3 Tips for Authentic Grant Writing and the Secret to Finding Better Grants

Learn grant writing best practices that keep you and your team true to your organization’s authentic self.

Grants are essential to fundraising, but it often feels like fitting a square peg into a round hole. And then there’s the pressure to paint an overly rosy picture of your organization to fit a powerful story into 250 characters or less, not to mention bending what you do to fit the criteria of a funder. While the grantmaking process can bring about a ton of questions, creating a standout proposal may just be a matter of asking the right ones. 

At Camp Impact, we featured Grant writer and coach Sheleia Phillips MPH, CHES, to learn how to craft a winning proposal while staying true to your organization’s authentic self. Through her business SMP Nonprofit Consulting, Sheleia helps growing nonprofits raise more money through grants and sustainable fundraising strategies, securing over $3 million for nonprofit organizations across the country.

After her presentation, we heard about the grantmaking successes of several nonprofit leaders. After you read about grantmaking tips to simplify and improve your strategy, watch this video to listen to their stories and get their tech recs.


Authentic Grant Writing Tip #1: Know Who You Are As an Organization 

The first step in practicing authentic grant writing is knowing who you are as an organization. A healthy self-identity will help you write more cohesive, compelling proposals and help you determine what types of grantmakers to partner with.

Knowing who you are is the number one safeguard against bending to the funders' requirements and just following their lead with everything, where you lose your sense of self.

This is similar to the dating process. When you show up and get to know another person, you have to have a core sense of self-identity for it to work. You can't be so concerned about the other party that you lose yourself in the process. 

As an organization, start with what we call clarifying your core so that you can know who you can partner with and show up authentically every time.


Ask yourself:

  • Why does my nonprofit exist? [Your Mission]
  • What would the world look like if the problem you addressed didn't exist? [Your Vision]
  • What are the core commitments and guiding principles that lead your work? [Your Values]

This exercise allows you to write cohesive and compelling mission, vision, and value statements. As for your mission, make it concise, ideally one to two sentences forming an action verb statement:

The mission of ABC Foundation is to provide/to build/to do something for a particular target audience.


Authentic Grant Writing Tip #2: Craft Your Strategy

To appeal to funders, you must fully articulate your organization's tangible value and long-term positive impact on your community. Ask yourself: What is my unique contribution to my clients, community, and partners?

This way, funders can see your work and visualize how they can accelerate your impact by providing financial support. Create a unique value proposition that answers:

  • Why is your organization THE organization to fund THIS work?
  • What are your significant achievements, and why are you different?

You’ll find your unique value proposition at the core of these questions.


Authentic Grant Writing Tip #3: Know How to Tell Your Story

Messaging is a critical aspect of winning grants and fund development. In simplest terms, it’s your pitch. You won't win grants by pulling on the funder’s heartstrings alone. 

Strong messaging provides a solid case for support to encourage their partnership or investment. Be cautious about being overly optimistic, as that can lead to using harmful language. This is easy to avoid when you're mindful of your work and, more importantly, conscious of the people you serve. 

Think of this messaging as your “grants language” or “institutional language.” 

#1. Demonstrate a clear vision for change. Focus on communicating a strong program plan. 

#2. Eliminate harmful language. In our line of work, we’ve gotten used to taking in emotional stories and poverty-stricken narratives to encourage them to support us. But in reality, the more positive language, the better. Convey the possible that your nonprofit organization creates in your community each day. 

#3. Anytime you write a grant proposal, have two audiences in mind: funders and clients. 

For clients, ask yourself: Am I using people-first language? Or am I using experience or perspective-first language? 

For funders, eliminate jargon and mirror the language and impact that funders want to create. They're much more likely to fund you when they see alignment in these areas.  

How to Find Better Grants 

Seek grantmakers who understand who you are as an organization, believe in your work, and will authentically partner with you all the way through to make a positive difference. 

This grant research funnel outlines steps to help you assess if a grant funder is a right fit for your nonprofit:

01 Project alignment: When you choose grants for your existing projects, do not create a project just to apply. Make sure that the funders are already aligned with your work. Remember, you always want to follow the issue, not the money. 

02 Eligibility: Spend time reviewing the grant RFP to ensure that your organization, project, and financial request align with the grant funder’s criteria. 

03 Community-centric focus: Ensure that the funder supports and uplifts equitable grant-making practices. This can be demonstrated through multi-year awards, an easy reporting process, and a history of funding organizations led by people of color. 

04 Competitiveness: Do you have time to submit a competitive, compelling proposal with minimal stress? 

05 Organizational Capacity:  If you win the grant, do you have enough staff to keep this ball rolling, or will the partnership become a stressor on yourself and your team? Or is it best to contact the funder and begin developing a relationship so you can check in with them later when your organization has increased capacity?

Explore Grant-Making Tools from Nonprofit Peers

lLooking for tech tools to help you get more grants? Get the scoop from nonprofit leaders like you! Check out what they recommend below, or get the full story in this video

Stay organized to speed up communication

Director of Grant Development at Jannus, Inc. Diana Demarest uses Grant Hub from Foundant as a storage and management solution to maximize their organization’s impact. 

Co-founder/COO at Compact Medical Inc. Adam Scott looks to Atlas to quickly access and share documents with their Program Director instead of spending hours sifting through a host of documents and bank accounts. 

Gain help in finding grants that match your organization and needs

Executive Director at West Virginia Nonprofit Association Tasha Anderson uses tools from GrantStation to locate funding for more statewide and regional efforts. 

Streamline the application and coordination process

Chief Program Officer at United Way of the Greater Triangle Nick Allen used Submittable to process 276 funding applications, engaged 300 volunteer application evaluators, and received glowing feedback about the user experience from everyone involved.

Create a Grant-Winning Project on Pond Today

Inspired by Sheleia’s expert grantmaking advice? Take the next step toward getting your game-changing grant today. Whether you need grant tools to track your progress or communications software to spread the word about your next project, you can find a goldmine of essential solutions on Pond. 



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