Grant Writer Job Description
Grant writers help nonprofit entities such as charities, think tanks, and schools obtain funding to sustain their missions. They are a key part of the “marketing” team for their organization. Through written proposals and other forms of communication, grant writers promote the organization and its causes, persuading donors to provide much-needed financial support. This occupation may be on-site or remote. A grant writer may work in-house for one organization or as a self-employed contractor with compensation on a per-hour or per-project basis. Self-employed grant writers have more volatile incomes than those who are employed by an organization; however, such writers often cite variety and greater control over their workload as significant positives of this arrangement.
Grant Writer Duties and Responsibilities
While the scope of a grant writer’s responsibilities might vary from one organization or client to another, certain elements of their job remain the same:
Identify Funding Sources
Grant writers help their organization obtain funding through a myriad of sources. Before pursuing funding, they must identify sources with shared interests and values that are likely to provide financial support. These can be corporate foundations, government programs, other nonprofits, or individual donors. Grant writers look at previous successful grants by a source, speak to officials, and conduct other research.
In many organizations, grant writers play a major role in donor relations and have significant interaction with donor officials before, during, and after the grant process. This may include cultivating ongoing relationships in general or providing more specific information to the donor about how their money is being used.
Write and Submit Proposals
A grant writer’s main role is to develop proposals to obtain funds from donors. The grant writer carefully designs each proposal not only to meet the donor’s formal requirements, but also to demonstrate in both qualitative and quantitative terms why their client is best suited to achieve the donor’s goals.
Grant Writer Skills and Qualifications
As communications professionals, grant writers rely heavily on language-related and interpersonal skills to carry out their work:
- Research skills – before creating proposals, grant writers spend considerable time developing an understanding of the donor and recipient organization. Checking the right sources and talking to the right people provides key intelligence on how to compete for funds
- Persuasion – a grant writer presents a compelling case for their client or employer and gives the donor a reason to award scarce funds
- Organization skills – grant writers must stay highly cognizant of donor requirements. Vigilance is especially key when applying for government funds, as their application process often involves significantly more paperwork
- Time management – since most proposals need to be submitted by a strict deadline, grant writers must pace themselves and create the best proposal they can under the specified time constraint
- Relationship building – for the best long-term results, grant writers connect with representatives of funding sources and develop a strong understanding of how their organizations can work together
- Business management – self-employed grant writers must dedicate time to finding client organizations and marketing their services
Grant Writer Education and Training
Most entry-level grant-writing positions require a four-year degree. No particular field of study is required to become a grant writer. However, many grant writers major in business (especially marketing), communications, or English. Some schools offer targeted programs designed to train grant writers.
Additionally, some grant writers enter the field with experience working for certain types of organizations in other roles. For instance, grant writers for social services organizations may have been case workers previously, while grant writers for creative organizations may be artists themselves.
Since grant writers can come from so many diverse backgrounds, most training in this field tends to come on the job. Grant writers learn from both successful and failed proposals and continually refine their methods to achieve long-term success.
Grant Writer Salary and Outlook
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track the pay of grant writers, it has collected some information on fundraisers. According to the BLS, the median pay of a fundraiser is $56,000 per year, or about $27 per hour. The BLS also projects fundraiser employment to rise 15 percent through 2026 as organizations seek to compete more aggressively for donor funds.
If you want to break into the field of grant writing, it pays do your homework. Check out some of the resources we found to get started:
The Only Grant-Writing Book You'll Ever Need – used for some grant-writing courses, this guide to securing grants focuses on proposal writing, with inside information from donors on successful and unsuccessful proposals. It also includes ideas for developing proposal copy and practice exercises to help solidify skills
Get the Grant, Change the World: The Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Applying for Grants (and How to Get Yours Funded) – this guide discusses key topics, like getting funders’ attention, telling a client’s story, conducting research, presenting proposals well, connecting with funders, and avoiding common pitfalls in the grant-writing process
Start Your Own Grant-Writing Business: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Success – geared toward those seeking self-employment in the grant-writing industry, this book discusses several types of grant applications and issues specific to business owners in the field, such as marketing to client organizations. It also covers conducting effective research
Grant Professionals Association – GPA holds national conferences and workshops to further the profession and facilitate networking among grant writers. It also helps clients connect with professionals
Purdue Online Writing Lab: Introduction to Grant Writing – aspiring grant writers will find this collection of information from Purdue University useful, especially if they are seeking to enter grant writing in an academic or scientific context. This website also links to other useful grant-writing resources