From Proposal to Funding: A Comprehensive Guide to Grant Writing for Nonprofits

Sheila Kern • Oct 25, 2021
Nonprofit Grant Writing: The Secrets to Securing Funds

Grant writing for nonprofits is the process of applying for funds to support your nonprofit organization’s programs. It involves performing research on potential grant funding sources and opportunities that align with your mission and goals, developing a compelling proposal that convinces them to fund your programs, submitting the proposal for review, and performing follow-up. While there is no one size fits all approach for grant writing for nonprofit organizations, the most common sources of grant funding are community groups, government agencies, corporations, and private foundations.

For most nonprofits, this process can seem daunting and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Understanding the current nonprofit grant writing trends and implementing essential best practices can streamline your grant proposal and writing process and position your nonprofit for success this grant season. 

Learn the Secrets of Grant Seeking Success

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn tips, tricks, and tools to increase your success with grants and keep that funding flowing for years to come. 

Understanding Grant Writing for Nonprofits

What is Grant Writing?

Grant writing is the process of preparing and submitting a proposal to request funding from various sources, such as government agencies, private foundations, corporations, and other philanthropic entities. Nonprofit organizations rely on grant funding to finance their programs, projects, and initiatives that align with their mission and vision.

The Purpose of Grant Writing:

The primary purpose of grant writing is to secure financial resources to support the nonprofit’s activities. Grants can provide vital funding for program development, research, capacity building, infrastructure, community outreach, and more. Grants not only provide financial support but also lend credibility to an organization, validating its cause and attracting other potential funders.

Role of Grant Writing in Nonprofit Organizations:

Grant writing plays a pivotal role in the sustainability and growth of nonprofit organizations. Here are a few key aspects to consider:

Identifying Funding Opportunities:

Successful grant writing begins with identifying appropriate funding opportunities. This involves researching and understanding the priorities, funding criteria, and guidelines of potential grantmakers. By aligning your nonprofit’s mission with the goals of a funding source, you increase your chances of securing financial support.

Building Relationships with Funders:

Grant writing also involves developing relationships with potential funders. Cultivating connections through networking events, attending conferences, and engaging with philanthropic community and talent community can lead to valuable insights, partnerships, and funding opportunities. Building trust and rapport with funders can strengthen your organization’s chances of securing grants in the long run.

Grant Management and Reporting:

Once you secure a grant, proper management and reporting are crucial. Fulfilling the obligations outlined in the grant agreement, providing progress reports, and demonstrating the effective use of funds are essential for maintaining a positive relationship with funders and ensuring future funding opportunities.

Navigating Common Challenges in Grant Writing

By understanding common challenges and implementing effective approaches, you can enhance your chances of securing grants and making a meaningful impact in your community.

Finding the Right Grant Opportunities:

One of the initial hurdles in grant writing is identifying the right grant opportunities for your organization. With countless grants available, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones align with your mission and goals. To overcome this challenge:

  • Conduct thorough research: Explore grant databases, online platforms, and government websites to find grants that fit your organization’s focus areas.
  • Network and collaborate: Engage with other nonprofits, attend conferences, and join professional associations to discover potential grant opportunities through shared experiences and connections.
  • Create a tailored grant calendar: Maintain a calendar with upcoming deadlines, eligibility criteria, and requirements to stay organized and ensure you don’t miss out on valuable opportunities.

Developing a Compelling Proposal:

Crafting a persuasive and compelling nonprofit grant proposal is essential for capturing the attention of funders. However, nonprofits often struggle with clearly conveying their goals, objectives, and impact. To tackle this challenge:

  • Clearly define your project: Clearly articulate your organization’s mission, project objectives, target population, and the specific problem you aim to address.
  • Tell your story: Use compelling narratives, real-life examples, and data to illustrate the importance and impact of your work. Highlight the personal stories of individuals who have benefited from your programs or services.
  • Align with the funder’s priorities: Tailor your proposal to align with the funder’s interests and priorities. Show how your project fits within their funding guidelines and supports their overall mission.

