Grant Writing

What it is

Helping nonprofits operate by attracting grant funding. The grant writer is a key member of the resource development team, preparing and submitting grant proposals, tracking past submissions, identifying new funders and reporting back to funders when funds are expended. Skills needed include prospect research and analysis, case-making using statistics and other factual information, organization and deadline management, relationship management and fast learning.

Starting points

Large nonprofit organizations (including universities!) have multiple grant writers on staff; look for positions like Grant Writer or Grants Associate. Smaller organizations may hire you as a Grant Writer, and the very small may accept your help as a volunteer or inexpensive consultant.


From Grant Writing, one can progress to becoming Director of Development and ultimately Executive Director. With experience and a successful track record, one can establish a freelance practice, or move over to the grant-making side and become Program Officer at a private or corporate foundation. Interestingly, fundraising is a profession where women have a slight edge and can continue working their whole lives without fear of “aging out.”


Rhetoric and Composition is a great fit, but any humanities or social science discipline that requires you to do a lot of reading, writing and case-making would be good preparation.

Personality and outlook

Both introverts and extroverts can be happy as grant writers, but social skills are very important in key moments with VIPs (e.g. board members, major donors, foundation officers). Detail-consciousness and an entrepreneurial streak are essential; a pragmatic streak, too, to understand the practical impacts of the programs you are writing about. A tolerance for paperwork and ability to follow instructions correctly are very important.


Take a grant writing class, on or off campus. Volunteer to write grants for anyone who will let you, and record your results. Identify causes you care about and learn which are the relevant nonprofit organizations addressing those issues. Join the Association of Fundraising Professionals and attend chapter meetings. Learn how to use foundation databases; practice identifying and qualifying prospective funders for a given organization.

Real Life Examples