So I want to be a grant writer. Now what?
September 14, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I think I have what it takes to be a stellar grant writer. But I don't have any direct experience doing this. Are there classes one can take? If I volunteer somewhere, how would I go about finding potential grants to apply for? Where do people look for clients and grants to apply for?

I have a solid background in writing, communications, and research- all things I am pretty good at and also enjoy. I've read several posts on metafilter that suggest people like myself could make a decent career go at grant writing and I am ready for a career. Where would I start though? I would totally be down to volunteer somewhere, but if I did, how would I offer my grant writing services?For example, I already volunteer at a small press here in town, and I would love to go after some grants for them. But where would I find these grants to apply for? Library? Web? I'd love to just give it a go and a serious go. I live in the mid size Southern city, if it matters.

I'd like to take my communications and research background into this arena, and I know good grant writers are in high demand. I'd like to read and practice as much as possible first. If some one could hook me up with how one does this, or how one gets started, it would be amazing! Email:
posted by Rocket26 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
IANA professional grant writer, but I did do some within a historical society.

When I did it, there was a section in the city's public library that was just for grant application books. The books were huge and detailed and somewhat coded, like a phone book. They described what types of orgs or funding, and how much funding, each group had available. The other place to find grants is through topic/industry appropriate newsletters or organizations.

There are classes, IIRC, usually within graduate school programs. You may or may not be able to take them. The books in the non-profit funding center, or whatever it's called in the library, may include books on how to write grant proposals.

The best place to volunteer is a non-profit in your area of interest - or your small press that you're already involved in. This is how it worked in the tiny, money-less places I worked: Find some potential grants first. Then tell whoever is involved with funding that you've found a grant that's interesting and offer to write the proposal. They'll likely say yes. Write it and then, when it's denied, keep writing them.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Foundation Center: resource for finding grants, classes, etc.
posted by kimdog at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Grantwriter weighing in here.

First of all, it sounds like you've got all the skills you need. Grantwriting is not all that difficult of a thing, and I don't think taking any sort of classes would help you in a pragmatic sense - it might give you a little cred on the ole resume, but on the whole I wouldn't recommend it. All grants are really quite different - and having solid writing, communications and research skills is all you really need.

Volunteering is a great idea. Lots of orgs would fall over backwards to have a volunteer grant writer. This will get you a little experience and a little what what on the resume. As far as finding the grants? That's just where your research background comes in. Depending on where you live, your state may have a Foundation Data Book, which lists all state grant making orgs. Register for Guidestar, an online database of pretty much all grant-making foundations. Look up other NPO's in your area and find what donors they are getting funding from, and see if those same donors might be a good fight for your NPO - this is especially helpful when it comes to tracking down some of the smaller local and family foundations in your area. Look at all the major corporations around you - most of them will have some kind of charitable giving platform in place. If your area has some sort of development organization or alliance with regular meetings, attend if you are able. And of course go through your orgs development records - either electronic in something like Raiser's Edge, or hard files and read-up on who has given them money in the past and for what.

Again, there are no real special tricks - but it is a professional field, so don't let anyone take advantage of you either. For example, don't write any 'commission' based grants - like a grant where they'll will pay you 10% of the grant funds or something if the grant is awarded. Generally, foundations hate this sort of thing and not getting a grant is rarely the grant writer's fault.

Good luck. As always, MeFi mail me if you have any more questions, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2009 [7 favorites] -- you can volunteer for one of the many organizations that needs grants to get a little experience under your belt
posted by unlucky.lisp at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you have kids in school by any chance? I'd fall over backwards to have somebody write me some technology grants for the school, and there are a ton out there.
posted by jmd82 at 10:18 AM on September 14, 2009

See if there's a something comparable to Donors' Forum in your city. (If you contact the Chicago one, they can probably direct one. Unless off course you're in Chicago already, in which case, there ya go.) These places have both hard and web resources, as well as terrific classes on exactly what you're looking for. Also look into local community colleges, which almost certainly have courses. Another resource is your city's community foundation, which may not offer classes, but can probably direct you, as community foundations often fund organizations doing this sort of thing.
posted by nax at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2009

At the university where I work, our division of continuing studies often offers this kind of thing. Or you could check with a business school, perhaps, and see if they offer some sorts of public outreach classes.
posted by Madamina at 1:20 PM on September 14, 2009

There are a gazillion books on grant writing. Search for the term on Amazon. is the starting point for anything federal.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2009

If you have the time and the money, take the week-long class from the Grantsmanship Center the next time they offer it in your area. It's really intensive and really helps to drive home all of the little practical specifities of writing grant applications, as opposed to any other form of writing.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:42 PM on September 14, 2009

I recently did a workshop with a writer who does freelance grantwriting for artists. He noticed there was a niche available and took it in, and he's in pretty good demand. Find a niche of interest and see who out there needs your help.
posted by divabat at 5:43 PM on September 14, 2009

Lots of great advice here. I've worked in the field for 15 years and agree that getting some experience by volunteering or interning is the best way to go. If you are interested in a particular cause or organization, contact someone in their development/fundraising department to see if they would take on a volunteer. Also look for free grant writing workshops at places like the United Way or local universities/colleges. I got my start by taking a free class and then interning. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you want more information, I wrote an article on the topic a while back (see which gives an overview of the field and got so many questions that I also wrote an ebook about it, available at:
posted by creeder at 7:49 AM on October 2, 2009

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