Addressing Budgeting and Financial Management:

The budgeting process can be intricate, particularly when aligning it with the grant requirements and expectations. Nonprofits often face challenges in accurately estimating project costs, managing budgets effectively, and demonstrating financial sustainability. To overcome these hurdles:

  • Be meticulous in budget planning: Conduct a comprehensive assessment of your project’s needs, including personnel, resources, supplies, and indirect costs. Provide clear justifications for each budget item.
  • Develop strong financial systems: Implement robust financial management systems to accurately track expenses, demonstrate transparency, and ensure compliance with grant reporting requirements.
  • Seek expert assistance: Consider involving a financial expert or consultant to assist with budgeting and financial reporting, particularly for complex grants.

Managing Collaboration and Partnerships:

Collaboration and partnerships can enhance the competitiveness of your grant proposal, but they can also present challenges in terms of coordination, communication, and aligning objectives. To navigate these challenges effectively:

  • Identify strategic partners: Seek out organizations or individuals whose missions align with yours and who can contribute complementary resources or expertise.
  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each partner involved in the grant project, ensuring everyone is aware of expectations and timelines.
  • Foster effective communication: Regularly communicate with your partners to maintain alignment, address any issues or challenges, and ensure a coordinated approach.

Ensuring Grant Compliance and Reporting

When it comes to managing grants, compliance and reporting obligations are paramount. As a recipient of grant funding, you have a responsibility to ensure that the funds are used appropriately and in accordance with the grant guidelines. Additionally, timely and accurate reporting is crucial to maintain transparency and accountability. Let’s delve into the importance of grant compliance and reporting obligations and provide you with valuable guidance on establishing effective systems for tracking progress and meeting deadlines.

Importance of Grant Compliance:

Grant compliance serves as the foundation for a successful grant-funded project. It ensures that the funds are utilized for their intended purpose and in accordance with the grant agreement. Here are a few reasons why grant compliance is of utmost importance:

  • Maintaining Integrity: Grant compliance helps maintain the integrity of the funding source, instilling confidence in the grant provider that their funds are being used appropriately. It builds trust between the grantee and the grantor, paving the way for potential future funding opportunities.
  • Legal and Ethical Obligations: Compliance with grant regulations is not just a matter of good practice; it is often a legal and ethical obligation. Failure to comply with grant requirements may lead to financial penalties, legal consequences, and even jeopardize your organization’s reputation.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Compliance ensures transparency and accountability in the use of public or private funds. It allows stakeholders, including grantors, community members, and the public, to have access to accurate and timely information about how the funds are being utilized.

Establishing Effective Systems for Tracking Progress

Tracking progress is crucial for effective grant management. By establishing robust systems, you can monitor and measure your project’s advancement, ensuring compliance and demonstrating the impact of the grant. Here are some steps to establish an effective tracking system:

  • Understand Grant Requirements: Thoroughly review the grant agreement and guidelines to gain a clear understanding of the reporting and compliance obligations. Identify specific deliverables, milestones, and deadlines to guide your progress tracking.
  • Develop a Project Plan: Create a comprehensive project plan that outlines the tasks, timelines, responsible parties, and expected outcomes. Break down larger goals into manageable milestones, making it easier to track and assess progress along the way.
  • Implement Documentation Procedures: Maintain a centralized repository for all project-related documentation, including invoices, receipts, progress reports, and communications with the grantor. Consistent documentation ensures easy access to relevant information when reporting is required.

Meeting Reporting Deadlines

Meeting reporting deadlines is essential for maintaining a positive relationship with the grant provider and ensuring ongoing compliance. To meet these deadlines effectively, consider the following:

  • Establish Internal Deadlines: Set internal deadlines well in advance of the actual reporting due dates. This buffer allows time for any unforeseen issues or delays and helps you stay on track.
  • Maintain Clear Communication: Regularly communicate with your team members and stakeholders involved in the project. Clear and open lines of communication will help ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and can address any challenges promptly.
  • Regularly Review Progress: Continuously monitor your project’s progress against the established milestones and deliverables. Regular reviews will allow you to identify any potential roadblocks and take necessary corrective actions in a timely manner.

