Writing grant proposals can be an intimidating process. Some people never undertake the challenge because they assume they need specialized technical skills in order to win grant funding. That assumption is false. Though grant writing can be a labor-intensive task, the most critical aspects of writing a winning proposal are not technical secrets available only to professionals. They are tools and techniques available to anyone willing and able to prepare the necessary groundwork, take advantage of available resources, and follow some basic but often neglected strategies for success.
Because technical writers work primarily in information technology-related industries, they need specialized capabilities and knowledge which may be beyond the skill set of the typical grant writer. However, good technical writers are also experts in less technical areas critical to those pursuing grants. Developing those common areas is something you can learn — that’s the “science.” By also honing your skills in areas specific to the “art” of grant writing, you can greatly increase your odds of winning a grant.
Common Areas (The Science):
- Technical writers and grant writers must thoroughly understand the purpose of their document.
- Both must understand that they are communicating to a specific audience for a specific purpose.
- They must communicate information in a clear, concise way that can be easily understood. Good grammar, correct spelling and organization are critical in both cases.
- Their writing must be “presentational” – i.e., they should use appropriate headings, bullets and layouts that make their documents easy to read.
Grant-Specific Areas (The Art)
- In addition to understanding the purpose of your document, as a grant writer you must also understand and convey a compelling sense of purpose for your organization. The most successful grant seekers are “purpose driven” and clearly communicate that in their writing. Be sure you are clear about the problem you are trying to solve.
- The grant writer must know far more about the audience, or grant maker. Beyond knowing who the audience is, you must be very aware of what is important to that audience, what drives them. Grants are offered for very specific purposes; the needs you are addressing must be important to the grant maker.
- While the technical writer follows basic rules for organizing data, the grant writer must absolutely conform to the grant maker’s specifications. There are no exceptions to this rule. Even if you think the grant maker’s guidelines are nonsensical and irrelevant, those are the guidelines you must follow if you wish to be considered.
- Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and specific about how you will measure success. Most importantly, communicate how your proposed plans and programs will transform lives. You are asking a grant maker to give you money; be sure your reader can see the impact that decision will have.
In summary, some technical writing skills can help you write a stronger grant proposal. Learning the skills specific to grant-writing, however, will have a major impact on your success. We have touched on major areas here; many free resources are available to give you more insight and help you obtain grant funding.
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