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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Need funding? Follow these 5 tips to succeed at grant writing.

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

computer screen with send your application now on a desk where someone is filling in an application

How do you fund your projects, research, operating budget, and more?

If you answered grants, you are familiar with the stress of seeking funding sources, completing applications, and waiting to hear if you are awarded.

During my career, both while working in public health and then in academia, I wrote many grants. It was the way every major project I completed was funded.

Now that I am retired, I serve on the board of directors for the Delphi Opera House, and one of my responsibilities is grant writing. During the past two months, I have written more than half a dozen grant applications. These include requests for capital projects, operational expenses, and educational programs focused on arts and culture.

All that grant writing experience from the past is coming in very handy! I have also referred to Chapter 40 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, which is titled, “Quality Communication in Grant and Project Proposals Is Rewarded.”

No matter what you are seeking funding for, the following tips should help make your grant writing more successful.

5 Tips for Successful Grant Writing

Tip #1 Match your need to the funding source.

Funding sources have specific priorities for the types of projects they will support. It is essential you meet their qualifications to apply, and that your project matches their funding goals. A smart first step is to submit a Letter of Intent, or LOI for short, and get the go-ahead to submit your proposal for funding.

Tip #2 Follow all instructions and deadlines.

Grant applications ask for many specific pieces of information, often in particular formats, and will not accept an application that is incomplete or submitted past the deadline. Allow plenty of time to collect all required narratives and supporting documents. Double-check the instructions and your work.

Tip #3 Create a project plan that makes a difference.

Funding organizations are interested in supporting novel ideas that will add to the knowledge around a topic, reach those who are underserved, create programs that can be replicated, and further the mission of the funding organization. The review criteria provide great insight into what they seek.

Tip #4 Develop a realistic and justifiable budget.

One of the trickiest parts of a grant application is the budget. It must reflect proposed expenditures that are both realistic and justified. Make sure all funding requests match what the organization allows. Multiple funding sources may be needed to complete a project.

Tip #5 Make your case clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

Grant review panels read many more proposals than they can fund, so those that are well-written with clear and focused objectives and a well-designed and communicated plan will rise to the top. Carefully follow all character or word limits. Communicate compellingly and reviewers will rank you highly.

Practical strategies for winning proposals

In my experience, confirmed by the authors of Chapter 40, the following three strategies have enhanced my success in getting funding.

Collaborate with others

From the conception of a project idea through the grant writing and review process, get input from a variety of sources. Involve others who are potential participants, referral agencies, and even the funding organization staff. Each of these people can provide critical input and feedback.

For example, one of the projects I am seeking funding for the opera house is an art enrichment program for youth. In researching potential funding sources, I identified the National Endowment for the Arts.

I communicated via email, phone, and Zoom calls with several NEA staff members, who in turn directed me to which type of grant to apply for and what to accomplish ahead of time. We were advised to get local funding first and pilot the program before applying for an NEA grant.

We were successful in getting local support and piloting the program several times. We now have a much clearer plan, a more realistic budget, and very positive evaluations from parents, students, and instructors to include with our NEA application.

Start early

As soon as a grant opportunity becomes available is the time to get started. Assemble your team, begin collecting supporting documents, and establish a timeline to complete the application before the deadline.

If others need to provide supporting documents or submit bids for work or material costs, request what you need with ample time to follow up and make sure what is submitted meets the guidelines.

Try again if turned down

Inevitably you will get turned down sometimes, if not many times. Determine if your application was lacking in some way. Make necessary adjustments, seek other funding sources, and keep trying. The more you apply the greater your chances for success.

The following checklist can be found on page 621 in Chapter 40:

A checklist for preparing a grant submission
Source: Chapter 40, Communication Nutriton: The Authoritative Guide, page 621.

Your turn… Do you have a project that needs funding? There are likely one or more funding sources that match your needs. Assemble a team and get to work!

Find a downloadable copy of these tips on the free tip page.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” ~ Lee Iacocca

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