You’re one step closer to writing the perfect grant proposal!

Use this FREE Grant Preparation Toolkit to familiarize yourself with grantmakers and get access to a worksheet that can help structure your grant writing process.  

Leveraging Evaluation and Impact Measurement

When it comes to grant writing, securing funding is often contingent on demonstrating the potential impact and measurable outcomes of your proposed project. Evaluation and impact measurement play a pivotal role in this process, providing essential evidence of your project’s effectiveness and demonstrating your organization’s commitment to accountability. By leveraging these strategies effectively, you can enhance your chances of securing grants and driving meaningful change.

Understanding the Role of Evaluation and Impact Measurement:

Evaluation and impact measurement are integral components of grant writing, as they allow funders to assess the effectiveness and sustainability of proposed projects. They provide a systematic way to collect data, measure progress, and determine whether project objectives have been achieved. By incorporating evaluation and impact measurement into your grant proposal, you can showcase your commitment to accountability, demonstrate your project’s potential for success, and increase your credibility as a grant applicant.

Setting Measurable Goals:

To effectively leverage evaluation and impact measurement in grant writing, it is essential to set measurable goals. Clear and specific goals enable you to define the desired outcomes of your project and provide a framework for evaluation. When setting goals, consider using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) criteria to ensure they are well-defined and actionable.


Clearly articulate what you aim to achieve, focusing on specific outcomes rather than vague intentions. For example, instead of stating a goal as “improve educational outcomes,” specify it as “increase the high school graduation rate by 10% within two years.”


Establish concrete indicators that allow you to measure progress and determine whether your goals have been met. These indicators can be quantitative (e.g., number of participants, percentage increase) or qualitative (e.g., improved quality of life, increased satisfaction).


Ensure that your goals are attainable and realistic within the scope of your project’s resources and timeframe. Setting unrealistic goals can undermine the credibility of your proposal.


Align your goals with the overall mission and objectives of your organization, as well as the specific funding opportunity. Emphasize how achieving these goals will contribute to the funder’s priorities and address the identified needs.


Set clear deadlines or milestones to track progress and provide a timeline for evaluation. Establishing specific timeframes creates accountability and demonstrates your project’s potential for timely impact.

Showcasing Outcomes:

Effectively showcasing outcomes is crucial for demonstrating the impact of your project and increasing your chances of securing grants. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Data Collection and Analysis: Develop a comprehensive plan for collecting relevant data throughout your project’s lifecycle. Use both quantitative and qualitative methods to capture a holistic view of the outcomes. Analyze the data to identify trends, measure progress, and determine the success of your project.
  • Narrative Storytelling: Supplement your data with compelling narratives that illustrate the real-world impact of your project. Share success stories, testimonials from beneficiaries, and anecdotes that highlight the transformative power of your work. This humanizes your project and helps funders connect emotionally with your cause.
  • Visual Representation: Utilize visual aids such as charts, graphs, and infographics to present data in a visually appealing and easily digestible format. Visual representations can effectively convey complex information and make a stronger impression on funders.
  • Comparative Analysis: Provide benchmarks or comparisons with similar projects or interventions to demonstrate the uniqueness and effectiveness of your approach. Highlight how your project outperforms existing initiatives or fills a gap in service provision.

Utilizing Keela for Streamlined Grant Writing

Grant writing plays a pivotal role in securing funding for nonprofits, but it can be time-consuming and complex. Fortunately, Keela offers a comprehensive solution that streamlines the process, improves efficiency, and maximizes your chances of success.

Fundraising Software:

Keela’s integrated fundraising software simplifies donor data management, enabling you to track and nurture relationships efficiently. By leveraging this feature, you can identify and target potential donors who align with your organization’s mission and funding criteria. Keela provides customizable donor profiles, donation tracking, and analytics, offering valuable insights for strategic grant writing. Centralized access to donor information empowers you to tailor your proposals and create compelling narratives that resonate with funders.

