Grant Writing Advice and Tips: The Grant Helpers Blog

5 Overlooked Grant Basics Part II: Use Numbers to Get More Grants

Posted by Roland Garton on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 @ 12:11 PM

This blog is the second in a series of five blogs that address the basic aspects of successful proposals grant seekers often overlook. Last time, I wrote about the importance of planning to increase grant awards. Click here to read that post.

The message of this blog is the title. It’s worth repeating:

  Use Numbers to Get More Grants  


Use Numbers to Substantiate Need

Almost all requests for funding address some need. Almost all of them also promise some results or impact if the funding is received. Words can help describe the need and impact. But words, as I mentioned in Part I, have their limitations. If you want to support your case for funding, you need some statistics to prove the truth and extent of your statements.

Here is are two examples that express a concerning need. The numbers are fictitious, but you get the idea:

  • Weak: Many families in our region don’t get enough food to eat.
  • Stronger: Our county has an average income of $48,564/year, well below the 2014 national average of $52,939. At the same time, 43% of our population consists of families with school-age children. Many of these children come to school hungry, and hunger has been shown to lower academic scores (Vedantam, 2017). The 16 schools in our district average 55% of students receiving free and reduced lunch. The weekend backpack program sends home 350 backpacks to the neediest children and turns down requests for another 125. A statistically-sampled survey conducted by our county health department last year revealed 35% of families who indicate that their families sometimes leave the house with inadequate meals.

I’d like to point out some crucial aspects of the stronger example:

Simple language is fine. The writing has complete sentences, no grammatical errors, and some variety of sentence structure. But it’s not elaborate or especially florid. The writing style is not what makes the second example strong; it’s the power of the numbers that document a community in need.

Do the legwork. It takes time gather the kind of information reflected in the strong example. The type of data shown here could easily take an hour or more to research and document. When planning to write a proposal, set aside sufficient time to find numbers that support your case.

Cite authoritative sources. Any time you can cite sources with credibility, you enhance your own credibility. The strong example above includes a reference to published research. Other authoritative documents might be published magazine articles, reports from units of government, or statements from nationally recognized organizations.

Use Number to Demonstrate Impact

As with need, using numbers to demonstrate impact will strengthen the odds you’ll receive funding. Funders like to know and measure the results of their investments. You can help them by providing clear measurements that prove results.

  • Weak: We will get more people to use rain barrels, which will result in greater water conservation.
  • Stronger: Currently, only 0.5% of the population in our city (100,000) have rain barrels. The proposed awareness program will reach 30,000 people with the fliers, social media, public service announcements, and community presentations described in the Work Plan. We have tested the program with 100 people, and 12 of them took advantage of subsidies for rain barrels. We expect the percentage of adopters in a larger population to drop. If it drops to half of the test group percentage, 6%, the program will still bring an additional 1,800 barrels to peoples’ homes, increasing the total to 2,000, which is 2% of the population.  The resulting annual savings, at an estimated $120 per barrel per year, would be $240,000.

Strong metrics reflect strong planning that will move your proposal up in the reviewer’s evaluation. They will also make things easier when you write your project reports. Furthermore, after the project has shown measurable progress, you will have a strong case for additional funding from this agency, as well as others.  The more your numbers can prove that you’re meeting the funder’s goals, the more likely they are to smile upon your next request.

Using numbers to show results is not only good grantsmanship to help receive funding, but it’s also good stewardship. Good stewardship is an inherent responsibility that accompanies the support you receive from others. But, more than that, good stewardship builds goodwill, which in turn increases your prospects for future funding. Stewardship is the main focus of the next blog in this series.

Topics: overlooked grant basics, numbers, numbers to get grants, Grant Writing Tips, grant application tips, statistics to get grants, show need in grant applications, Grant Writing and Planning, Grant writing objectives, How to Grant Write, best practices in grant writing, Write a Better Grant Series, grant writing help, grant writing examples, grant writing

Six Reasons Why Grant Applications Get Rejected

Posted by Michelle Hansen on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 @ 16:08 PM

189310528 114f33cb67 mAs a professional grant company, we routinely seek out feedback from grant proposals. From this feedback we have identified some common missteps that can result in a rejected grant proposal. Following are six common reasons why grant applications get rejected, and even more importantly, what you can do to minimize those mistakes.

1) The proposal doesn’t meet all technical grant requirements.
Funding agencies, especially large, national ones, are so overwhelmed that they reduce the stack by first rejecting any proposal that’s deficient in some technical requirement.  For example, the National Science Foundation will reject proposals if an entry in the bibliography does not list the names of all authors (“et al.” is not sufficient).

