What is a grant writer?
A grant writer is a key player in a non-profit or educational entity, business, or other organization seeking financial support. They craft application proposals that convince granting institutions to provide funding. These proposals typically include an explanation of how the funds will be used and an outline showing how the program or research project aligns with the mission and values of the granting institution and the organization seeking funding. Many organizations’ financial success and sustainability often hinge on the ability to secure grants, making this position highly valuable.
Although part of the larger team in an organization, they often operate somewhat independently. This position typically allows for creativity in how the proposed program or project is presented. While their ultimate goal is to secure funding, they also bridge the gap between the organization and the funding agency, explaining the benefits of the project or program in a way that aligns with the funding agency’s goals and philosophy.
Duties and responsibilities
The primary duty of a grant writer is to develop and write grant proposals to foundations and other grant-making organizations. These professionals conduct a full range of activities required to prepare, submit, and manage grant proposals. They must follow strict application guidelines and meet tight deadlines. Documentation is a significant part of the job, including tracking and providing progress reports to funding agencies when required.
On the research side, writers identify potential grant funding opportunities by continuously exploring and evaluating existing and new funding sources. They must also foster relationships with potential funders, maintain existing ones, and manage a calendar of submissions and other deadlines.
The work environment of a grant writer can vary greatly depending on the organization’s nature. Generally, they will spend most of their time in an office setting. Due to the nature of their work, which involves much writing, researching, and data analysis, they usually work on a computer for extended periods. It’s not uncommon for them to have a private office or workspace, ensuring they can concentrate on their tasks without frequent interruptions.
While the job requires a high degree of focus, it is full of interaction. These writers often work with a team to gather proposal information and maintain communication with their organization and potential funders.
Typical work hours
Grant writers typically work during regular business hours (9 to 5 from Monday to Friday). Still, the job can involve overtime, especially during periods of heavy grant activity or when significant deadlines are approaching. Additionally, some writers may need to work flexible hours to accommodate meetings with potential donors or other activities necessary for securing grant funding.
In some cases, grant writing may be a part-time gig or freelance role, allowing for more flexibility regarding hours worked. However, deadlines are a significant aspect of the job, so time management is a critical skill, regardless of how flexible the schedule may appear.
How to become a grant writer
This career guide section outlines the steps to become a grant writer, emphasizing the importance of strong research and writing skills and relevant experience.
Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree
Begin your career journey by obtaining a bachelor’s degree. While most employers don’t specify a particular field of study, degrees in English, communications, or marketing can be beneficial because of their heavy emphasis on writing, research, and project management. If possible, incorporate grant writing or technical writing courses into your curriculum.
Step 2: Seek internships or entry-level positions
After gaining an academic foundation, aim for real-world experience. An internship or an entry-level position in a non-profit organization or an institution that frequently deals with grants can provide hands-on learning. Look for roles that allow you to assist in the grant writing process.
Step 3: Build strong written communication skills
Strong written communication skills are paramount in grant writing. Develop this skill by addressing complex information and presenting it in a concise, clear manner. Practice by drafting persuasive letters, writing compelling stories, and transforming technical jargon into understandable concepts.
Step 4: Gain knowledge on the grant seeking process
Understanding the full landscape of seeking grants, including research, proposal writing, and fund management, is essential for this role. Seek training and workshops focusing on these areas or join a professional organization to keep updated with industry trends.
Step 5: Create a portfolio
A collection of your best works can display your writing abilities and grant-related successes. Include letters of inquiry, proposals, and reports you’ve created or significantly contributed to. This can serve as a powerful display of your skills to potential employers.
Step 6: Consider certification
While not a requirement, certification can help raise your professional standing. The Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) offers certification for this profession. You must meet certain education and experience requirements and pass an examination to qualify.
Step 7: Apply for jobs
With your degree, experience, skills, and possibly certification, you’re prepared to apply for grant writer positions. Persist in your job search, tailor your resume and cover letter for each application, and use your portfolio to showcase your abilities during interviews.
How much do grant writers make?
Grant writer salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Relevant grant writing experience, a portfolio of successful grant awards, and professional certifications are unique factors impacting their compensation.
Highest paying industries
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services – $79,120
- Social Advocacy Organizations – $74,670
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – $72,830
- Management of Companies and Enterprises – $71,980
- Grant-Making and Giving Services – $70,730
Highest paying states
- California – $74,830
- New York – $72,220
- Maryland – $70,560
- Connecticut – $69,930
- New Jersey – $69,620
Types of grant writers
Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for grant writers.
