Grant Writing Tips

and Tricks

How to Use the Freedom of Information Act to Get Copies of Past Successful Grant Applications

By Grant Writer and Researcher, Tara O'Hanley

One of the best things about our unicorn community here at is a widespread willingness to share our best ideas and resources with everyone who can use it, whenever they need it. When it comes to doing tough work, there is nothing better than a supportive environment that helps projects grow and develop in an open and transparent way.

Frankly, if you’re not having an instinctive reaction, vehemently agreeing with this statement right now, then I’m jealous of you. As a hardened survivor of more backbiting shenanigans than I care to remember – be it across academia, business, or even the grant writing world of nonprofits – I’m all too familiar with this counterproductive, ugly habit and the insidious impact it can have on the work we produce.

Instead, I choose to live by a motto I learned decades ago, which says “What blesses one, blesses all.” That’s why, after too many...

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Grants for Organizations Serving Veterans

grants Jul 04, 2020

Veterans – thank you for your service.

As we think about the sacrifices Veterans (and their families) have made for us on this day, the team at wanted to share a few grant opportunities for organizations serving Veterans. We will close with a few tips on how to evaluate a funding opportunity to determine if it is worth pursuing.

Disabled Veterans National Foundation Capacity Building Grants 

Overview: The Capacity Building Grants provide support to our nation’s veterans. These grants are awarded to organizations around the country who are addressing the mental and physical recovery of veterans in unique ways. Service dogs, equine therapy, yoga, art therapy, and recreational therapy are just a few of the innovative programs that DVNF supports.

Grant Amount: Up to $25,000

Deadlines: Deadline for Letter of Intent, February (annually). Deadline for full proposals, March (annually). See website for precise deadlines- updated annually.


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Top 10 Grant Databases - How to Find the Best Grant Database for You

The fastest way to find grant opportunities is to use a grant database. There is a time and place for Google searching, but it is a huge time-suck and simply ineffective to find grants that way exclusively. A database can do in seconds what could take you days; and visually, it's a much easier way to organize your grant opportunities and keep track of them. 

There are several grant databases to choose from and depending on the needs of your organization, not all will align well with your unique needs. We also know that you are the change-makers and may not have time in your schedule of creating relevant and helpful changes to research each individual grant database.  

No single database is one-size-fits-all. We’ve taken the time to test out several grant databases to give you a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of each one so you don’t have to.

You can cruise to the bottom of this article for the database we recommend. Otherwise, clicking...

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What does fiscal sponsorship mean?

Often when we have a big idea, our first thought is, "I should start a nonprofit!" But before you jump into a huge pile of paperwork, let’s look at what you need: 

Tax exempt status 

Administrative infrastructure, and 


Did you know you could use a fiscal sponsor for these needs?

We love the way Propel Nonprofits talks about this topic and you can check out their YouTube video linked below. Coincidence it features a unicorn?! (The unicorn is our mascot )

This video does a great job of explaining why it can be beneficial to test the waters with your idea before jumping all in with becoming your own nonprofit. 

But first…

What is fiscal sponsorship? 

A fiscal sponsor serves as the administrative “home” for your cause. A more detailed fiscal sponsorship definition is this:

Fiscal sponsors are existing nonprofit organizations that provide fiduciary oversight, financial management, and other administrative services to...

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How to Write a Grant in Seven Steps - Part 3 of 3

Become a grant writing unicorn! Learn the basics of grant writing in seven simple steps. People think grant writers have mystical super powers. Let’s add the skill-set to your quiver! In this three-part series, we distill the grant writing process into seven easy to follow steps. 

This is the third post of three on the topic of grant writing. If you missed them, you can access the First and Second posts here.

Step 5. Write Your Narrative Fast and Furiously. A narrative is a written description about your project, the problem it solves, and why it should be funded. 

The exact nature of your narrative will vary depending on the requirements of each funding agency. Sometimes, a private foundation will ask for a letter of inquiry (LOI) first. This is a summary of your organization and project. If the funder likes your letter, you will be invited to submit a full application. Other times, a grant narrative may be fifteen pages of single-spaced writing with...