What you can do: Make sure your proposal meets every technical requirement listed in the grant application. If you have a question about a prerequisite, contact a grantor representative and get a response, lest a bad guess cause your valuable time to go straight to the rejected stack.  Also, before submission, have some fresh eyes review the proposal specifically against all technical requirements.

2) Proposal not responsive to the guidelines.

Once you get past the requirements, funding agencies are looking for proposals that clearly and demonstrably meet their goals and criteria.  When we talk to reviewers, this is the complaint we hear most often.  Applicants may have a project that is only tangentially related to the funding agency’s goals.  Such proposals stand a poor chance of funding.

What you can do:  Before writing the nitty gritty text of a proposal, write down your basic case for funding.  Review the case for soundness.  Make sure you can support every argument you plan to make.  Also, review the case statement against the proposal review criteria listed in the funding announcement.  Even before developing your case statement, it’s a good idea to talk to the funding agency and get their feedback informally before deciding to develop a proposal.

3) Project or program to be funded is poorly developed.

Most grant-making organizations wish to fund projects that have a high change of making an impact. Best is a program that is in place, or modeled after one that is already in place and producing results.  Next best are programs that are not in action currently, but have well-thought-out plans, including specific impact areas and budget figures.  Such programs can begin quickly and provide results sooner than those with less advance planning.  An argument we hear from clients and potential clients is that they need the grant to plan the project.  Our response is that they are competing with applicants who do have plans in place.  If the resources are not available for such planning, it may not be a good investment to develop the proposal.

What you can do: Take the time to plan and detail your project or program.  This does require thought and effort beyong simply writing.  We often say that proposal development is primarily a research and planning task, and only after that a writing task.

4) Proposal is written or organized poorly.

Grants are exercises in persuasion. They need to be written in a persuasive fashion, with the primary arguments clearly stated and well supported. Also, while the proposal needs to be detailed, it also needs to be understood by a lay person that may not have a direct knowledge of your industry. And, of course, spelling and grammar really do matter. Any obvious problems show carelessness, which is not a good sign for a prospective grantee.

What you can do: Structure the proposal before you begin writing, and review the text for logical flow and consistency frequently during the process. Make sure several extra pairs of eyes look over the grant application before it is submitted.

5) Team or resources are inadequate.

Don’t undervalue having a competent and qualified team, as well as sufficient resources to implement your project. If members of your team do not have the background needed to perform the work (e.g., using student volunteers to screen for complex medical conditions), your plan is not sound. Any unanswered questions about what resources or equipment you will use to facilitate your project are also negatives.

What you can do: Make sure your team member’s qualifications are made clear in the proposal and are sufficient to carry out the work. Additionally, support from all parties should stated in the proposal, with letters of support as appropriate. The budget must be reasonable, and the means to provide facilities, equipment, and other resources should be determined before the proposal is submitted.

6) Evaluation plan is inadequate.

Most grantors require an evaluation plan as an integral part of the project to ensure the project has measurable results. If your evaluation plan is too vague and does not provide clear methods of evaluation, then it could be a strike against your funding request. Also, if your plan does not truly measure expected outcomes, grantors could be less likely to fund your project.  For example, if you want to reduce obesity in youth, you need to measure obesity, not just the number of presentations or other activities held.

What you can do: Spend quality time planning your evaluation plan and how you will track your results. Include baseline measurements and expected results over time.  Make sure that your evaluation techniques are sound, and your results can be collected and reported numerically. is full-service grant company that can help you avoid many missteps during all phases of the grant development process. Our services are completely customizable and range from strategy sessions to grant searches to grant writing to project implementation. Our team of experts, including Municipality Specialist Rebecca Motley, can also help walk you every step of your grant journey.


Photo credit: Toms Bauģis

Topics: how to get noticed, best practices in grant writing, grant application hints, grant writing help, Grant writing objectives, making case for funding, grant readiness, grant tips, grant hints, grant application tips

The Common Errors of Grant Writing

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 @ 22:11 PM

It may sound like we’re stating the obvious, but one thing grant writers need to be diligent about is the proper use of grammar and punctuation in their writing. Obvious errors are one of the common complaints from grant reviewers we talk to. Such errors could immediately put you at a loss or disadvantage with a grant reviewer – and it’s not hard to remedy before you submit, but hard to recover from afterwards.