Communication and Email Marketing:

Keela’s email marketing capabilities are a powerful tool for engaging potential funders and stakeholders. With pre-designed email templates and automation features, you can streamline your outreach efforts and maintain consistent, professional communication. Craft personalized email campaigns, update donors on project progress, and share success stories that demonstrate your impact. Keela’s email marketing functionality allows you to segment your contact lists, ensuring targeted messages that enhance your grant proposals.

Donor Journeys and Automation:

Keela’s automation tools simplify repetitive tasks, freeing up time and energy for strategic activities. From automated follow-ups and reminders to task management and deadline tracking, Keela ensures nothing falls through the cracks. By automating routine processes, you can focus on crafting compelling narratives, conducting research, and addressing grant application requirements.

Grant Writing Trends for Nonprofits

Grant writing is an essential skill for nonprofit organizations seeking funding to support their mission and initiatives. In today’s ever-changing landscape, it is crucial for nonprofits to stay updated on the latest grant writing trends to maximize their chances of success. Here are six key trends to consider when crafting your best grant proposals:

1. Shifting Funding Priorities: Examining the Changing Landscape of Grant Opportunities

The pandemic has brought about significant shifts in funding priorities. Granting organizations are increasingly focusing on supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their funding decisions. They are seeking to promote transparency, provide easily accessible information, and simplify application or grant request forms. As a nonprofit, it’s important to understand these changes and ensure that your application aligns with the evolving priorities of grantors.

2. Embracing Technological Advancements: Leveraging Digital Tools and Platforms

In today’s digital age, nonprofits have access to a wide range of technological tools and platforms that can enhance their grant writing efforts. From online grant databases to project management software, these digital solutions can streamline the application process, improve collaboration among team members, and enhance reporting capabilities. Embracing these technological advancements can help nonprofits stay competitive and increase their chances of securing grants..

3. Focus on Collaboration: Harnessing the Power of Partnerships and Collective Impact

Addressing large-scale social challenges often requires collaboration and collective action. Grantors are increasingly interested in funding projects that involve partnerships between multiple nonprofit organizations. Instead of viewing similar organizations as competitors, nonprofits should explore opportunities for collaboration, pooling resources and expertise to solve complex problems. Highlighting partnerships and demonstrating a collective impact in your grant proposals can make them more compelling to funders.

4. Data-Driven Grant Writing: Incorporating Evidence and Impact Metrics

Grantors are placing greater emphasis on data and evidence-based practices. Nonprofits should focus on collecting and presenting relevant data that demonstrates the impact of their programs and initiatives. This includes outcome measurements, success stories, and other evidence of effectiveness. By incorporating data-driven elements into your grant proposals, you can provide funders with a clear understanding of the results your organization can achieve and the value of their investment.

5. Grantor Expectations: Understanding the Evolving Requirements and Application Processes

Grantors are continuously evolving their requirements and application processes. It is crucial for nonprofits to stay updated on these changes and tailor their proposals accordingly. This includes understanding the specific goals and priorities of each grantor, as well as any new reporting or evaluation requirements. Taking the time to research and understand the expectations of each grantor will greatly increase your chances of success.

6. Grantors are Donors Too

Treating grantors as valued partners and donors can significantly impact your grant writing success. Just like individual donors, grantors have specific funding interests and preferences. Take the time to get to know your potential funders, reach out to them to discuss your project, and explore potential alignment between your organization’s mission and their funding priorities. Building relationships with grantors can lead to more targeted and successful grant proposals.

By keeping these grant writing trends in mind, nonprofits can enhance their grant-seeking efforts and increase their chances of securing funding to advance their mission and make a positive impact in their communities. Stay informed, adapt your strategies, and always strive for strong partnerships and measurable impact.

See how Keela can help you access all the reports you need for your grant application.

