How to Write a Grant Application That's Hard to Refuse

Are you curious how to write a grant proposal that wins awarded funds for your non-profit organization? We've got you covered!

Effectual grant writing is the key to success in winning awards for your archive, library or museum. There are many types of grants available to you. There are grants that are obtainable through federal, state and local governments and municipalities. Applications can be made through foundations, corporate funding, and private donors as well.

Whether you are writing a grant for a new microfilm scanner, a brick-and-mortar project, or general operating costs, it is essential that these important steps be followed in order to tell your story well.

Step One: Be diligent in following the grantor’s directions.

It may sound obvious, but it is the leading reason well-intended grant proposals suddenly end in rejection.

Did you know that a hefty eighty percent of grant applications considered by the grantors are instantly rejected? When the grantor receives your grant proposal it is first put through a vetting process along with the bulk of other proposals they have received.

In order for you to write your grant for it to pass the initial test and go on to the grantor’s consideration to become a winning proposal, it is critical that you demonstrate due diligence in researching the grantor’s parameters. Choose verbiage in writing your application that concurs with the grantor’s requirements.

Here is a checklist of action items for you to be attentive to… these are items that are commonly overlooked by the grantee in their proposal and that give cause for the grantor to reject the application:

√ Are there geographic limitations to the grants offered by the grantor? For instance, some foundations award monies to certain counties, state areas, or other geographies.

√ Has the grantor awarded grants similar to your request? Have they awarded gifts to archives, libraries, or museums? Are the funds issued used for superior microfilm scanners or other similar equipment? If yes, then this is likely an area of interest for the grantor and will likely line up with your objectives.

√ Do the objectives of your non-profit organization align with the grantor’s published eligibility requirements?

√ Does the grantor’s timing coincide with that of your organization’s needs? An illustration of this is the grantor award grants throughout the year but issues the monies once a year (aka September), but you need your funds in July.

√ Go beyond the grantor’s website and philosophical statement… look into the current initiative the grantor is undertaking.

Many non-profit organizations skip over this step and unwittingly turn a grant proposal with the potential to win awarded funding, into a grant that gets turned down.

Step Two: Write the winning grant proposal for your organization.

Now that you have prepared your grant proposal to pass the vetting stage with flying colors, the next area of scrutiny you need to tackle is how to answer all parts of the grantor’s application.

You can pass this test by taking great care to use the grantor’s format and follow it exactly as the grantor requests. If an example is shown, follow the same format. Clearly state who your grant contact is, check (and double check) your math calculations, and do not omit any contact names or contact information requested by the grantor.

Read and answer all parts of the questions in the application… including any character count limitations in the submission form, and more. Do not alter the grantor’s application requirements in any way. The grantor has designed their application to streamline their careful process of evaluating and awarding grants in a manner that is meaningful and timely for them.

Triple-check your grammar and spelling. It is a good representation of your organization and demonstrates how you intend to pay attention to the details of any monies that are awarded to you. When your grant proposal is in order, it allows the grantor to focus on why a new microfilm scanner is important to your organization, envision its countless benefits, and get excited about the outcome of what it can produce for your organization.

Detail the types of ancient and rare records and documentation that are too delicate for public display can now be timelessly preserved with a microfilm scanner… and become available for public viewing. Describe the expertise your staff has in handling the process. Quantify the physical building space (and costs) that can be transitioned to other modes of usefulness.

Confirm the line items that are represented in your project budget with an authorized representative in your organization who can proof, approve and verify the numbers that are sent in the application. Make certain that the budget you project to accomplish your goal is a straightforward translation of your narrative in fiscal terms.

Step Three: Your Partnership Letter

The partnership letter for your organization is an important step in satisfying the requirements for the grantor to consider your grant request. This letter is shared with key individuals involved in granting your request.

Express your organization’s process and commitment to reaching specified goals. Include brief statements detailing the following:

√ Your organization’s commitment to the initiative for which you are seeking funding.

√ Voice the need you have for this project.

√ Be clear about the commitment your non-profit has to the project as it relates to roles, responsibilities, and resources. Demonstrate how you will maintain and sustain what the funds will support.

√ Define how you will measure success.

√ Restate your objective with assurance.

√ Provide complete contact information (i.e. name, email address, phone number, direct phone number, physical address.)

By following these three steps of success, you will turn your grant proposal into a request the grantor can get excited about and wants to support by awarding grant monies to your organization.


• Corporation for National & Community Service. n.d. “AmeriCorps Performance Measures.” Accessed October 27, 2017.

• Dickey, Marilyn. 2003. “Grant Makers Reveal the Most Common Reasons Grant Proposals Get Rejected.” Accessed October 27, 2017.

• Palacios, Marie. 2006. “Quick Tips: Partnership Letters and Agreements.” Accessed October 27, 2017.

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