In this blog, we discuss a few of the most common grammar and punctuation errors. Perhaps showcasing these basic rules will make you more aware of how you use them and freshen your minds on how to use them properly. And remember, if you want an expert set of eyes to proofread your grant application, we are here to help you. Just contact a grant helper to get started.


Common Grant Writing Errors:

1)      Spelling – Even with spell check on nearly every word processing program, people still make spelling errors. Maybe in celebration of finishing a document, we forget to use spell check, but more often, spelling errors aren’t caught by a spell checker because the misspelled word is not “misspelled,” but rather, it’s the wrong word for the context. Autocorrect options make such errors even harder to detect.

  Incorrect example: The Grant Helpers is here to help you in all steppes of the grant writing process.

Grammar Writing ProofreadingSteppes is a word meaning prairies or grasslands, but here the word we are looking for is steps. This is an example of something a spell checker would not catch. The lesson here is to remember to use the spell check feature, but also remember to read your document closely to look for misused words, and to have a fresh set of eyes look it over as well.


2)      Commas (,) vs. Semicolons (;) – Use commas when connecting two independent clauses (sets of words that can be their own sentence) with a connecting word, or conjunction (and, but, or). Semicolons also connect two independent clauses but do not use connecting words.

  Correct examples:

  • I will be going to the store, but I am not stopping at the post office.

  • I will be going to the store; I will also stop at the post office.


Commas can also be used in a list.

  Correct example: His favorite colors were red, blue, green, and yellow.


Semicolons are also used in lists, but this usually happens when the lists themselves contain commas.

  Correct example:

  • Choose from fries, salad, or soup.

  • Choose from fries, baked potato, or mashed potato; garden salad, Cesar salad, or soup; and juice, milk, or a soft drink.


3)      Colons (:) – Use a colon to extend a sentence, set off a list, or to introduce a bulleted list. A colon should be used when the idea before it and after it are related.

  Correct Example:

  • There were two choices: watch a movie or go bowling. (extends sentence and is a list)

  • (See the colon after “For Example” above for an example of introducing a bulleted list.)


4)      It’s and ItsIt’s means it is or it has. However, its is the possessive form of it.

  Correct example: Where is its chew toy? It’s under the couch!


When finished writing your grant, it is highly recommended to have another set of eyes review your work to ensure your work is error-free. You will lose credibility if you turn in an error-laden piece of writing that is requesting funding, especially if those errors may seem minor. The Grant Helpers can offer expert assistance throughout all aspects of the grant writing process, and we have expert grammarians and English majors who can help with proofreading your grant materials. Contact us or respond to this blog to ask a question for free. You can also contact us for a free quote on a specific project.


Image Credit: the Italian voice

Topics: grant services, best practices in grant writing, Grant writing objectives, grant writing submission, grant editing, grant writing examples, How to Grant Write, grant strategy, Grant Writing Tips, Write a Better Grant Series

Where Can You Find Grant Examples?

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 @ 16:11 PM

We are often asked for examples on all things grant related. Where can I find an example of a grant budget? What is a good example of a grant proposal? Where can I see a sample letter of inquiry?

We have written several blog articles on tips and pointers about what to include in specific grant documents, and we will certainly generate more. So the blog pages you're in now are a resource to keep in mind. (Click here for a full list of past articles.) There are many additional places you should consider looking before you start your hunt online for examples. Of course, you can always pose grant questions to our experts. We are here to help you wherever we can in developing your grant. Here are a few additional resources you might consult on your own.


1)      Consider the source. The actual source of the grant money can double as a great resource for you. Funding agencies want to receive high-quality proposals, and because of this, they sometimes offer sample documents of past grant recipients, or at least documents that are similar or acceptable.


2)      Consider those around you. Obtain previously successful files or documents that your organization has submitted in past grant applications. If you have nothing from the past to reference, consider contacting colleagues in similar, non-competing organizations. Ask them if they have any examples that they would be willing to share. Do not hesitate to reach out to those around you for help, whether they are inside or outside of your organization.


