The five basic steps of the grant writing process

Many new nonprofits (and established nonprofits that have never written grants) are confused about what grant writing actually entails. And that’s perfectly acceptable given that they’re new to the process.


As professional grant writers, our job involves leading our nonprofit clients through this process and ensuring the long-term success of the grant program. Here’s a very basic look at the steps involved in grant writing, from the perspective of a freelance grant writer and her client.


  1. Grant prospect research: This is generally the first step, unless your organization can provide me with pre-determined grant opportunities. Otherwise, we’ll spend a few hours searching through the fee-based databases to which we subscribe. We’ll produce a list of great prospects for your organization.
  2. First contact: If a foundation publishes their phone number or email address, we’ll contact them to make sure your nonprofit is a good fit and to clarify any questions we have. Some foundations specifically say, “Don’t contact us,” so of course we’ll honor that request when necessary.
  3. Research and discussion: This is the bulk of the work of a grant writer. We’ll interview the key people involved in the project. We’ll ask lots of questions to gain a full understanding of the project, and we’ll do some research about the problem(s) the project solves.
  4. Write and submit: Once we have all the details, we’ll put together the application material the foundation requests. This may be a short letter, an online application, a five-page narrative, etc. It’s important that our client reads over this product when we’re finished, makes any changes, and approves it before submission.
  5. Follow up: This step may involve following up with a foundation after a rejection, providing the foundation with more information, or writing a grant report after money is awarded. We’ll discuss with our clients how to best handle these tasks when they arise.


Interested in learning more about our grant writing services? Contact us.

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