Nonprofit Grant Writing Tips and Tricks


Did you know that in Marion County alone there are 7,294 nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations? In fact, there is a fantastic database Stats Indiana that has compiled a complete list. If you happen to be a part of one of these organizations or an individual looking for funding, below is a list of tips and tricks just for you.

Grant Experience

In the last 4 years, I have had the amazing opportunity to read over 300 grant applications from a wide range of nonprofits in Indianapolis. These organizations ranged from health and wellness, arts, education, and family services. I am definitely not an expert on grant writing, even though it is a former profession. However, I would like to share tips and pitfalls I have picked up on in hopes that they can help someone preparing or in the process of writing a grant.

Top 10 List

  1. Make your request amount and purpose for funding obvious. This may seem a simple point, but so often this information is buried.
  2. Be as clear as possible. The more difficult it is for a reader to understand your organization and or project/program the less likely your organization is to be funded.
  3. Make the application work for you. If there is information that you want to provide, but that specific question is not asked in the application find a way to make it fit.
  4. The reader only knows what you are telling them. Always assume the reader has never heard of your organization before.
  5. Be on a mission. In other words, your grant request should match the organization’s mission statement. Do not create a program in order to seek funding. If the request was created just to get funding a reader can usually tell.
  6. Acroynms can make a reader crazy. If you must use them make sure they are explained prior. Again, no assumptions about what the reader does or does not know already about your organization.
  7. Find out what other organizations have a similar mission. How are they similar, how do they differ? Is there an opportunity for collaboration? If another organization matches yours, don’t slander that organization in your application.
  8. Carefully explain how funding will be used. There is no detail too small. For instance, if you are requesting program support for 100 pencils then provide the cost per pencil.
  9. Use every white space available. This is your chance to “sell” your organization and or program. Don’t waste it. Compel them to fund your mission.
  10. Lastly, if you are not funded, do not lose heart. It is more common to not be funded than to be funded and remember the above data. There are 7,294 nonprofit 501(c)3 in just Marion County. Think about it as an opportunity for one more person to read about and potentially become a supporter of your organization.

I am amazed by the number of quality nonprofit organizations in the Indianapolis area. It really demonstrates the amazing hearts of my fellow Hoosiers. If you have a passion in this life, I am sure there is a nonprofit in Indianapolis you can partner with in some way. And if not, then why not use your Hoosier ingenuity to build your own.

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Jan is a SAHM of two beautiful girls. Maddison (6) and Josie (1). She and her husband Kerry live in Carmel. Jan volunteers for Junior League of Indianapolis as chair elect of the grants committee. She is also adoption coordinator for Live 1:17 at TPCC Northwest Campus. A retired dancer and most recently development director, Jan is truly enjoying her new role as a SAHM.