Grant Writing Best Practices for the Win

Winning grant awards takes planning, grant-savvy, and maybe just a little luck. In recent years, Pennoni has helped clients secure more than $275 million in infrastructure funding by doing the heavy lift of grant research, preparation, and application for projects across sectors and from a variety of funding agencies.

Our technical team paired with in-house, nationally certified grant experts uses a toolkit of processes, checklists, and proprietary GIS and data applications along with “best practices” that guide our success.

If you’re considering applying for a grant or are looking for ways to improve your success rate, consider the key principles below.


Six Attributes of a Highly Competitive Grant Application

1. Follow Instructions Exactly

Don’t skip questions or reuse language from previous proposals without customizing it to the current application. Strictly adhere to font size and margin requirements. If the funding notice directs that a narrative should follow the outline provided, don’t deviate. It could cost you evaluation points even if the content presents an excellent case for funding.

2. Respond Directly to Writing Prompts

Carefully read the instructions for narrative sections. Use subheadings to highlight responses that speak to required talking points. Also, make yourself a checklist of evaluation criteria and make sure you touch on each point in your narrative.

3. Conduct Background Research

Read additional guidance provided by the funding agency to identify important touchpoints. Develop a theme or storyline that marries your project to the funding agency’s goals and priorities and weave your theme throughout the application content. Find additional details supporting your need statement by researching news articles, historical accounts, and information about activities surrounding your project.

4. Connect the Dots

Make clear connections between your project and its public benefit. Remember, you are not requesting funds for your physical project so much as seeking money to address a social problem that the funding agency is trying to solve.

5. Give Yourself Enough Time, Your Project Deserves It

The wisdom of this advice (originally from a grant program officer at a state agency) can’t be overstated. Quickly compiling a superficial application not only wastes resources but is a disservice to the intent of the project. You also want to avoid a reputation for less-than-adequate work that doesn’t reflect your true capabilities.

6. Engage a Professional

When time and resources are at a premium, Pennoni’s grant services can help. We have the resources to identify the most appropriate sources of funding and to develop a thorough, competitive application to the agency that is the best match for your project. From a robust opportunity research process to a Go/No-Go weighted analysis tool, with multiple checklists for application requirements and deliverables, Pennoni has the capacity to help your community pursue the funding you deserve.

Reach out to your Pennoni contact or our Grant Writer & Funding Solutions Manager Elaine Finn, GPC, to discuss your next project!


Click here to download our Go/No-Go for funding opportunities!




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