Essential Tips for Successful Grant Writing

Grant writing is a crucial skill for a nonprofit organization looking to secure funding for their programs and projects. A well-crafted grant proposal can make all the difference in attracting the attention and support of grantors and funders. Here are some essential tips to enhance your grant writing process and increase your chances of success:

1. Conducting Effective Grant Research:

Identifying Suitable Opportunities Before diving into grant writing, it’s essential to conduct thorough research to identify suitable grant opportunities for your organization. Utilize funding databases, both online and offline, to explore various family, corporate, federal government, and other grant sources. Create a calendar to track deadlines and set realistic targets for funding amounts. Remember that larger grants often have longer review processes, so plan accordingly.

2. Crafting a Compelling Grant Proposal:

Key Components and Writing Strategies A compelling grant proposal should clearly convey your organization’s mission, goals, and the specific project or program you seek funding for. Consider the following key components when crafting your proposal:

  • Executive Summary: Provide a concise overview of your organization and the project, highlighting its significance and impact.
  • Statement of Need: Clearly articulate the problem your organization aims to address and explain why it is important to solve it.
  • Goals and Objectives: Define the specific goals and measurable objectives of your project, demonstrating how they align with the funder’s priorities.
  • Program Description: Describe your project in detail, including its activities, timeline, and expected outcomes.
  • Organizational Capacity: Highlight your nonprofit’s strengths, experience, and track record in delivering successful programs.
  • Evaluation Plan: Outline how you will measure and evaluate the success of your project, including data collection methods and indicators.
  • Sustainability and Budget: Discuss your organization’s plan to sustain the project beyond the grant period and provide a realistic and comprehensive budget.

Ensure that your proposal is clear, concise, and compelling, using simple and jargon-free language. Follow the grant application guidelines provided by funders and tailor your proposal to resonate with their mission and goals.

3. Demonstrating Organizational Capacity:

Highlighting Nonprofit Strengths and Track Record Grantors are interested in funding organizations that have the capacity to successfully implement and manage projects. Clearly demonstrate your nonprofit’s strengths, experience, expertise, and track record in delivering impactful programs. Highlight any relevant partnerships, collaborations, or achievements that showcase your organization’s credibility and ability to achieve the desired outcomes.

4. Building Strong Relationships:

Nurturing Connections with Grantors and Funders Building relationships with grantors and funders is crucial for successful grant writing. Whenever possible, reach out to the grantor to discuss your organization’s program and inquire about the fit with their funding priorities. Building a rapport with funders can increase the likelihood of your proposal being considered and may provide valuable insights for future grant opportunities. Maintain open communication, express gratitude for their support, and provide updates on the progress and impact of funded projects.

5. Effective Budget Planning:

Developing Realistic and Comprehensive Budgets A well-planned and realistic budget is an integral part of any grant proposal. Develop a comprehensive budget that aligns with your project’s activities, timelines, and anticipated outcomes. Ensure that all expenses and revenue sources are clearly outlined and justified. Pay attention to any specific budget requirements outlined by the grantor and ensure accuracy and consistency throughout the proposal.

6. Reviewing and Editing:

Ensuring Clarity, Coherence, and Error-Free Proposals Before submitting your grant proposal, review it thoroughly to ensure clarity, coherence, and error-free writing. Check for spelling and grammatical errors, mismatched dates, and missing information. Engage your grant and fundraising strategy team or other colleagues to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. A well-polished proposal enhances your professionalism and increases your chances of success.


Successful grant writing for nonprofits requires continuous learning, adaptation to trends, and leveraging technology and resources. Key points include understanding grant writing, finding opportunities, developing compelling proposals, addressing budgeting and collaboration, ensuring compliance, measuring significant impact, and staying informed about trends. By following these guidelines, you can position your nonprofit for grant-seeking success and make a positive impact in your community.

To learn more about grant writing tips and strategies, contact Sheila Kern at Purposefully. 

About the author:

Sheila Kern, Principal Consultant, Purposefully

Sheila Kern is a results-driven leader who’s dedicated her career to supporting social purpose and charitable organizations to achieve impact in their communities. As principal consultant at Purposefully in Vancouver, Sheila offers experience in leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, governance, and grant writing.