Before you can land funding, you have to build a solid foundation of grant writing skills. How better to gain a strong understanding of how to be a successful grant writer than by reading the best grant writing books written by experts?
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced grant writer, there is always something to learn from experts in the field. Here, we will lay out several grant writing books broken down by skill level, why they make for quality resources, and other helpful materials created by the mentioned authors.
The Best Grant Writing Books for Beginner Grant Writers
If you are new to the art of grant writing, you are probably wondering where to begin. As a beginner grant writer, you need to first build a fundamental understanding of how grants work. Once you understand the process of applying for a grant, the information needed to apply, and the timeline, you can build a system to best tackle grant writing.
However, with a wealth of knowledge available online and a plethora of books on the subject, how can you parse through all of that to pinpoint the best books to read? Don’t worry, we have done it for you.
Here is a list of a few books for beginners that will help you build a solid foundation as a grant writer (in alphabetical order).
Possibly the most recognizable grant writing title of this list, the Grant Writing for Dummies guide does what it says: breaks down the grant writing process into digestible pieces and logs everything in an extensive table of contents. A prolific teacher of grant writing, Dr. Browning breaks down the basics with sample applications to guide you through the process.
Often referred to as a grant writer’s “go-to source,” Grant Writing for Dummies is what you’re looking for if you want to find the right grants, understand how to craft a convincing statement of need, remain compliant with federal grant regulations, and more.
As you can tell from the title, this book provides a refreshing, fun take on grant writing. The second edition was released in May 2021 after the first edition was a #1 bestseller for grant writing and nonprofit fundraising.
This book will help you to build foundational skills and a basic understanding of grants, and then will continue to build on your newfound knowledge by answering questions like what to do if a grant application is not successful.
By reading this book, you’ll learn how to manage your time effectively so you don’t end up rushing an application and get step-by-step instructions for the seven steps it takes to write a grant application. You’ll also learn how to present a grant budget, and you’ll even get a free spreadsheet template to make it easier.
Instead of applying to hundreds of grants and hoping for the best, Meredith Noble explains the importance of narrowing down your search and selecting the key grants that you are more likely to win in this free grant workshop. Watch Meredith’s on-demand webinar to learn how to calculate the competitiveness of a grant, understand the stages of the grant funnel, and more.
3. The Beginner's Guide to Grant Writing: Tips, Tools, & Templates to Write by Holly Rustick
The beginning of the blurb for this book reads “Grant writing shouldn’t feel like a trip to the dentist.” If you are looking for a book that will take the pain out of learning how to write a grant, this step-by-step guide might be for you.
By reading this book, you’ll learn how to delineate the grant categories, the G.R.A.N.T.S. formula for writing solid grant applications, and how to write a narrative, strategic budget, and budget narrative.
At just 163 pages, this guide is jam-packed with direction on how to write grants. With an average rating of 4.3 of 5 stars on Amazon, one reviewer labels this book as the “Gold Standard for learning to write grant proposals.”
Rustick is a partner of Instrumentl and ran a free grant workshop, 7 Tips to Write Grants Like a Pro, that you may enjoy if her book piqued your interest. In the webinar, you can get key tips so you can clearly articulate the goals of your grant, submit grants on time, outline an accurate budget, and more.
4. The Complete Book of Grant Writing by Nancy Burke Smith and E. Gabriel Works
As a beginner, you probably have a million questions, such as “what are all the pieces of a grant application?” and “how long should I expect to wait for a response?” Nancy Burke Smith’s guide to grant writing breaks down the basics and answers all of your burning grant writing questions.
With a list of the “Five Core Components” of each grant application, a timeline of grant responses, and tips for how to ultimately become a professional grant writer, this book will give you the foundation you need as a beginner.
The Best Grant Writing Books for Intermediate and Advanced Grant Writers
Many books on grant writing outline only the basics of what you need to know. But when you have excelled beyond that point as an intermediate or even an advanced grant writer, how can you find guidance? Here are some of the best books you could read as an intermediate or advanced grant writer to help you hone your skills after you know the basics.
1. Write to Influence! By Carla D. Bass
Not just about grants, this book underlines the importance of well-written works. From resumes to appraisals, marketing, and, yes, even grants, Write to Influence! will help you hone your writing skills to be as persuasive as possible.