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How to Write a Grant in Seven Steps - Part 2 of 3

Who doesn’t want to become a grant writing unicorn?  People think grant writers have mystical super powers. Let’s add the skill set to your quiver! In this three-part series, we distill the grant writing process into seven easy to follow steps. 

In case you missed the first post, you can access that here. 

Step 3. Host an Outstanding Kick-Off Meeting. A kick-off meeting is where we gather everyone involved in the project to plan for the grant preparation process. The amount of help you get is directly correlated to the success of your kick-off meeting. 

We will often bring cookies or provide lunch to express gratitude to the group for giving their time to help us prepare an application. If people feel appreciated and inspired by you, they will make your requests a priority. 

Prepare an agenda beforehand and email it at least one day in advance. Pictured here is an example of a meeting agenda. 

Sample Meeting Agenda

Date: Monday, December 3,...

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From Idea to Event in Four Months - Secret Sauce You Can Use for Your Next Grant

A massive determinant of whether or not your grant writing experience goes swimmingly-well or not is if you have a strong kickoff meeting. 

We founded an all women’s mountain bike festival in 2018. In four months we went from idea to full execution with 250 participants. We provided skills clinics, a social ride, maintenance classes, a race, vendor village, and great food.

Here is some feedback from one of our participants: 

“I REALLY appreciate the hard-core ladies who took the time out of their busy lives to spend the day teaching the rest of us. These are the ladies I admire from afar; our amazing, beautiful, athletic Alaskan women - and frankly their "she" power, success and abilities can be a little intimidating to some of us non-athletic types, or those of us who weren't perhaps encouraged in the same way to take part in sports. But, they were truly interested in helping hundreds of women and girls learn about and enjoy what they do....

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How to Write a Grant in Seven Steps - Part 1 of 3

Who doesn’t want to become a grant writing unicorn?  People think grant writers have mystical super powers. Let’s add the skill-set to your quiver! In this three-part series we distill the grant writing process into seven easy to follow steps. 

Step 1. Follow Your North Star (the Funding Guidelines). Funding guidelines are instructions from the funder on how to apply. They usually include information on the grant program, eligibility, narrative requirements, necessary attachments, etc. 

You can download the funding guidelines from the funding agency website. Once downloaded, print them so you have a hard copy to mark up. You will catch nuances in the guidelines that, for some reason, are difficult to catch when reading on a computer. 

Read the funding guidelines from beginning to end and then take a break. Go work on something else, stretch, pet your dog- whatever you do to maintain your energy. When you’re done, come back to the guidelines and...

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Book on How to Write a Grant! Become a Grant Writing Unicorn

book grant writing Sep 30, 2019

“Grant writing is overwhelming.”  

“I don’t know where to start.” 

Any of that sound familiar? We can relate! When first learning how to write grants, it may be tempting to go looking for dense books on everything there is to know. We learned this way that lots of information isn't always helpful.

This book takes a different approach. It is personable and easy to read. It shares stories of lessons learned the hard way and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

The book answers the most common questions received. It is a simple guide to get you underway immediately, even if you only read the first chapter! The book covers topics like:

  •       How to write a grant,
  •       How to write a convincing narrative,
  •       Where to find grants to go after,
  •       How to avoid running out of time when applying,
  •       Where to find match funding, and
  •    ...
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How to Avoid Last Minute Grant Pursuits

"I just learned about {grant name}, but it is due in {insanely short time frame}. Should I go after it?"

Smalls, you're killing me! The answer is no. No, no, no. Still, no. Don't even try to convince yourself it's the perfect fit. 

Now that we're done being sassy, let's explain the tricks your mind is going to play on you. 

"But this is the PERFECT grant for us!” If you are only learning about a grant once the announcement has come out, you are too late. You don't have the time to properly examine if it is a good fit. Your judgment is now blurry because you want the signs to say “go for it!” 

Even if you follow the rule of contacting the funding agency to gauge if the program is a good fit, the funder can lead you astray. Once an announcement is out, many funders will encourage you to apply because it makes their programs look better if they are competitive. Another issue is that a funding agency representative often cannot talk to you about the...

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