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Grant Writer

What They Do

Insider Info

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 successful."

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 this job.

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 hard."

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."

At a Glance

Come up with a convincing proposal

  • The National Grant Writers Association has certified over 1,000 grant writers in the U.S.
  • You have to know how to make your proposal stand out
  • There's no set educational path, but you obviously have to be a good writer


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.