6 Steps for Writing a BIG Grant

training201Written by Olivia Courant, New Media Specialist

Julie Powers has been writing HUD grants for twenty years. She has written almost 60 grants, and every one of them has succeeded. During the 2015 Building Michigan Communities Conference, she shared her methods on how to write successful large grants that have multiple organizations involved.

Before starting, Julie emphasized that each grant should have one captain who makes all the final decisions, one person who does all the media and press activities and one editor. The biggest mistake is to piece these responsibilities out, because when this happens, the grant will read like it was written by many different people with no consistent message.

1. Write the budget first.

The rest of your application will be determined by your budget.

2. Write the needs section.

Properly footnote your needs with real data and real research sources. Even if your work plan is not solid, a strong needs section that proves you know your community will dominate.

3. All drama happens in the wee hours of the night.

Do not take vacation before the grant is due. Anticipate that something may go wrong at the last minute: a partner organization drops out, technology fails, a section of the grant is accidentally skipped, etc.

4. Get anything from others that you need before the deadline.

If multiple organizations and people are working on the grant, tell them the deadline is earlier than it actually is so they get their stuff in on time. The head editor needs to put everything together and review the final product before turning it in.

5. Be ready with solid internet.

Large grant applications take a lot of power to upload. If you have a weak or unreliable internet connection, go to a school or library.

6. Write only for things that matter.

The grant reader wants to hear inspiring stories about the difference the funding will make.


Tech Soup has copies of Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, Adobe software, Windows and all other types of software that nonprofits can get for dirt cheap.

• If you are submitting an application for a federal grant, it is usually done through grants.gov. Set up an account for your nonprofit now. It takes a few weeks to clear and be approved, and this has to happen before you can submit a grant application.

• There is a human on the other end who will receive the grant. They might be willing to help you make sure everything uploaded correctly. If something goes wrong, look for contact information for the application site.

• You might make frenemies (friend-enemies). When you have a vision and you know it will change the world, you will need to leave people/organizations out if they don’t bring what is needed to the table – even if they are great people and you like them. Choose only the strongest partners who you know will carry their weight, communicate and turn materials in on time.

• If you need to prove you have matching funds, but those funds will not be in your hands until after the grant application deadline, you can try the following:

Attach a letter saying you’ve gotten $X every year from XYZ organization for X number of years, and attach previous years’ grant letters. Say you intend to apply to that organization and get $X again this year, and there’s no reason to expect XYZ will not approve that application.