5 Tips For Using AI To Write Grants: 4 Experts Putting It To The Test

Author:

Jessica Knapp

,

CEO, Communities In Schools Pennsylvania

Reviewed by:

Published:

February 22, 2024

Last Updated:

February 22, 2024

These days, it feels like Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. It’s hard to escape it!

In nonprofit fundraising, there’s a lot of chatter about AI. It’s overwhelming! 

Trust us, we get it—new technology can be hard to master and even more challenging to integrate into your current workflows.

That’s why we spoke to four industry experts to learn how they are—or, in some cases, are not—using AI to support their grant-seeking efforts

Their insights and advice help cut through the noise and demystify how AI can be leveraged to level up your fundraising game.

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How Are Grant Writers Using AI?

Before we dive into the transformative potential of AI in grant writing, let’s quickly go over one of AI’s most valuable tools: ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is an AI-powered tool that assists with generating ideas, providing suggestions, and refining your writing. Think of it as a really smart assistant that can feed you information, generate content, answer questions, and even assist you with brainstorming.

It’s not about replacing your expertise, but enhancing it.

If you’re wondering “how?”, we get it. Here are a few ways that ChatGPT can help your grant writing:

  • Providing guidance and suggestions: ChatGPT’s language capabilities can help you brainstorm ideas, solidify your project plans, and craft compelling narratives for your grant proposals.
  • Serving as a research assistant: ChatGPT can help you gather information and data to help support your proposals.
  • Reviewing and refining grant proposals: ChatGPT can proofread your proposals, check for grammatical errors, and make sure that your content is clear and coherent.

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now: AI is the future of grant writing. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that AI isn’t a replacement for grant writers—it’s just another tool to keep in your pocket.

Professionals across the industry agree. Dr. Bev Browning, Grant Consultant & Coach at Bev Browning, LLC, shares:

“I think AI has a ground-hold place for the grant writing industry.”

Keep reading for 5 tips provided by industry experts for utilizing AI to support your grant writing efforts!

1. Let AI Help You Get Started

As a grant writer, it’s easy to get writer’s block—especially when you’re staring at a blank page. 

As Matt Hugg aptly notes, 

“There’s a saying that a writer’s biggest fear is a blank page. AI can be a big help in giving you a starting point. But by no means is it an ending point, too.”
“There’s a saying that a writer’s biggest fear is a blank page. AI can be a big help in giving you a starting point. But by no means is it an ending point, too.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can serve as a practical and useful tool in this area to revolutionize your grant-seeking strategy

By generating initial ideas, outlining key sections, and suggesting language, AI can help provide a starting point for your proposal. It can also alleviate the anxiety of the blank page.

Just remember: AI is the beginning, not the end, of your journey. While it gets the creative juices flowing, your expertise, insight, and human touch are what will make a compelling proposal.

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2. Let ChatGPT Do the Heavy Lifting by Using Prompts

The second tip is this: let ChatGPT do the hard work by using prompts.

Arnold King’s approach to integrating AI into grant consulting and fundraising work offers a glimpse into the practical applications of the technology. Arnold shares:

“I’m using AI more often in my grant consulting and fundraising consulting work. I use prompts that relate to grant writing, fundraising, and others. For example, I use AI for the problem statements, goals, objectives, methods, outcomes, etc.”

When you use AI to support your grant writing efforts, keep in mind that you need to feed it prompts, details, and parameters so that it generates the refined content you’re looking for. The more information you can provide, the better!

Instrumentl created a free prompt guide for ChatGPT that contains 20+ tested prompts, along with tips on how to use this tool. Be sure to check it out so you can start engaging with AI in your grant writing.

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3. Make ChatGPT Your Grant Writing Intern

While ChatGPT isn’t a replacement for an employee, you can delegate tasks to it when you’re pressed for time. In this way, AI can help create efficiencies in your workflow—which is great news!

Bev Browning’s innovative approach to incorporating AI into her workflow sheds light on the versatility of this technology beyond grant writing: 

“I am using AI to design curriculum and write short documents.”