As a Best Book Awards Finalist and the product of retired US Air Force Colonel Carla D. Bass, this book presents writing as a necessary skill to improve your life. By reading this book, you will learn how to write detailed and strong proposals to score grants. You will also learn that convincing writing is essential in every line you write, so you’ll write each piece of your grant application with precision.
2. The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need: Top Grant Writers and Grant Givers Share Their Secrets by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox
Originally published in 2003 and already in its fifth edition, this book has been marketed as an “insider’s guide” to the grant writing process. It was written by experts in grant writing who, according to the book’s blurb, have won millions of dollars in grants on behalf of government and foundation organizations.
Not only does this book provide strategic ways to present information to improve your grant application, but it also provides interviews from nonprofit leaders and grant funders, up-to-date grant writing advice based on today’s economic and social climate, and exercises for practicing your skills until they are rock solid.
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The Best Grant Writing Books for Executive Directors of Nonprofits
As a nonprofit organization leader, Executive Directors may have a different relationship with grant applications than the typical grant writer. Overseeing each department in the organization, you are trying to drive numbers and think strategically about the funding your team applies for.
These books have been selected for Nonprofit Executive Directors to help you understand the process of grant writing and the strategy behind it.
1. How to Write a Nonprofit Grant Proposal: Writing Winning Proposals to Fund Your Programs and Projects by Robin Devereaux-Nelson
With an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, Devereaux-Nelson’s book outlines the key steps that must be taken in order to win a grant. With chapters such as “Laying the Groundwork” with tips for developing a robust business strategy and researching grants to “Steps on How to Develop a Grant Proposal,” this book not only offers the overview to understand the high-level of grant writing for nonprofits, but then delves deep into the details you must pay attention to in order to write a winning grant proposal.
If you’re looking for an accessible book that is easy to understand as a beginner and doesn’t include too much technical jargon, this book might be for you. In fact, an Amazon reviewer said Devereaux-Nelson’s “casual tone makes grant writing accessible for anyone.”
2. The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Cause by Kivi Leroux Miller
This book helps you think about the strategy behind your nonprofit organization’s.
marketing and messaging. You might be wondering how a marketing strategy ties in to grant applications. Developing a marketing strategy will help you to identify the key messaging you should use to gain the support of your grant application.
When you have finished reading this book, you will know how to hone in on your nonprofit marketing goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics. You will also get a detailed chapter on the key differences to pinpoint between a theoretical nonprofit marketing plan and a plan you can put into action in your real-world nonprofit organization.
You will get a descriptive breakdown of the five levels of marketing effectiveness, from beginner all the way to expert, with essential tips for paying attention to the world around you and feeding that into your nonprofit marketing plan. By the end of this book, you should know how to segment your community, conduct online surveys, understand media kits, websites, email, and social media -- all of the essential pieces of a truly effective marketing plan for nonprofit organizations.
3. Nonprofit Hero: Five Easy Steps to Successful Board Fundraising by Valerie M. Jones
Written by Valeria M. Jones who, according to her book’s blurb, secured $175 million of funding for nonprofits, this book takes the route of growing yourself as a leader before asking for funds. To become a successful fundraiser, leaders must first understand their “asking personality” and cultivate a yes instead of “bracing” for a no.
Only 192 pages, this book has garnered a 4.9 out of 5 rating on Amazon. Many five-star reviews have been left by leaders of organizations, from Chief Development Officers to a President of a nonprofit board. Reviewer Lauren says that Jones’ “use of the Myers Briggs Personality Test, creation of a fundraising toolkit, and emphasis on the specific steps in the cycle of fundraising make this book accessible and actionable.”
Wrapping Things Up: The Best Books on Grant Writing
This guide of nine of the best books on grant writing will hopefully provide you with the guidance and knowledge you need to be a successful grant writer for your organization.
Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced grant writer or you are looking to learn about the process as a leader in your organization, these books will give you key insights into the art of grant writing.
If you want to learn more about grant writing, join Instrumentl for our free grant writing classes. Available on-demand and taught by experts in the field, you can choose from a variety of grant writing topics.
With topics like How to Go From Zero to Hero with Your Grant Writing Strategy to 5 Ways Partnering Builds More Grants Success, Faster, you can find classes by authors and other grant writing experts to build upon your foundational skills.