Grant Budget Example

3)      Search the web. The Internet is an endless, albeit sometimes overwhelming, resource of information on just about anything. As previously mentioned, it would be best to start with the funding source to look for sample grant proposals, grant budgets, etc. However, if you need to look to other areas, a Google search will yield results. To pick some random examples, Kurzweil Education Systems offers a PDF file with a sample grant proposal that includes a sample cover letter, a sample cover page, a sample grant proposal, and a sample letter format to use in grant proposals for foundations. The Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency of Wayne, Michigan provides a grant proposal template. The Michigan example is a more general outline of what should be included in a grant, whereas the Kurzweil example provides samples of the documents that are actually included.  A few things to watch out for when using materials from the web:

Avoid the temptation to simply copy information you find. Writers are often tempted to “over-borrow” another person’s words. Many agencies essentially place materials in the public domain by making them available online, but that does not make them yours. Aside from legal and ethical issues, agencies might get a negative impression if they see their own examples parroted back to them without being made applicable to a particular proposal.

Relevance of the material is another concern. What’s relevant or required of one grant may be irrelevant to another. Don’t ever assume that all grant documents are equal in what needs to be included on them. Each grant is unique, so be sure to fulfill all requirements and recommendations completely.

Credibility of the source is a key aspect to consider when reviewing materials on the web. You wouldn’t ask a construction worker for advice on your health.  Similarly, make sure that when you are seeking grant advice, you get it from a source knowledgeable in the field. There are scammers in all fields: caveat emptor. Overly busy or ad-filled sites tend to be suspect.


Finding examples of grant documents is a wise action to help your grant development process. Remember, if you are in need of advice or direction, we are here to help you.


Grant Writing Examples



Image Credit: Tax Credits, Tax Credits

Topics: great resources, Letter of Inquiry, sample grant budgets, grant budget example, grant services, Grant writing objectives, Budgets, grant writing submission, grant research tips, grant writing examples, How to Grant Write, Grant Writing Tips, tips on grant evaluations, sample grants, sample grant proposals, grant proposal example

How May We Help You?: Our Grant Development Services, Part 2

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

We recently posted a blog discussing the services we offer throughout the first two steps of grant development. In this blog post, we at TheGrantHelpers discuss the final three steps in the grant development process as well as what we can do to help secure your organization more grant money.


Step 3: Plan and Research the Grant

            Grants require a certain amount of planning and research in order to be successful. With our Grant Readiness Support service, you will receive tools for tracking proposal applications and deadlines, developing budget templates for future grant applications, advising and editing boilerplate documents, developing a desirable funding profile and associated target funding sources, etc.

            If you need help developing a strategy and make the strongest case for funding for a particular grant, we can help you come up with a Grant Strategy. You can expect help with developing an approach, and you will receive two documents, a Case for Funding and a General Approach. Your organization can use these documents throughout the grant writing process.


Step 4: Develop the ProposalGet More Grant Money

            Developing a grant proposal can be tedious because before writing the proposal itself, there is a lot of planning, research, collaboration, organization, etc. involved. Before you invest the time and energy on developing a full proposal, make sure the grant opportunity is a good fit through our Grant Opportunity Review. We will help you go over guidelines, check for potential problem areas, and make suggestions on how to increase your chances for receiving funding.

            If you new to grant writing process, or if you simply don’t have the time to do so, or are looking to do even better, we can help you from start to finish. Even under a tight deadline, we can usually accommodate requests.

            Sometimes, organizations need just a little help and advice here and there along the way. In this case, our Grant Writing Assistance service might be useful. You can expect us to advise on strategy and approach, edit text, offer research support, help prepare budgets, produce simple diagrams and graphics, and more. We will work with your organization to fill in any gaps where they are most needed.

            We can also conduct a Grant Proposal Review. With this service, we will review your proposal against the grant guidelines, proofread your proposal, and double check for compliance so that your proposal is not rejected due to an error or overlooked mistake.


Step 5: What to do After the Grant is Awarded

            Receiving a grant award is fantastic, but the work on the project is only beginning when you receive the funding notice. Many grants require ongoing follow-up and strict reporting requirements, with the risk of having to repay the grant monies if you don't comply. We offer a Grant Award Management service, in which we can organize and manage the reporting requirements by providing training, report management tools, invoicing and financial interactions, or even managing the entire process for you.


No matter where you are in the grant writing process, and no matter where your organization needs help, we have the experts and services necessary to get you on the right track. We customize our interactions with you and offer a variety of high-value and high-quality services. Contact us today for more details, or check out our full services page.

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Topics: grant annoucement, ask these questions when writing a grant, grant services, free grant money, grant notification, best practices in grant writing, Grant writing objectives, Budgets, grant writing submission, grant research tips, grant management, grant readiness, grant editing, How to Grant Write, grant strategy

Grant Writing Resolutions for 2012

Posted by Roland Garton on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 @ 11:01 AM

grant writing resolution resized 600New Years Resolutions are not only for personal use. Now is the perfect time to reflect on how your organization might become more effective, efficient, and economical in its grant writing efforts. Here are four grant writing related resolution suggestions for your organization to consider.

