able to help others. But where do you find the funding? One word: grants. A grant is a tool for funding ideas and projects that provide public services, stimulate the economy, and benefit the general public. But grants aren’t just given out like Tootsie Rolls on Halloween night. You need a definable goal, a strategy to reach that goal, and an explanation of why the goal is worth funding.
Crafting a compelling grant proposal that clearly demonstrates how exactly the funding will benefit the local community or the public at large is far from simple, but with the right tools and resources, it’s possible for anyone to learn how to write a winning proposal. This guide breaks down the key components of a successful grant proposal, includes expert advice to get your submission noticed, and offers tools to help you locate funding sources that can project off the paper and into the community.
Types of Public Service Grants
Before you get started writing your grant proposal, it’s important to understand the main types of grants available to fund public service projects. Although it’s true that all types of different grants exist, below are the three types of grants most common in public service.
Regardless of the funding source, the typical grant timeline consists of several common stages and components. Let’s break down the normal grant lifecycle and how long you can plan to spend on each grant component.
Preparing your proposal
- Find the right program for you and your project
- Develop a timeline for your proposal preparation
- Understand the criteria used to eval
Writing your proposal
UP TO 10 MONTHS
Submitting your proposal & awaiting notification
Writing Your Grant Proposal
To write an effective grant proposal, you need to understand what each section is supposed to accomplish. In this section, we will help you breakdown your grant proposal into more manageable pieces and give you some useful tips from experienced grant writers who know exactly how to get public service projects funded. From constructing your outline and creating an abstract to formulating your project description and hammering out the budget, we will guide you through the process from start to finish with the help of our grant writing experts Tara Houston and Thomas Grant Richardson. Let’s get started!
What does an organization look for in a grant proposal?
- Clearly definable and relevant mission
- Driven by specific project goals and plans
- Sustainable financial and operational structures
- Use of modern fundraising tools and methods
- A history of successful projects and initiatives
- Strong relationships with community and peers
What to Write: Proposal Breakdown
To get a better understanding of what your grant proposal should include, we’ve broken down each section below.
Tips for Crafting an Effective Grant Proposal
- Use a storytelling approach
- Incorporate a case study
- Take advantage of online dictionaries and thesauruses
- Tailor your language to each grant
- Research proven best practices
- Hire an editor
- Write in short, hard-hitting sentences
Grant Writing Steps
Telling Your Story
If you really want to secure the funding you need, there is no better way than through telling a compelling story. To tug at the heartstrings of your potential financial backer, make sure your grant proposal includes the following storytelling elements.
Drafting Your Dream Grant Writing Team
A reliable grant writing team will consist of…
- The nonprofit’s executive leadership
- At least one board member
- Staff members familiar with fundraising and project planning
- Volunteers who can offer unique perspectives on engagement
Completing Your Grant Application
Before submitting your grant proposal, be sure to double-check for the following:
- Grammatical or spelling mistakes
- Unclear, vague, or ineffective language
- Unsupported claims and statements
- Missing steps or data points
- Repetitive or drawn-out explanations
Finding Funding for Your Grant
To find the funding you need, you need to know where to look. Below are some of the most common sources for grant funding. Depending on your project, it may be worth your time to look into more than one funding sources. Consider looking into public grants from the government or military as well as private grants from individuals, organizations, and endowments.
Common Funding Sources
Grant Writing Resources
If you’re still looking for some extra help starting your grant writing project, check out these excellent resources for grant writers.
- Council on Foundations: Grants To and From Private Foundations
- Grant Central Station: Helping Nonprofits, Agencies, and Tribes Win Funds to Fulfill Their Missions
- Grantspace.Org: Grants for Students and Researchers
- Fundly: 11 Essential Tips
- Grantspace.Org: Where Can I Find Information on Grants to Individuals?
- LiveYourDream.Org: Women’s Empowerment Grants
- National Council of Nonprofits: Grant Research Tools
- University of Arizona: Research Development Services
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Grants Information Collection
- Yale University: How to Write a Compelling Grant Abstract
- Usagg.Org: Private Foundation Grants