By using AI for these tasks, Bev shows us how AI can extend its benefits to various professional domains. Whether it's creating educational materials or drafting memos, AI is an asset in streamlining tasks and enhancing productivity.

While AI is not a replacement for an employee, it excels at handling smaller tasks efficiently—especially when time is of the essence. 

Delegating tasks like drafting initial outlines, generating ideas for problem statements, or refining language can significantly alleviate the burden on grant writers (aka you!) when faced with overwhelming workloads and tight deadlines.

4. Reduce Your Word Count Without Sacrificing Your Message

If you’re a grant professional, you know that many proposals have strict formatting requirements and word/character limits. It can be really tricky to dial down your content to meet the requirements of a funder. ChatGPT can help with this also!

Here’s how Katelynn Martin leverages AI to streamline her grant writing process: 

“I like to paste my boilerplate language into ChatGPT and tell it to reduce it to the number of characters allowed without losing any of the meaning. I always have to tweak it so it doesn’t sound totally robotic, but it’s taken the burden off what used to be the bane of my existence - the dreaded character limit.”
“I like to paste my boilerplate language into ChatGPT and tell it to reduce it to the number of characters allowed without losing any of the meaning. I always have to tweak it so it doesn’t sound totally robotic, but it’s taken the burden off what used to be the bane of my existence - the dreaded character limit.”

By employing ChatGPT to condense boilerplate language to fit within character limits, Katelynn highlights the transformative power of AI in simplifying a once-burdensome task. 

This approach saves time and alleviates the stress associated with adhering to strict character limits. If you’re anything like Katelynn (and me), those character limits are often the trickiest part of a grant proposal!

Pro Tip: Don’t forget the power of the human touch. Katelynn emphasizes the importance of human input in refining the AI output to maintain a natural tone and ensure that the message remains clear and impactful to potential funders.

5. Don’t Rely On AI To Produce Your Final Product

The emergence of AI has introduced ethical and professional considerations that can’t be ignored.

As Matt Hugg astutely points out, AI content can be fallible, potentially leading to inaccuracies or misunderstanding if used at face value:

“The AI providers say that their content can be wrong - and they’re right! So let AI give you something to work with, but never any final copy.”

While AI can certainly provide a helpful starting point, it should never serve as the sole source for the version. 

Katelynn Martin’s experience echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the need for human intervention to ensure that AI-generated text is authentic and relevant.

While AI can alleviate the burden of tasks like adhering to character limits, it's crucial to remember that its output is going to require some tweaking so that it doesn’t sound robotic or detached. 

Bev Browning reinforces the importance of using AI correctly, noting that when employed appropriately, it can enhance productivity and efficiency without compromising integrity:

“Used correctly, AI is not unethical or illegal.”
“I am using AI to design curriculum and write short documents. Used correctly, AI is not unethical or illegal.”

Grant writers should approach the integration of AI with balance, recognizing the potential of this game-changing tool while also acknowledging the irreplaceable role of human oversight in producing high-quality grant proposals.

How Will You Start (or not) Using AI in Grant Writing?

The integration of AI into the grant writing process offers unprecedented opportunities to streamline workflows and enhance productivity. 

Throughout this article, we’ve explored five key tips from industry experts on how to effectively leverage AI to optimize grant writing efforts: 

  1. Use AI to kickstart your writing process
  2. Delegate tasks to ChatGPT by utilizing prompts
  3. Incorporate AI into other professional domains
  4. Leverage AI to reduce your word count
  5. Recognize the limitations of AI as well as the importance of the human touch

As you navigate the grant writing journey, don’t forget that Instrumentl is also a powerful tool that can increase your efficiency and effectiveness as a grant writer. Embrace the transformative potential of AI and Instrumentl to propel your grant writing to new heights.

Jessica Knapp

Jessica Knapp

Jessica Knapp is the State President and Chief Executive Officer of Communities In Schools Pennsylvania, the United States' largest dropout prevention organization. She has over 10 years of experience in nonprofit operations and leadership, program development, and fundraising/resource development.

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