Last Updated:

May 5, 2022

Is Grant Writing Hard? The Ultimate Answer


Instrumentl team



April 23, 2022

If you have ever looked into grant writing, you have probably asked yourself: is grant writing hard? We are here to tell you that yes, grant writing is hard. But, you can learn!

In this article we will cover what makes grant writing difficult and how you can overcome those challenges to set yourself up for success in grant writing.

So if you are ready for some tips and tricks to help you become a grant writer, keep reading.

10 Best Lessons from 10 Grant Writing Experts

First Things First: What Makes Something Difficult?

Much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, difficulty is in perception. We recognize that your perception is your reality, so the daunting sense that something is hard is a very real issue to overcome. There are really two main things that make something seem difficult: lack of prior knowledge or the scope and complexity of the task.

1. Lack of prior knowledge.

A big part of difficulty is the amount of information you already have as a foundation for what you are learning. The less you know about a topic or skill at a prerequisite level, the more difficult it seems to learn.

One example of this could be preparing a budget. If you have some prior knowledge of budgets and how they work, you will find building one much easier. The budget development will be easier regardless of the requirements or specific expectations because you are familiar with what a budget is and how it functions.

Alternatively, if you have never built or worked on a budget before, you would have to first learn the basic concepts of a budget prior to building one to meet the specific ask at hand.

2. Scope of information.

The second main thing that makes something difficult is how broad or complex the information is. This may seem obvious. If the concept or skill you are learning is singular or lacking complexity, you’ll get to the point of mastery much faster.

Conversely, if the concept or skill is intricate or involves layers of learning, it will take much longer to acquire understanding. This is where your prior knowledge really comes into play. If the complexity is entirely new, it will be harder to learn than if you come into the learning with a few tidbits of information already established.

What Makes Grant Writing Difficult?

The difficulty in grant writing often comes down to the scope of the information it involves and requires. Grants are complex documents with many sections and requirements.

This is not meant to sound overwhelming. Having a full picture of the grant writing process will set you up for success. It is the complexity of the considerations before you ever put pen to paper that adds to the difficulty of grant writing.

Grant writing is multifaceted, and even after understanding all of the ins and outs of the process, the success rate for winning a grant is still quite low. In our complete list of grant writing statistics we reported that success rates can be as low as 1 in 10 applicants. That statistic is due, in part, to the difficulty of grant writing, but also to the limited resources available compared to the number of applicants vying for them.

All this to say, grant writing is difficult because of the scope of information required to complete a grant, the writing process itself, and the competitive nature of grant processes.

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When Does Grant Writing Become Easier?

The short answer: it doesn’t.

At least, not entirely. Certain pieces of writing may become more second nature. You will find familiarity with the format that propels you through the writing. However, do not expect to arrive at a time when grant proposals pour from your fingertips without effort or challenge.

Rather than being difficult because it is new and unknown, grant writing will shift to being difficult because of the time and research most grants will take to complete.

The degree of difficulty in grant writing is always changing based on the grant writer. Even after you understand the process and know how to write a grant, you may still find moments of challenge or experience burnout throughout your grant writing career.

There are some great grant writing tips to follow that can help make the process seem manageable and afford you the opportunity to feel successful. We have put together our top three grant writing tips for you as a starting point.

1. Over-prepare.

Grant writing requires compiling a lot of information about the nonprofit, including many specific documents. Build yourself a file of commonly requested documents and information so you do not have to spend time hunting for these items when it comes time to apply for funding.

You can even draft up some templates of the more common elements of grants, like a letter of inquiry or an organization narrative, to be ready to adapt to grants as you find them.

2. Give yourself time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will you learn how to write successful grants in an afternoon. Give yourself time to learn and practice the grant writing process.

If you need to learn how to write grants quickly because you have a deadline on one fast approaching, map out dedicated time to learn and write. Block out your calendar for time to learn each section of a grant, followed by time to apply that learning to your own grant.

Whatever you do, don’t procrastinate.

