Successful Grantwriting: Five Tips from a Corporate Funder

by Amy Strecker

This month's guest blogger, Amy Strecker, works for the Duke Energy Foundation leading the company’s grantmaking in North Carolina. She also teaches Professional Communications for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Master of Public Administration Program. Amy lives in Raleigh, N.C. and you can find her on Twitter @DE_AmyS

As a professional grantmaker, I read hundreds of grant applications each year, ranging dramatically in their requests. Well-written grant applications stand out from the masses when they focus on meeting the objectives of our grant cycle in a direct, well-developed way. Below are five tips for writing competitive grants.

  1. Make word count work for you. When grant applications have word count limitations, make sure you’re using the space to explain your program. For example, don’t spend valuable real estate selling me on the value of K-12 STEM education – K-12 STEM education is one of the Duke Energy Foundation’s giving priorities. We believe in its value.
  2. Engage in advance. If the grantmaker is available, schedule time to speak with him or her well in advance of the application deadline. The grantmaker can provide valuable insight about what programs are a best-fit for the grantmaking organization. The larger a grant ask, the easier it is to decline in a limited funding environment: so, heed advice about what dollar figure your donor might have capacity to grant.
  3. Deepen partnerships. Are there opportunities for employees to engage with the grant program? Do you have interesting ideas for generating publicity about this good work?  As a corporate grantmaker, I value opportunities to involve employees in our charitable work and share the good news about investments in the communities we serve.
  4. Clear, concise, unambiguous writing is always in style. Spend time editing your application for clarity and consider asking someone unfamiliar with your organization to review your proposal – what does he or she not fully understand? Focus on avoiding jargon and conveying specific meaning in language that is easily understood.
  5. Don’t force fit. There are many wonderful, worthy programs that don’t meet a grantmaker’s giving priorities or funding guidelines. If you know you’re not a fit after reviewing the materials, or meeting with a grantmaker, don’t waste your time submitting an application. Time is money in the nonprofit world: be a good steward of yours

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