  • Start your Grant Readiness Kit

The turn around time between a grant opportunity announcement and a grant deadline can be short.  Proper preparation is the key to being competitive in the grant field. By creating a Grant Readiness Kit, your organization will be better positioned to apply for grants as they become available.

Read our blog post, “What Goes into a Grant Readiness Kit” or download our free Grant Readiness guide to get a Grant Readiness Kit Checklist for your organization. A Grant Readiness Kit has a lot of components, but you don’t have to produce them all at once. Start adding to your kit with each grant proposal, and fill in the gaps when you have the time.

  • Set aside five hours a month for grant research

There are a lot of grant opportunities available, and it can be time-intensive to identify which grants are the best fit for your organization. Devote five hours a month to grant research, including both searching for grant opportunities and vetting them for your organization. This is a great use of volunteers working on their computers from their homes. Make sure to keep track of your findings.

Unsure of where you should look for grants? We recently wrote a blog post on how you can use Google to find grants, but that method has its limits. A paid subscription to a grant database might also be a good purchase for your organization, as it can reduce your search time. Alternatively, if you have a specific funding need, a professionally-conducted grant search by might be a strong investment for your organization. A Funding Opportunity search will provide you with at least 5 different vetted grant opportunities, plus our recommendations on which grants to pursue and what steps you should take next, all at an affordable price. To learn more, you can visit our Services page or email Katie at

  • Establish a grant calendar

Unless you have a grant opportunity tracking system in place, it is easy to lose track of upcoming funding opportunities.  When you come across a grant opportunity that you’d like to apply for, enter it into your calendar and make it a recurring annual event (Google calendar is one free tool that will let you do this). Many grant opportunities are announced around the same time every year. With a grant calendar, even if you aren’t prepared to apply immediately, you’ll be reminded to look into it when the time is right.

  • Brainstorm with us

Whether your organization is just getting started or has several successful proposals, a pair of fresh eyes can increase your effectiveness. The Grant offers free consultations for any grant-related inquiry, and we’re happy to connect with you. To schedule your consultation, email Katie or fill out the form on this page.

Topics: ask these questions when writing a grant, best practices in grant writing, Grant writing objectives, grant readiness

Grant Writing Tip #4: Clear, Measurable Objectives

Posted by Katie Adams on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 @ 14:10 PM

What are grant objectives? Put simply, they’re specific statements of what you will accomplish in order to meet your goals. (Goals are more general). 

In every grant proposal, you must establish concrete objectives and express them clearly. Keep in mind that the funding agency is making an investment with each grant award, and they want to make sure that their investment will be put to good use. When you are determining what your objectives will be, focus on measurable goals and explain them clearly in your proposal. For instance:

Weak Objective: With a Readiness and Emergency Management (REMS) grant award, we will improve the emergency response protocol of Apple Orchards School District and improve emergency response training for all staff members, ensuring a safer environment for the district's students. 

This statement might be acceptable a general goals section of the proposal, but not for a specific objective.

Weak Objective: We will improve training.

Why would this objective fail to inspire a grant award? It's too vague. You could show one school janitor a Sesame Street rerun on “stop, drop, and roll” and meet this objective.

Better Objective: The total number of staff with NIMS training will increase as shown below:

grant writing objectives 

Better Objective:  By the end of year 1 we will develop a 4-hour staff orientation program explaining the revised school safety plan; by the end of year 2, all existing staff will receive this training; also by the end of year 2, the District’s staff orientation protocol will require that all new staff receive the 4-hour safety training.

professional grant writers in Illinois

(Image Credit) 

The improved objectives showcase clear and measurable goals - you leave nothing to the imagination of the grant reviewer. Good objectives also show you've done your industry research, which inspires confidence in the project. A grant reviewer is always pleased to know that you have reviewed state and federal guidelines, and that your project aims to meet and/or exceed them. 

Good objectives will also serve you well later on, as they are the first step to having a solid evaluation plan. After all, if you state exactly what you aim to prove, you’ve already set the stage for demonstrating when you've reached the goal. 

The Grant Helpers offers a free article on how to make your grant proposal stronger - Making Your Case for Funding. Download it for free: Making Your Case for Funding

Need more help? Talk to a grant writing expert

Topics: Grant writing objectives, grant writing examples, Write a Better Grant Series