Learn About Being a Grant Writer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does a grant writer do?

A grant writer creates proposals for organizations to receive funding from the government or agencies. Grant writers must be fluent in the language they work in and must have strong written and research skills. Grant writers should also be able to extensively research their organization, donors and other agencies they request funding from. Additional responsibilities include:

  • Search for upcoming grant applications and keep a calendar or spreadsheet of deadlines

  • Write donor appeals and acknowledgment letters 

  • Edit or review other organization documents

  • Organize fundraising initiatives 

Read more: The Fundamentals of Nonprofits

Average salary

Many grant writers are contractors, meaning they often work for several different clients on a project-by-project basis. Grant writers may work part-time or full-time hours, and income can vary widely depending on a writer’s level of education, relevant work experience and type of clientele, as smaller organizations tend to pay less than larger ones with more funding. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $43,102 per year

  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $122,000 per year.

Grant writer requirements

Grant writers generally obtain a higher-level education and several years of relevant experience before establishing a career in the field. 

Education

The vast majority of grant writers hold a bachelor’s degree. Post-secondary programs that focus on effective communication, persuasion and research methods can prove highly beneficial for grant writers. The following majors are potentially helpful to grant writers pursuing a bachelor’s degree: 

  • Writing: Writing programs often teach creative or professional writing or a combination of both. These programs help students understand how to construct a compelling narrative, which is valuable for grant writers. 

  • English: Like writing, English programs consist of courses involving writing and literature comprehension and analysis. Students might analyze techniques in fiction or learn how to copyedit texts for grammar, spelling, punctuation and clarity, which is a set of skills highly valuable to grant writing. English and writing programs frequently contain similar areas of study

  • Journalism: With a stronger focus on media than English or writing, journalism programs help students learn to research, market and communicate with others. Students must learn style guides, which is beneficial to grant writers who must switch styles between clients. 

  • Communications: These programs are often broad and concentrate on language, culture, media and more. Students learn how to communicate in business and politics, for example, and can often benefit from a communications program in similar ways to a journalism program. 

  • Marketing: Majors in marketing study how to sell products or services to people, taking both scientific and creative approaches. This knowledge and practice can be helpful to grant writers who must effectively target and persuade others to fund projects or organizations. 

Related: 15 Popular Writing Careers

Training

Most employers search for grant writers who have a minimum of two years of experience in their field in addition to a relevant bachelor’s degree. Pursuing internships or volunteering for organizations, especially organizations in a field you hope to write in, are both ways to enter the profession. Volunteering or interning in areas not specific to writing, like fundraising or public relations, can also be useful to future grant writers, as organizations typically prefer to hire writers familiar with nonprofits.

When grant writers enter the workforce, they may receive some on-the-job training to learn more about an organization’s specific style guide and grant procedures.

Certifications

Though most employers don’t require a certification, earning one can expand a grant writer’s job prospects and increase their earning potential. Consider the following certifications:

Certified Grant Writer (CGW):

Offered by the American Grant Writers’ Association, Inc., the CGW demonstrates your knowledge in techniques and skills related to grant writing. To earn a CGW, you must complete an online course and pass an in-person exam. After passing the exam, you must apply and maintain an American Grant Writers’ Association, Inc. membership. 

Grant Professional Certified (GPC)

The Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) offers this certification to help professionals learn more about various aspects of the grant process. To earn a GPC, you must have a combination of professional experience, education, community involvement and continuing education. You must also pass a multiple-choice and written exam. 

Skills

Grant writers must possess a variety of skills, including: 

Time management

Since grant writers commonly set their schedules, they must have solid time-management skills. Grant writers must arrange meetings with clients and employers and manage multiple assignments with tight deadlines. Grant writers must understand how many hours their projects will demand to successfully plan. 

Written communication

Grant writers must craft concise and compelling writing, free from factual or grammatical errors. They must know how to target their audience and stand out in their field, as agencies or government providing funding often receive many applications for the same grants. The written voice should remain active and consistent, and documents formatted for easy reading. They should be able to reference statements with evidence to prove the legitimacy of the organization.

Verbal communication

While effective written communication is integral to grant writing, the work also requires that writers verbally communicate with others. They must be able to listen to a client or employer to address their needs and accurately complete the work. They must also be able to communicate their abilities and timelines and feel confident contacting clients or employers with questions or clarifications on projects.

Research

Grant writers must know how to research institutes efficiently and use reliable sources for the claims made in their writing. This can mean using resources provided by a client or employer in addition to digital and physical resources found online and in libraries, for example. Grant writers must know when and how to find peer-reviewed or scholarly sources for the projects they work on.

Grant writer work environment

As grant writers often work contractually, they may work in various settings. Some grant writers work remotely, others in an office setting temporarily or permanently. Most grant writers work for nonprofit institutes, universities and government agencies. A work environment includes:

  • Typing for long periods

  • Performing research online and through other digital and physical resources 

  • Communicating regularly with clients before, during and after assignments

  • Using phone, email and in-person meetings to connect with clients and agencies 

How to become a grant writer

You can follow these steps to become a grant writer:

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree. You should complete a bachelor’s degree in an area that can help you learn writing and communication skills. Or, if you hope to write for a specific type of organization, you may consider pursuing a degree in that area instead. 

  2. Apply for volunteer opportunities or internships. Since most employers want grant writers with at least some experience in the field, you will need to gain the necessary experience through volunteer opportunities or internships with organizations. 

  3. Prepare a resume. On your resume, you will want to include your education and all the experience you have. Employers want to know how familiar you are with the area you will be writing in, so include any volunteer opportunities or internships you completed related to the organization.  

  4. Apply for grant writing opportunities. You can apply for full-time, salaried positions with organizations, or you can work on a contractual basis. If you do not have immediate success in finding a full-time position, you may consider applying for assignments to build your reputation and portfolio as a grant writer. 

Read more: A Guide To Starting a Career in Fundraising

Grant writer job description example

Our nonprofit is currently seeking a grant writer to create proposals for our environmental organization. The grant writer must be familiar with local environmental conservation efforts and nonprofit fundraising and finances. They will be responsible for searching for grant application opportunities, creating a grant application calendar and crafting grants in collaboration with our team members. The ideal candidate is an exceptional written and verbal communicator with attention to detail. They also hold a bachelor’s degree in communications, environmental studies or a similar field, and have at least two years of experience writing for the nonprofit sector.

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