What You Need to Know When Writing a Grant Expert Interview

Mary Gormandy White
Grant Writing Expert Dr. Bob Zeanah

Are you wondering what you need to know when writing a grant? Dr. Bob Zeanah, professional grant writer and trainer, shares his expertise about this subject with LoveToKnow Charity readers in this excusive expert interview.

Find Out What You Need to Know When Writing a Grant

What is the process involved with applying for grant funding?

The first step for an organization in the process is for an organization to determine its needs. As obvious as that sounds, many organizations skip this step and move straight to "we want money." After determining needs of the organization and the needs of its clients, the organization begins a search for funding sources with the purpose of linking the mission and goals of the organization to the mission and goals of a funding source. The second step involves developing the budget. An organization's funding needs require time to develop properly and to document properly. In my workshops, I recommend that organizations spend as much time on the budget as with any other facet of grant writing. Get it right.

Third step is finding funders for the organization or project. The Foundation Center and Grants.gov, and the offices of your state and federal congressional representatives and senators are great resources for identifying funding opportunities.Once you have a funding program in mind, you'll need to draft the grant application, get feedback from those in your organization, and perfect the application.

What types of information should grant applicants be prepared to provide when completing applications?

Know your organization. When conducting grant writing workshops for beginners I make a statement that usually results in slack jawed, "Well duh!" responses. Know your organization. Know the mission, goals, objectives, clients, volunteers, staff, board, history, finances. Anything about your organization could be requested and anything that is not well known, fully explained or understood, will be readily apparent.

What steps should be followed when writing grant applications?

Begin by reading the guidelines. I must admit, I had a temptation to stop after the first sentence as a means of emphasizing the importance of reading the guidelines. This cannot be emphasized enough. Read the guidelines.

After you have researched your organization and how your organization fits the mission and goals of a funder, make of list of all tasks that must be accomplished. Many times, work by other individuals must be accomplished. Recently, I was asked to write a grant for a governmental entity. When I looked at the application, I knew immediately that I could not accomplish the grant application in the time given as the requirements involved. Four other governmental entities needed to be involved as inspectors, writing letters of support, and collaborating with the project. Knowing that information in a timely manner was vital to the writing of the grant application. After you make a list of everything that needs to be accomplished, assign tasks.

When you have taken care of the planning process, next you'll want to create a draft. I find that I need to make several drafts in order to ensure that everything goes into the grant application that is needed and that the grant application is written well.

Words of Wisdom for Grant Applicants

What is the most common mistake that people make when applying for grant funding?

Not linking your organization's mission and goals to the mission and goals of the funder. Simply follow the "will fund" list and the "do not fund" list is a good start in ensuring that you are linking your work with the funder's desires.

What advice do you have for grant writers who want to make their applications stand out from others?

In the medical field, the Hippocratic Oath states simply, "first, do no harm." That is good advice. First, do no harm by doing the corollary of this question. Do not stand out by failing to follow instructions. Do exactly as instructed for the number of pages, font type and size, margins, fastening, deadlines.

Write well. Make no mistakes. Research indicates that, as a minimum, to catch all mistakes you need at least seven people to review your work. Yes, that sounds excessive and unnecessary. Try it. You will discover that people are finding ways to say things better than you would have thought and will find mistakes that you and others passed over. Use seven proofers or reviewers.

Mark Twain prefaced a letter to a friend by writing, "I apologize for the long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one." There is a wealth of writing wisdom in that apology. Write simply. Simple is better than ornate in grant applications.

Use verbs. To again quote Mark Twain, he wrote, "the adjective is the enemy of the noun." Beginning grant writers have a tendency to load up grant applications with all kinds of dire sounding adjectives or adjectives describing the greatness of the organization. Instead, use verbs. I attended a workshop on grant writing in which that person worked for a funding foundation. Her advice was to use the word "use" a lot. That makes sense. Say, "clients use," "Staff members use," and "volunteers use". That will let funders see what you will do with the money.


LoveToKnow would like to thank Dr. Bob Zeanah from taking time from his busy schedule to share information about what you need to know when writing a grant with readers. Dr. Zeanah teaches grant writing workshops for and provides grant writing and consulting services for many types of nonprofit organizations. For more information about Dr. Zeanah's work, see BobZenah.com.

What You Need to Know When Writing a Grant Expert Interview