Grant Writing: How to Win Every Time (8 Free Checklists)

Grant Writing

What’s the difference between a winning grant proposal and a losing one?

Grant writing.

Grant funding today is more difficult to obtain than ever before. A recent National Institute of Health (NIH) report showed that out of 50,000 grant applications, only 10,000 were given funding. That’s only 19%, which has fallen from 33% in the last 15 years.


A lack of Government funding, fierce competition, and poor grant writing skills.

We can’t do anything about the Government funds. We can do little about fierce competition. We can, however, do a lot about poor grant writing skills.

From completing complex grant applications to writing tip-top proposals, we’ve created the following eight templates to hone your grant writing skills.

If you’re in a hurry, go ahead! Click on the links below to jump straight in!

Curious about what these templates looks like? Check out the Proposal Template embedded below.

Scroll down for more information on each template of our grant writing template pack.

In addition to introducing our grant writing templates, I’ll be taking you behind the grant writing scenes, covering the following topics:

Ready? Let’s start with the basics…

What is a grant? (Clue: it’s not free money)

grant writing image

A grant is, in basic terms, an institution-or-governmental-funded bundle of money given for free, with the intent to fund a specific purpose, with no strings attached.

This is the official definition of a grant from the Collins Dictionary:

A grant is an amount of money that a government or other institution gives to an individual or to an organization for a particular purpose such as education or home improvements” – Collins Dictionary

But wait. While researching this post, I discovered something different.

The federal government does not offer grants or “free money” to individuals to start a business or cover personal expenses, contrary to what you might see online or in the media” – USA Gov

Grants are not easy. They are not free (well..technically they are kind of free..which I’ll explain in a second). And there are a LOT of strings attached.

Even the process of securing a grant requires serious effort. You need to fully understand the funding opportunity, its requirements, and your organization’s capacity, structure, and resources essential to fulfill the purpose of the grant. Applications or grant proposals can take upwards of 20 hours to write, and grants are awarded to those who can fulfill the grantor requests and not to those that need it the most.

To win a grant is beyond competitive. As an example, the probability of being awarded funding is between 10% and 35% in the UK.

And the effort doesn’t stop when the cheque hits your account either.

You have to stick to the grantor’s rules, terms, and conditions like glue. You have to report back to the funders regularly, to prove you are meeting their terms and conditions. You cannot use the money for what is not within the grant guidelines.

Grants also often provide only a portion of the funds needed for a given project. You must meet detailed performance standards during the funding period, and all project expenditures must be strictly accounted for. Detailed program goals must be developed, approved and carried out exactly as specified in the grant application.

To top it all off, failure on the part of the grant recipient to perform under the requirements of the grant can result in penalties, ranging from economic sanctions to prison in cases of improper use or theft of public funds!

So, in conclusion, a grant is not a Christmas present. A grant is, in fact;

A form of gift that entails certain obligations on the part of the grantee and expectations on the part of the grantor” – Robert Langley, ThoughtCo

So, now we know what a grant really is, let’s familiarise ourselves with what grant writing really is.

Uncover the truth about what grant writing really is

Grant writing is many things — difficult, challenging, confusing, frustrating, mind-boggling and competitive. It’s rarely described as easy, fun or simple” – Megan Hill, NonProfitPro

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ll bet you’re itching to start!

However, before you resign, throw the towel in, and plan to hire an expensive grant writer to take on your next proposal, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Grant writing is a form of persuasive writing. It’s about telling stories. It’s exhilarating, imaginative work and a chance to make a huge difference to your organization, your community, yourself and even the big wide world. You have the opportunity to turn your ideas into something real with grant writing.

You have a distinct vision for how something could be improved or advanced, and you’re ready to ask for funding or other support to help this vision become a reality” – The Writing Center

What could be more exciting?

grant writing funding for growth image

But, when you consider only a quarter of applicants that submitted applications to the main federal funding agencies received funding, you realize, it’s competitive out there. Grant writing is tough.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant program accepted less than 10% of eligible grant applications for the $600 million of available funding” – eCivis

That’s why it’s crucial to have a great set of grant writing skills and know-how to write a cracking grant proposal.

Which, coincidentally, brings me to my next point.

How to write grant proposals that win every time

Contrary to what you might think, grant writing isn’t all about writing. In fact, the writing part accounts for only 1/3 of the process. The three key components that make up a good grant proposal are:

    1. Research
    2. Planning
    3. Writing

Let’s take a closer look at each part.

1. Grant writing: Research

Grant writing begins, like most writing does — by gathering information. Knowledge is power! The more you know about your (potential) grantor, the better you can tailor your proposal to meet their requirements.

Obtain guidelines and deadlines and study them. Look at who and what was funded before you. Write preliminary material. Conduct a literature review. Look at old proposals. Research the grantor. Spend time defining your project, program or activity. Look for potential barriers to success and find ways around them. Talk to people. Predict questions and prepare answers.

Great research will lead to a greater chance of grant funding.

2. Grant writing: Planning

A request for proposal (RFP), usually specifies what information to include your grant proposal and in what format. Study these requirements until you’re blue in the face. Carefully plan out the structure of your proposal and include details about what you need to include, where it needs to go, and in what format. Triple check your plan against the RFP to make sure you have accounted for every single requirement that the grantor has asked for.

Missing or incomplete items often result in outright rejection or at least a lower score, limiting your chance for funding”- ARC

Having said that, writing a grant proposal is like building a house. Several components will vary based on industry, company size, and many other factors – but the fundamentals are the same. The house will always need a roof, walls, windows, and doors. Grant proposals will always need information about your company, demonstrated knowledge of the problem, a budget, and a sound methodology.

