Grants can be an incredible source of revenue for nonprofits. However, the process of applying for grants is a long and complicated one that can intimidate even the most experienced writers.
That is because grant writing is more than just a process—it’s a skill. And like any other skill, it needs to be perfected through time and practice. Loads of practice.
Below you’ll find some of the best grant writing exercises to help you become a better grant writer.
Why are Grant Writing Exercises Necessary?
Grant writing is the process through which nonprofits submit their application to grants in hopes of securing funds for their nonprofit.
Grant writing is also a skill and an art form, requiring the writer not only to pull tons of research together but to incorporate said research into a persuasive narrative that is as informative as it is emotionally compelling.
Successful grant writing does not just present the potential funder with facts and figures and statistics; it uses these elements to tell a story of a problem, of a solution, and how this specific grant can make a difference in the lives of real people in the real world.
Because competition for certain grants can be steep, it is crucial for your application to stand out amongst all the others. Doing so requires skill, and perfecting a skill requires time and practice. That is why grant writing exercises are so necessary if you wish to become a good grant writer.
When taken seriously, the best grant writing exercises will help you develop the skills required to excel in this process.
Grant writing exercises will get you to think about how to personalize your application so that it doesn’t feel generic, they’ll help you merge storytelling with hard numbers seamlessly, and they’ll get you to think creatively and take risks so that your writing doesn’t feel stale, making it stand out among all the other applicants.
Most importantly, even if you don’t particularly enjoy grant writing and are doing it just out of necessity, the best grant writing exercises will get you to think about your nonprofit, your cause, and will help you better understand your mission and how to effectively communicate it to an audience who is otherwise unfamiliar with your work.
In the best-case scenario, grant writing exercises can be a source of personal insight and epiphany, giving you the opportunity to get to know your nonprofit on a deeper level.
15 Grant Writing Prompts to Try Answering
When practicing your grant writing, consider trying to answer the following prompts:
- What would the world be like if the problem your nonprofit is trying to solve did not exist?
- What would the world be like if no one tried to solve that problem?
- How are current efforts to solve this problem failing? Why are they failing?
- What are some of the biggest obstacles those seeking to address this problem face?
- How is your nonprofit’s solution to this problem unique? What sets it apart from other efforts? Why won’t you fail when others did?
- What do people think about your nonprofit’s solution to this problem? How are they right? How are they wrong?
- What is something most people don’t know about the problem you are trying to solve?
- What is something most people don’t know about your nonprofit?
- What are some new projects you hope to implement in five years? How do you hope to implement them?
- How will this grant help you achieve your goals?
- Why are you applying for this specific grant?
- If you were to receive this grant, who, besides your nonprofit, would benefit from it? How would they benefit from it? And why?
- Think of patterns you’ve observed in your previous campaigns, among your donors, your staff, or those you help. What are some common themes they share, and how can you incorporate them into your story and messaging?
- How can you explain your nonprofit’s objective with the least amount of words possible?
- How do you wish your nonprofit to be perceived by others? How can you achieve this?
Many of these prompts work better if you complete them with a specific grant in mind. It doesn’t need to be one that you are seeking to apply to right now or even in the near future.
In fact, you can even use grants whose deadlines have already passed. By answering the prompts with a specific grant in mind, you learn to break the habit of using only generic terms or using well-rehearsed but impersonal pitches, and in turn, learn how to be specific and purposeful with your language.
If possible, try answering these questions numerous times, as this will help stimulate your creativity.
When coming up with ideas, our brains naturally go for the lowest hanging fruits first. It is only as we push through the obvious and try to dig deeper that we come up with something truly unique and special. Don’t be frustrated if completing these takes some time. After all, this is the reason why you’re practicing!
5 Grant Writing Worksheets to Help Combat Writer's Block
If writing prompts seem either too simple or too short of an exercise, then consider completing one or multiple grant writing worksheets.
Grant writing worksheets are a great resource that can help you combat writer’s block while also forcing you to further develop your skills and ideas by digging deeper and deeper into your proposals. While some forms might feel generic or not be specifically tailored to nonprofits, there’s always something to learn by completing one of these worksheets.
1. Florida State University’s Writing Successful Grants Worksheet
This PDF worksheet created by the Florida State University’s Office of Research is an amazing resource despite being only four pages long.
It covers questions to ask yourself during the beginning of the grant writing process, how to adjust your pitch, and even how to edit your work. The latter of these is especially useful, as editing and rewriting are not skills often covered by exercises despite being so important. Though the worksheet focuses primarily on research, the prompts and advice can be easily adjusted to serve nonprofits.
2. University of North Dakota’s Center for Rural Health’s Worksheets
Created by the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, this set of worksheets offers you a great way to organize your different ideas.
Because this exercise is broken up into 13 different smaller documents, you can choose to focus on your areas of weakness. All files are uploaded as Word documents, giving you the flexibility to easily modify them according to your needs.
3. University of Wisconsin’s Writing Center’s Grant Writing Handbook
This five-page handbook from the University of Wisconsin’s Writing Center is incredibly thorough.
