Are you intrigued by the prospect of transforming ideas into impactful initiatives? In professional communication, one crucial skill is the art of grant writing. As part of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UW-Parkside) online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Communication program, a course called Grant Proposal Writing provides students with the skills essential for crafting compelling grant proposals.

This course delves into various facets of grant writing, different grant types, identifying funding agencies, interpreting calls for grant proposals and the nuanced craft of creating persuasive narratives. Because the course has inspired many students to consider grant writing as a career path, it is worthwhile to learn about this field while considering your post-graduate academic options.

What Are Grants and Grant Proposals?

According to G2, a grant is a sum of money awarded by an organization — such as a government agency, nonprofit or corporation — to fulfill a specific purpose that is usually charitable, scientific or artistic in nature. Grants support projects or missions that align with the values and goals of the granting organization. There are many reasons to seek grants, ranging from a researcher requesting funding for a new medical study to a city government seeking support for infrastructure improvements in an underserved neighborhood.

A grant proposal is a written document submitted to request grant funding, per G2. Grant proposals outline the proposed project, explain why funding is needed and predict the expected outcomes and benefits if funding is received. Key components of a grant proposal often include background on the applicant, a detailed budget breaking down how the funds will be used and measurable objectives for the project. Skill in crafting grant proposals is important for individuals seeking funding for impactful initiatives in fields like education, healthcare, social services and the arts.

What Does a Professional Grant Writer Do?

A grant writer is responsible for creating proposals that help organizations secure funding from government agencies, nonprofits, corporations and other institutions. To succeed in this role, a grant writer needs excellent written and research skills to thoroughly investigate potential funders and compose persuasive grant applications.

The typical responsibilities of a grant writer include:

  • Identifying relevant grants
  • Reviewing guidelines and deadlines
  • Conducting background research
  • Writing compelling proposals and applications

Grant writers build relationships with funders, oversee the grant process from start to finish and continually seek new funding opportunities. Their daily tasks involve:

Above all, an effective grant writer uses their strong writing ability to motivate donors and increase their organization’s funding. The role requires self-motivation, attention to detail, time management and the ability to work independently and collaboratively.

What Types of Grants Are Available?

There are several major categories of grants available. Competitive grants are awarded based on the merit of a proposed project, while formula grants allocate funding to predetermined recipients who meet certain criteria. Continuation grants extend existing grant funding beyond the initial budget period. Pass-through grants are issued by a federal agency to a state agency, which then distributes the funds to local organizations and governments.

Other grant types include:

  • Research grants that support scientific and academic projects
  • Fellowships and scholarships for students
  • Community development block grants for infrastructure and housing
  • Corporate grants provided by businesses to nonprofits

Grants can also be characterized by funding source — such as government, nonprofit, corporate or private foundation. The granting process, eligibility, allowed uses and other requirements can vary widely across grant programs.

What Types of Organizations Award and Require Grants?

Federal, state and local government agencies award grants to fund public programs and services. Federal agencies include AmeriCorps (AC), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), U.S. Department of Education (ED), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Nonprofit organizations — including charities, research institutions, arts and cultural groups and advocacy groups — rely heavily on grants from government, foundations and corporations to fulfill their missions. Healthcare organizations utilize grants to provide services, conduct research and improve facilities. Academic institutions and school districts need grants to support educational programming and student financial aid. Small businesses and entrepreneurs apply for grants to fund innovations, expand operations and develop new products. Infrastructure grants help state and city governments maintain roads, bridges, utilities and public transit systems.

Even individuals can benefit from grants and fellowships for purposes like artistic endeavors, tuition and travel. Essentially any entity with a project or need aligned to a grantmaker’s priorities may be eligible to apply for and benefit from grant funding.

How Are Grant Proposals Written?

Grant proposals generally follow a structure that allows funders to evaluate the project easily. Proposals start with a cover letter and executive summary that briefly introduce the applicant and summarize the project’s purpose and funding needs. More detailed sections fully describe the problem or need, objectives and goals, implementation methods and evaluation plan.

A detailed budget outlines exactly how requested funds will be allocated. Proposals conclude with background on the applying organization or individual. Following this standard format allows grant writers to comprehensively present their project while ensuring they include all required information for funders to make informed decisions. Adhering to the expected grant proposal structure also makes applications easier to compare. While there is some flexibility, grant writers should follow the established sections to craft persuasive, compliant and ultimately successful proposals.

UW-Parkside’s online M.A. in Professional Communication program provides the focused training and skills development needed to thrive in leadership positions and as a grant writing professional. For those interested in pursuing this multifaceted role across industries, the program offers an accessible pathway to gain the necessary knowledge and experience for grant writing success.

Learn more about UW-Parkside’s online M.A. in Professional Communication program.