Grant Writing Tips

and Tricks

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 help...

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

Uncategorized Oct 18, 2019

Become a grant writing unicorn! Learn the basics of grant writing in seven steps. People think grant writers have mystical super powers. Let’s add the skillset to your quiver! In this series of three 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 the first and second post, you can access them here and 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 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 is going to be fifteen pages of single-spaced writing with other lengthy...

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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 skillset to your quiver! In this series of three 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. 

I will often bring cookies or provide lunch to express my gratitude to the group for giving their time to help me 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 kick off meeting. 

I 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 skillset to your quiver! In this series of three 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, what the narrative requires, 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...

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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? Trust me, I can relate! When I was learning how to write grants, I also looked for a book to help get started. I found a dense book on everything I could ever need to know, but it was too overwhelming to be 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 I receive. 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 timeframe}. 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 me it's the perfect fit. 

Now that I’m done being sassy, let me 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 my rules 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 often becomes that a funding agency representative cannot talk to you about the...

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Grant Writing Course on How to Plan a Grant Proposal That Wins

project planning Sep 20, 2019

Early in my grant writing career, I worked with an Alaska Native village that needed funding to relocate their entire community. The community was literally falling into the Arctic Ocean from coastal erosion, and the tribal administrator wanted grant funding to build a shop for the transportation equipment needed to build and maintain a winter road for relocation purposes.

I will never forget how claustrophobic I felt standing in the village. Aggressive, unforgiving waves were crashing just yards away. The land was visibly giving way to the sea. Perhaps most disturbing of all, the shoreline was dotted with abandoned homes which were tipping into the ocean. 

I certainly understood why the project was important, and I was motivated to help. I established a grant schedule, prepared much of the grant narrative, and started a project budget.

Despite my attempts to collaborate, months passed and we were not making progress. I couldn’t help the community achieve their goals...

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Grant Proposals that Win - Think Like a Funder - Project Planning Part 2

project planning Sep 13, 2019

Welcome back! This is part two of our blog series on how to develop your project so it is funding ready. If you missed the first blog, you can access that here

Below are a series of questions to consider when understanding where a project sits in the planning process. Continue to answer the questions listed below in a word document or text editor of your choice. 

Technical Viability & Sustainability

  • How is the project technically viable? Has it ever been done before? What unknowns could impact the project being successful? If it’s a capital improvement project, are project designs developed? 
  • Where will your project or program be located? Does your organization own the property or the building? If so, be sure to save a copy of the lease, property deed or any other appropriate document in your project folder. If not, who owns it and what is your plan for using the site? 
  • How can you prove the project (and organization)  will be sustainable? ...
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990 Finder and Starting a Grant Narrative Template


I was working on a project for the Alaska Ocean Cluster and thought I should be sharing this! This short video shows you how I confirmed a funding agency has given to Alaska organizations before (using the 990 finder in Instrumentl). 

I then started a grant narrative template. I will collaborate with the team at the Alaska Ocean Cluster to prepare this proposal. It's much easier to do this in Google docs than try to operate out of an online grant foundation application system. 

In case you haven't seen it, I provide more detail on preparing a grant narrative skeleton in our free mini course accessible here.



Founder & Lead Instructor

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