3. Use an online management system.

There are a lot of components to track when you dive into grant writing. You can eliminate some of the difficulty by using tools that streamline the process wherever possible.

Instrumentl provides the only comprehensive grant management system that supports you throughout the entire grant lifecycle from finding grants to tracking and reporting on your funding. Don’t spend extra time trying to keep track of your applications; use an online resource so you can focus on writing.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Grant Writing?

It depends.

We covered the two main reasons something is difficult: no prior knowledge or the scope of complexity. Grant writing tends to be hard because it is intricate and has a number of components to learn.

If you come to grant writing with strong writing skills, knowledge of the grant writing process broadly, and a basic understanding of what grant funding is, you’ll probably be able to learn grant writing quickly. You will be able to dive into learning the more technical aspects of grant writing more easily.

If you are missing a lot of knowledge of the fundamentals, it may take you longer. You will need to approach your learning from the basics: starting with understanding grants and grant funding, then moving into the strategies for writing a grant.

The American Grant Writer’s Association has a certification program for grant writers. While a certification is not required to be successful in grant writing, reading their recommended prerequisites and time to complete the course might give you a good idea of what your own timeframe may look like.

The AGWA recommends grant writers have a bachelor’s degree, a strong grasp of the English language, an understanding of APA style, and a working knowledge of Word, Excel, and Adobe reader. Then, they estimate their course for certification to take around 50 hours over 4-6 weeks.

How Can Someone Learn Grant Writing Quickly?

While it is not required to take a course or earn a certificate to write and submit grant proposals, it is likely going to take you a bit of time to really understand grant writing. However, we understand not everyone has a lot of time when looking to start applying for grant funding.

To learn grant writing quickly, you need to be adept at leveraging resources. There are three types of resources we recommend to get started in learning how to write grants quickly.

Guides and Templates

One way to jumpstart your understanding of grants is to read through guides and find grant templates. Guides and templates can take a bit of the structure guesswork out of grant writing.

We have created a number of grant writing guides you can use to get started. Writing guides help target exactly what you need to learn and how to complete that specific type of grant. You can find guides that support how to write executive summaries, how to find government grants, and just about every topic you might encounter.

Templates are another good resource for writing grants. Grant budget templates are especially helpful, as you may not be familiar with budget structures and formats within a grant proposal.

Webinars and Classes

Everything you could ever need to learn how to do probably exists in a video somewhere. Reading how to write a grant can be a great resource, but sometimes you have to listen to an expert talk through grant writing to really understand.

Recorded webinars are a great way to learn specific elements of grant writing and hone your skills in areas you may be unfamiliar with. Similarly, online grant writing classes are a place where you can learn alongside grant writing experts.

Check out Instrumentl’s list of online webinars and classes to get started today.

Blogs and Podcasts

Whether you prefer learning by reading or listening, blogs and podcasts offer a large array of topics relating to grant writing. Reading blogs like this one is a great way to target your grant writing learning journey to the pieces of grant writing you most need help understanding.

We also recommend listening to podcasts about grant writing. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by listening to a podcast while you go about your day. Doing laundry? Plug in to one of these recommended podcasts to make your daily chores turn into an opportunity for learning.

Wrapping Things Up: Is Grant Writing Hard?

Grant writing is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it and always be successful. However, grant writing can be done and be done well. Becoming a grant writer might seem difficult at first, but if you give yourself time and use resources wisely, you can have a successful career as a grant writer.

In this article we talked about what makes something difficult, and why grant writing is hard. We also talked about how to overcome the difficulties in grant writing with proven tips.

We think you will find a lot of success and satisfaction in grant writing as you become more familiar and comfortable with the grant writing process. And, as we mentioned, we have tools to support your effort from start to finish. You can try out Instrumentl’s tools free for 14 days.

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Instrumentl team

Instrumentl is the all-in-one grant management tool for nonprofits and consultants who want to find and win more grants without the stress of juggling grant work through disparate tools and sticky notes.

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