4 tips for writing effective grant applications

As a non-profit organization, securing funding for your literacy programs can be a constant challenge. Typically, organizations rely on a combination of funding sources – with grants being one of the most popular.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the non-profit world, brushing up on your grant writing skills is never a bad idea. Here are four tips for writing effective funding applications.

1. Start early

No matter how much experience you may have, grant writing can be a time-consuming process. Never leave the task to the last minute – this will only increase the chances of making errors and getting your application rejected.

Before you even begin the writing process itself, you need time to review the grant application’s requirements. First, thoroughly read all the instructions. Find out what materials and documents are required, then construct a plan and course of action to obtain them. If there is a contact listed in the funding application guidelines, contact them to discuss your project before you start your application. They can provide helpful guidance on the application process and often what to emphasize in your submission.

Depending on the application’s complexity, writing the grant itself can take a few days or several weeks. Be sure to leave adequate time between the completion and submission of the application so that you have a chance to revisit and edit it with a fresh mindset.

2. Make a strong case

Your application needs to clearly outline your organizational goals and why you are applying for the grant. Consider using a storytelling approach with supporting statistics to create interest for the reader. Feel free to use some of our literacy statistics, infographics and fact sheets.

Rather than just listing what you would do with the acquired funding, outline why it would be important to the population you serve and the impacts the support would make. Make sure that your budget aligns with your proposal.

3. Think like the reviewer

Your grant application should be as easy to read as possible. Make your writing immaculate, keep the content well organized, and provide supporting documentation wherever needed. Each funder has different requirements, so customize your grant application accordingly. Never use the same application for multiple grants.

Most grant applications are particular in their instructions, with specific directions for file names, font size, citations, and length limits. You risk your application being returned or ineligible for review if it does not follow these guidelines, so take the time to review the instructions thoroughly.

4. Seek expert advice

Before you hit submit, it’s always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes (or two) take a look at your completed application. If you can, consider hiring an external consultant who specializes in grant writing.

If you get stumped during the grant writing process, don’t be afraid to reach out to the funding institution to assist with any questions.


Although it may be tempting, never rush the grant writing process. Poor writing or weak construction of ideas can put your application at risk of being rejected.

Ready to get writing? Learn about adult literacy funding opportunities for non-profit organizations.