Non-profit grant writer
As a non-profit grant writer, you’ll work closely with non-profit organizations to secure funding. Understanding the organization’s mission and programs is important to establishing a concise and compelling case for funding support. Demand for these professionals is particularly high, as non-profit organizations rely heavily on external funding to operate effectively. Communication, research, and persuasive writing skills are essential in this work.
Freelance grant writers
Grant writing can also be done on a freelance basis, providing ample flexibility and control over one’s workload. As a freelance grant writer, you may work with many clients from various fields, staying busy by diversifying your client base. High adaptability and a strong understanding of different fields are necessary for success.
Corporate grant writer
Corporations often seek grants to fund innovative projects, create social impact, or advance industry-related research and development. As a corporate grant writer, you’ll cultivate narratives that detail why a corporation should receive a particular grant. This role requires a sharp focus on business strategy and possesses a blend of creativity and analytical thinking.
Healthcare grant writer
Grant writers within this domain focus on securing funds for health-related programs or research from both government and private sector sources. They are instrumental in moving medical research and healthcare initiatives forward. These professionals require an understanding of the healthcare ecosystem and the ability to grasp complex medical terminologies.
Educational grant writer
These individuals focus on harnessing grant resources to enhance educational systems, processes, and initiatives. As an educational grant writer, you’ll play a role in influencing education quality and accessibility, which can vary from acquiring funds to upgrading infrastructure or implementing new educational programs. Familiarity with the education sector and policies, persuasive writing, and a detail-oriented approach are integral for success.
Top skills for grant writers
This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a grant writer. Grant writing is a distinct specialty within the professional writing sector, requiring a combination of persuasive writing talent, deep knowledge of the funding process, and the ability to understand and articulate complex concepts.
An effective grant writer has excellent research abilities. They can identify and evaluate potential funding sources, understand the needs and requirements of grant-making organizations, and access relevant data to support their proposals.
Being able to communicate effectively is a key trait. This involves articulating ideas and needs clearly in written form, as well as explaining concepts to others in a way that is both engaging and understandable.
These writers often work on tight deadlines and must manage their time efficiently. Balancing different projects and sticking to a solid work schedule is a crucial part of the job.
The ability to think critically to identify potential problems and develop solutions on the go is another important talent. When things don’t go to plan, successful writers are quick to adapt and innovate.
Attention to detail
Meticulousness is an essential trait in this field. A minor error in a grant proposal can lead to it being rejected. Therefore, an eye for detail is vital to ensure all information is accurate and all guidelines are meticulously followed.
Grant writer career path options
If you’re a grant writer, your career path will no doubt be filled with versatile opportunities and advancement potential. Your position is imperative in securing funding for non-profits or organizations, and the skills you acquire will present numerous chances for career progression.
Senior grant writer or team lead
After gaining substantial experience, you may move up to a senior writer or team lead role. In these positions, you’d be responsible for managing a team of grant writers, directing strategy, and providing mentorship to junior team members.
This role allows you to take on more of a managerial aspect, overseeing the entire grants process from application development to reporting. As the grants manager, you’ll utilize your expertise in fund sourcing to ensure the financial well-being of your organization.
Director of development
As your experience grows, you may take on a directorial role. As a director of development, you will not only oversee grant writing but also the wider fundraising activities and donation initiatives of an organization, making high-level strategic decisions.
Down the line, you may even aim for the executive director role. Embarking on this path, mastering organizational management and leadership should be your main focus. As an executive director, you’d guide the entire organization toward its mission, showing top-tier directing and decision-making skills.
Branching into freelancing or consulting
After gathering substantial experience in grantsmanship, you might decide to freelance or consult. As an independent grant writer or consultant, you’ll have the freedom to offer your expertise to a variety of clients, thus expanding your portfolio and reaching even greater heights in your career.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook for grant writers
In recent years, the grant writing profession has experienced significant shifts. Technology and digitalization are two of the primary drivers of this change. These days, many grant writers are utilizing grant management software solutions designed to streamline the process of searching for grants, writing proposals, and managing granted funds. Technological capabilities that allow for improved data collection and analysis also allow these professionals to create data-driven grant proposals that may be more attractive to funders.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t provide specific projections for grant writers, it does offer information for the broader career category referred to as “writers and authors.” According to the BLS, employment for writers and authors is projected to grow 4% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Organizations seeking funding will continue to create jobs for these professionals.