While the handbook was created with the UW-Madison students in mind, a lot of the information and questions included can be very useful to nonprofits. After all, this resource provides you with far more than just prompts to answer; it gives you a detailed overview of grant proposals and tips on how to best answer these questions when applying them to your own project.
4. Smart Sheet’s Proposal Templates
Smart Sheet’s contributor Andy Market knocked it out of the park with this grant proposal template that is specifically geared toward nonprofits.
Simple and intuitive, the worksheet is divided into different sections that will get you to discuss the background of your nonprofit, think about those you help and how you can talk about them in your proposal, and better flesh out your goals.
It is a great resource to organize your ideas and think about how to articulate important facts about your nonprofit that you might have otherwise overlooked.
5. Kovir’s Grant Writing for Novices
This 29-page workbook was created by Marie Gress at Kovir LLC, and it is the longest resource included in this list. It is divided into two main sections, one which is focused on the planning stage of grant seeking, and the other—on storytelling and narrative building.
Towards the end of the workbook, Gress also includes sample work you can study and a list of resources, including social media pages you can follow if you want to better develop your skills.
Other Ways to Improve Your Grant Writing
Though useful, answering prompts and completing worksheets are not the only ways you can improve your skills as a grant writer. Below you’ll find some additional grant writing resources and tips that can help you practice and learn more about grant writing.
1. Practice Editing and Rewriting
No one, not even longtime best-selling authors, can complete a flawless first draft. After all, as the old saying goes: writing is rewriting.
Editing and rewriting are important skills every writer must develop in order to improve their craft. However, they’re seldom covered in grant writing worksheets and prompts, for those tend to be focused on getting you to brainstorm ideas and articulate complex concepts, and editing is all about polishing what you already have.
Some of the things you can do to practice editing are:
- Rewriting your sentences so they’re simpler
- Concising common phrases into single words
- Removing passive voice from your writing
- Removing your crutch and filler words or phrases
- Combining paragraphs or sections that are saying the same thing
Exercises like these not only help make your draft easier to read, they also keep your writing sharp and focused.
2. Take Grant Writing Classes
One of the most incredible things about our online world is that experts are always ready to share their knowledge with those who are willing to learn. Grant writing is no exception to this.
From paid online classes to free webinars and courses, the internet is filled with incredible resources compiled by experts in the field who wish to help writers like you raise more funds for their nonprofits.
Classes and webinars are unique in that they provide attendees with the opportunity to ask experts questions pertaining to their unique circumstances. More often than not, it is that time and feedback from an industry mentor that makes these well worth the investment.
Guidebooks can also serve as great supplementary material to lectures and discussions.
3. One-Time Book Purchase
There are many grant writing books that can help you become a better grant writer. Their relatively low price and longevity make them a great investment that can serve as a resource and reference for years to come. If you wish to make a career out of grant writing, having a couple of these to reference every now and again will be great for you in the long run.
One of the big advantages of books is that you can read them at your own pace. Because they are not pressed for time, authors are able to go into detail about different areas of grant writing while also bringing out more examples and explaining why they do or do not work.
Many books will have a specific focus, or they will be targeted at a specific audience rather than serving as generic advice. This allows you to select books that are relevant to your particular situation or that target your areas of weakness.
4. Check out Blogs
Like our very own blog, many nonprofit-focused companies, publications, and organizations run a blog that can serve as a free resource to help you improve your grant writing.
Because they are uploaded on a regular schedule, blogs and articles tend to be focused and quick to read. While they may not always be the best place to look for nuances and detailed examples, they can still give you a good overview of a topic to get you started on the right path.
Furthermore, an active blog will have the ability to tackle a variety of topics at different skill levels. If you’re looking for help with a very specific problem, there’s a chance you can find blog posts exploring that very same issue and offering possible solutions.
Be it a difficulty with the grant research process, storytelling in grant writing, or report writing, a well-maintained blog is one of the best free grant writing resources available out there.
5. Listen to Podcasts
If something exists, then you can bet that someone, somewhere, has made a podcast about it. And once again, grant writing is no exception to that.
Whether you do not have a lot of time to read a book or take a course, or whether you simply process information better through listening, podcasts are an amazing resource that allow you to multitask while learning new information.
You do not need to carve out time from your busy schedule to listen to a podcast. You can be washing the dishes, cooking, driving your car, walking your dog, or exercising at the gym, and still be learning tips and tricks from industry experts that will help you become a better writer.
Like with blogs, a variety of podcasts means that you can find a variety of topics being covered by numerous experts addressing audiences of all skill levels. You can listen to a backlog of episodes as many times as you need, at your own pace, and at no extra cost to you or your nonprofit.
Wrapping Up: The Best Grant Writing Exercises
Grant writing is not just a complicated process—it is a skill that, in order to be perfected, must be developed through time and practice. It combines research, persuasive rhetoric, and storytelling to create a compelling case as to why your specific nonprofit should be awarded a specific grant.
Whether you’re just starting your journey as a grant writer, seeking help with a specific campaign, or you’re a pro who simply wishes to improve, good grant writing exercises are the key to securing your nonprofit more funds, so you can continue fighting for your cause.