Grant writers research and write proposals to squeeze funding from government
coffers and private foundations. They are either self-employed and run their
own writing services or they work for nonprofit organizations and public institutions
(schools and universities) as their resident fund-raisers.
Grant writing involves tracking down available grants, making sure the
grant-seeker meets the requirements and proving that to the potential sponsor
through a compelling proposal.
"You're really building a case on paper for a particular social problem
and the need for a solution through funding," says Katherine Kubarski. She
runs a writing service in Los Angeles.
"This is a discipline, this grant writing and fund-raising business," says
Richard Thill. He is the owner and manager of a grant writing service in Omaha,
Nebraska. "It's a discipline which hinges on your ability to communicate very
complex material in simple, brief ways."
A grant writer has to make their client stand out as more and more proposals
are going after the same grants. Grant writers have their work cut out for
them in a highly competitive scene.
"You have to convince a group of strangers that you are a better investment
than the competition," says Thill.
"You do this by clearly answering a basic set of questions for your would-be
sponsors. You have to tell them what your objectives are, what it would cost,
how long it will take, how long you would require their funding and what kind
of methodology you would use. You have to identify the people involved in
the project and indicate their level of commitment and competence.
"You have to explain how this is the best investment by proving it in writing.
You have to say what's in it for them. Whatever you say, you must state it
in a way that allows both experts and those with limited knowledge on the
topic to understand it enough to support it."
As more and more organizations wise up to the availability of grants, the
grant writing phenomenon is spreading among nonprofit groups and schools.
Colleen Miron is the grant writer for the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.
She says writers have to be keen and creative to rise above the flood of proposals
landing on the desks of grant givers.
"People are realizing that there are funds out there. Definitely in education,
there's a lot of money out there that people don't know about," says Miron.
"So you have to be innovative and you have to come up with the ideas to
get support for your programs. We apply pretty much everywhere -- federal
funds, [the] department of education, state-level funds, national and local
foundations, just about anywhere we can think of. So far, we've been pretty
Grant writers can most often be found hard at work at their desks. Because
so much of the job involves researching and writing, very little travel is
required beyond meetings with clients. Grant writing has no special physical
requirements. People with physical disabilities should have no problem doing
Hours are typically 9 to 5, but can go longer as deadlines loom. "It's
deadline-driven work, so there may be a crazy couple of days when you're trying
to get things out the door," says Miron.
"But for the most part, especially if you're good at planning, you get
away with normal work hours. You don't want to have it build up where you
have five things due the same week."
Self-employed grant writers have to be especially disciplined. "I set my
own hours according to my deadlines," says Kubarski. "Sometimes I can put
in a 60-hour workweek."
"I work at home and set my own hours," says consultant and part-time grant
writer Peter Trotscha. "In fact, sometimes I exploit myself! I work pretty
Miron says time management is crucial to every grant writer. "You have
to watch it, because either you'll have nothing to do for a couple months
or you'll suddenly have so much to do that it's all due at the same time and
you can't do a good job.
"You definitely need to be self-motivated in order to stay on schedule.
It's a lot of independent work with the writing and research. You want to
keep hammering at it and edit it. You have to keep telling yourself that you
can always improve your work. You have to motivate yourself."