Grant writer career tips
Master the art of storytelling
Storytelling holds paramount importance in grant writing. It allows the reviewer to connect with your organization’s mission and the people you serve. Learn how to craft compelling narratives that underpin the need for your project. Stories should be rich in specifics, painting a vivid and captivating picture of your proposed initiatives. While statistics add credibility to your claims, stories that echo your facts help to bring them to life.
Understand the grant application process
Each funding agency has its own specific grant application process. Unfamiliarity can lead to missed deadlines or misinterpreted instructions, which could result in your application being rejected. It’s essential to take time at the start to familiarize yourself with the process and plan accordingly. This includes understanding the criteria and guidelines that funders use to evaluate applications.
Build a professional network
Networking is a cornerstone of success in any field, and grant writing is no exception. Building relationships with people in the field can present you with opportunities to learn from their experiences and even collaborate on projects.
- American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA)
- National Grant Management Association (NGMA)
- Grant Professionals Association (GPA)
Commit to continuous learning
Grant writing is a field that evolves continually with changes in policies, funding priorities, and techniques. A commitment to lifelong learning will ensure you stay updated in your field. Furthering your education can also improve career opportunities due to enhanced knowledge and skills.
- Courses from AGWA, GPA, and other reputable organizations
- Webinars and podcasts on grant writing strategies and trends
- Seminars or conferences on non-profit economics and management
Obtain relevant certifications
Though not mandatory, having a professional certification validates your knowledge and can give you a competitive edge. The Certified Grant Writer® is a popular choice for professionals in this field.
Where the grant writer jobs are
- New York
Top job sites
What skills best complement the grant writer profession?
Understanding project management principles, a strong command of written language, the ability to conduct research, and an understanding of the non-profit sector are vital skills. Proficiency in proofreading, editing, and persuasive writing also contributes to success in this field.
Is a particular educational background required for grant writers?
A bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, communications, or a related field is often required. Additionally, knowledge gained from business administration, non-profit management, and marketing courses can be beneficial in this job. The precise educational requirements may vary with each employer.
What role does a grant writer play in non-profit organizations?
In non-profit organizations, individuals in this role are responsible for securing funding by writing comprehensive, compelling proposals to grant-making organizations. They play a key part in enabling these organizations to deliver their services by securing the necessary funds.
How does a grant writer contribute to a company’s success?
They play a major role in a company’s success by securing necessary project funds. Their persuasive writing secures financial support from government entities, foundations, and other sources. Their role is especially critical in the non-profit sector, where many organizations rely heavily on external funding.
What challenges might a grant writer face?
Some challenges might include writing highly specialized and persuasive proposals under tight deadlines or securing funding in a climate where competition is fierce and funds are increasingly limited. Dealing with rejection and viewing it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure is also a common challenge.
What are the benefits of being a grant writer?
The job can bring a sense of achievement and satisfaction as the efforts often directly impact the company’s ability to undertake new projects or continue existing programs. It’s a challenging role that can provide meaningful, tangible results and significant contributions to the organization’s success.
What is a typical day like for a grant writer?
A typical day may include researching funding opportunities, working on grant proposals, meeting with project leaders for input, revising drafts based on feedback, or submitting final proposals. Time also needs to be allocated for follow-up correspondence and maintaining relationships with grant-giving organizations.
What are some commonly used tools and resources for grant writers?
Research tools, such as databases of government and private grants, are commonly used in identifying funding opportunities. Microsoft Word or similar processing software is typically used for drafting proposals, as well as software to track the status and success of submitted proposals. Internet resources, professional networks, and conferences are also useful resources.
Can one specialize as a grant writer within a particular field?
Yes, they often specialize in a particular sector, such as education, healthcare, science, arts, or social services, because the funding structure, terminology, and needs vary greatly between sectors. Specialization can also make them more marketable to employers within that sector.
What are some common misconceptions about grant writers?
It’s often believed that grant writing is simply about drafting a proposal, but the process is quite complex and includes research, collaboration with staff, revisions, submissions, and follow-ups. Another common misconception is that securing a grant relies solely on the quality of the proposal, while in reality, it often depends on the funding organization’s interests, budget, and priorities.