There’s a lot of money out there, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get a share of it. You do, however, need to be organized and clear about what you want” – Funding Centre

3. Grant writing: Writing

Once you’ve finished your extensive research and meticulously planned out what to include and where to include it, you’ll finally be ready to start writing your proposal.

grant writing image

Final decisions about which proposals are funded often come down to whether the proposal convinces the reviewer that the project is well planned and feasible and whether the investigators are qualified enough to execute it. This can be conveyed through your writing.

Obvious errors in writing undermine the evidence of competence” – Dr. Raymond A. Shapek

Be direct and specific. Imagine you’re on Blind Date and you have five seconds to convince someone, who’s never met you and knows nothing about you, that you’re the one for them. Tell them exactly what you want, why you want it and what you will do for them.

Don’t overkill a point. State it, support it, and move on.

Avoid inflated or impossible promises. Cut unsupported subjective arguments. And don’t assume that the reader is intimately familiar with the subject (it will only make an ass out of u and me).

Finally, and I hate to break this to you, the majority of review-panel members will only read your proposal’s abstract. So, if nothing else, make that the best thing you write. It must not only provide a clear snapshot of the entire project or program, but it must also convey what is novel about your application.

Most readers are lazy and will not respond well to a poorly organized, poorly written, or confusing proposal, so write a clear, structured and well thought-through grant proposal.

How to ace your grant proposals with Process Street

In a previous job, before Process Street, I worked for a digital agency that specialized in building websites. As part of my role, I wrote project proposals to support these website builds.

Although not in the same league as grant writing, in terms of competitiveness and complexity, it was still highly pressured, time-consuming and required a lot of effort.

I found that articles and blog posts on the “common proposal writing mistakes” were, well.. common! But merely avoiding the mistakes wasn’t good enough to make a winning proposal.

I needed strong processes in place to make sure I’d gathered all the required information, adhered to all set guidelines and was writing clear, concise and persuasive proposals.

This is when I wish I’d known about Process Street!

What is Process Street?

Process Street is super-powered checklists. You can manage all your recurring tasks, procedures and workflows with our bespoke Business Process Management (BPM) software. With Process Street you can create a process for everything.

You can create templates and run individual checklists for each member of your team. Check tasks off as you work through them, set deadlines, request approval, assign tasks, and track each team member’s progress.

Watch this video, it will explain all:

With Process Street, you can also connect to thousands of apps through Zapier, webhooks and API access to automate your workflows.

Watch this webinar on business automation to discover how to take your workflows to the next level:

As if that wasn’t enough, we also have the following additional features that have been designed to create efficiencies, automate workflows and make processes within your business run smoothly:

So, now you know who we are and what we do, it’s time to find out how we can help.

We have created the below eight grant writing templates to help you search for the right funding opportunities, write winning proposals, and apply for those competitive grants.

Applying for a Government Grant Checklist

Applying for a government grant can be highly competitive, with grant seekers across the nation vying with each other to apply for a government grant and obtain it successfully. Use this checklist alongside your grant application to make sure your application is complete, including everything that is required.

Click here to access the Applying for a Government Grant Checklist

Budget Proposal Template

Many, if not all, grant proposals will require a short budget to be included. Use this checklist to breakdown direct and indirect costs associated with the benefit that’s being created.

Click here to access the Budget Proposal Template

Grant Application Process Checklist

The grant application process can be highly complex and extremely competitive. This checklist covers the areas that need to be researched, the questions that are likely to be asked and the information that should be gathered for the application.

Click here to access the Grant Application Process Checklist

How to Search for Grants Process Checklist

Use this checklist each time you need to search for a funding opportunity for your project, activity or program. The process behind how to search for grants typically begins with prospect research to find out who is most likely to give you money. Matching interests is the most critical aspect of finding an excellent prospective funder.

Click here to access the How to Search for Grants Process Checklist

How to Write a Grant Proposal Checklist

The process of how to write a grant proposal is a long one, and it can seem overwhelming. With so much information to compile and so much riding on success, it’s important to follow a process to make sure you have the best possible chance of success.

Click here to access the How to Write a Grant Proposal Checklist

How to Write a Research Proposal Checklist

Use this checklist to make sure your research proposal contains all the right information, is structured and coherent, and displays the facts in an interesting, engaging way and ultimately supports your research proposal in requesting funding/sponsorship for your research project.

Click here to access the How to Write a Research Proposal Checklist

Proposal Template Checklist Process

Writing a successful proposal is a competitive, tough and a long process. Follow this checklist to make sure you have gathered all the required information, adhered to all set guidelines and you are writing clear, concise and persuasive proposals.

Click here to access the Proposal Template Checklist

Simple Proposal Format Checklist

You have the opportunity to turn your ideas into something real with your grant proposal. Use this checklist alongside the proposal document you are planning to submit. Use it to make sure that all elements have been considered, that the proposal contains everything it needs to and that it meets all set requirements.

Click here to access the Simple Proposal Format Checklist

We also have the following related articles and checklists that will help you in all areas of grant writing.

Grant writing-related articles and blogs

Additional grant writing related process checklists

Preparing to submit a grant proposal can seem overwhelming. With the amount of information you will need to compile, the number of requirements you will need to meet, and a lot riding on the success of the proposal, it’s important to stack the odds in your favor.

This is where Process Street can help. Sign up for a free trial and try it for yourself!

I hope you found this post useful. We’d love to hear about your grant writing processes in the comments below. Who knows? You may even get featured in an upcoming article!

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Amanda Greenwood

Amanda is a content writer for Process Street. Her main mission in life is to write content that makes business processes fun, interesting, and easy to understand. Her background is in marketing and project management, so she has a wealth of experience to draw from, which adds a touch of reality and a whole heap of depth to the content she writes.

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