Two tips for successful grant writing

When it comes to writing grants there are a plethora of ideas, techniques and styles that can help you write a winning grant. However, there are two key elements of grant writing common in today’s most successful grant requests that funders often look for.

If you have been involved in grant writing over the years, you may be keenly aware that securing grant funding has become more competitive and often requires more preliminary work and detail than in years past. The sad reality is that in these more difficult economic times, there are increased demands on funders, causing them to make more difficult decisions and increasing the competitiveness of grant rounds. However, there are two key ways you can strengthen and improve the likelihood of a successful grant request.

The first key, collaboration, begins during the very early stages of your planning and continues long after funding has been achieved. Collaboration is quickly becoming a standard requirement by many funding sources. With stretched resources, funders desire to attain the biggest impact for each dollar invested. Collaborative efforts build capacity by bringing together resources from a dynamic network of organizations, institutions, agencies, businesses and government to strengthen partnerships and provide resources and expertise to the project at hand. Additionally, these efforts help reduce redundancy and duplication of services in a community, promoting shared resources and symbiotic community benefits. Collaboration also builds a broad coalition of support for the grant request, which ensures funders that your project is supported by leaders across your community.

The second key, leveraging grant dollars properly, also begins during the planning stage of your project. If you are going to develop a grant request to fund your project, it is important that you also consider other sources of funding. Funders do not always appreciate a grant request that takes their resources for granted by making them the first and last source of funding. Admittedly, there are occasionally situations where a particular funder will provide the majority or all of the funds needed for a project (this is particularly true with some local foundations) and this type of request can be justified. In these situations, be sure to approach the funder early and often to discuss the circumstances and merits of your project so the funder is aware them and is willing to move forward. However, for most funding requests, you need to identify and secure other appropriate sources of funding to show project support and good faith efforts to your funders prior to submitting the request. These sources can include public funds (for government projects), corporate and private donations, other appropriate matching funds, and in-kind services. Additionally, when developing your project budget, take care to assign the funder’s requested contributions in a manner consistent with their policies. For example, if you were working on a campground redevelopment project, the funder’s contributions could be applied to the construction of a new dock, canoes, oars and lifejackets (capital improvement, recreation and safety), but should not be applied to a new rake, leaf blower or park worker wage (ongoing maintenance), which should be provided for with other funds, such as the county, township or parks board contribution.

While these two elements of grant writing will take some additional time and effort on your part, their benefits will be worthwhile and lead to a stronger, more competitive grant request. For additional questions on this topic you may contact Michigan State University Extension Land Use Educator Ryan Coffey at

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