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Grants: Grant Writing Resources

Grant Writing

School Supplies, Stationery, Notes, Abstract, PaperworkWriting a successful grant application is both an art and a skill. Depending on the size of the grant and the organization it would be coming from, it can take any where from several hours to several days or weeks to fill out the application and gather all of the materials requested.

While grants can be open year-around, most organizations follow a set schedule of deadlines annually. If there is a particular grant the library would like to apply for, it's important to keep an eye on the organization's grant or "community giving" page on their website to make sure no deadlines are missed.

Tips and Tricks

Preparing to write a grant application is just as important as the writing itself. Follow the tips and tricks below to help make the application as strong as possible:

  • Start Early: As writing and researching grants often takes longer than expected, it is prudent to start the process as soon as a grant's materials are posted. Make sure enough time is allocated to write and review the grant and to contact the funding organization is there are questions or issues with submission.
  • Read the instructions, guidelines, and eligibility requirements carefully: Funding bodies spend a great deal of time crafting the parameters of a grant to make sure all applications are equal. It is likely that if the application and other materials supplied do not fit the explicit guidelines, that the grant will be denied. Prioritize to double-checking any eligibility requirements to make sure that the library is eligible so that the library doesn't waste time crafting an application that will be denied.
  • Read the rubric/scoring guidelines (if provided): Rubrics tell the applicant exactly what the review team is looking for and needs in order for the project to be funded.
  • Research the organization's mission and goals: If a project meets the funding organization's mission and goals that it has a higher chance of being funded. Prepare the grant proposal to highlight those areas of commonality.
  • Research grant project budget and items necessary: Before writing the application, it's important to have a firm grasp on the project being proposed. To do this, make sure to look into all of the details for the project such as location, equipment, materials, and event costs. These will need to be presented in the application. During this time, make sure all expenses being requested are eligible under the grant guidelines; frequently, construction, furnishings, staff time, and food will not be included.
  • Fill out the application
  • Review application with rubric and and organization's goals in mind: Make sure the application is explicitly stating the items needed in the rubric. For example, if the rubric and instructions say to indicate which organizational goal the grant project is meeting, the application should include something like, "this project will meet Organizational Goal A, 'Sustain community partnerships' by doing X, Y, and Z."
  • Review application and remove jargon, acronyms, and slang: Do not assume that the grant reviewers will know how the library works, how the program will run, or any of the "library words" used in the application. Be clear and concise when explaining the project.
  • Review application with grammar-check software such as Grammarly or copy and paste into a Word doc: Most grants factor in clarity, sentence structure, and grammar as a part of the determination process. If 2 applications are well-matched, but one doesn't have any spelling or grammar errors, it is more likely to be funded.
  • Have someone outside of the project review application: An outside reviewer will help point out areas that are unclear in the project and will  likely notice which areas of the application can be fleshed out or cut back. NDSL Library Development staff is always happy to review grant applications.
  • Confirm application materials are gathered and in the correct format: Accuracy matters in grant applications, and the instructions and guidelines will state page length, word counts, and document formats required as well as any additional requirements that need to be supplied by the applicant. If these steps are missed, it is likely that the project will go unfunded.
  • Submit application or proposal
  • Follow through: If the project is funded, make sure the library signs the contract in a timely matter, dispenses funds exactly as it was indicated in the application, and tracks all expenses for reporting and reimbursement purposes.

StrengthenND Grant Writing Resources

StrengthenND presented information on grant development and writing at the 2019 Renewal and Development Conference in Mandan, ND. Below are the resources they provided for attendees:

Books from NDSL Catalog

Online Resources

There is no shortage of websites dedicated exclusively to grant writing. Since there are grants for all types of institutions, it's important to focus on receiving guidance from those sites that cater to nonprofit, government, or education institutions. Below is a non-exhaustive list of helpful websites:


Most grants require the requester to provide the goals of the project that they are hoping to fund. It's important for those goals to be focused and properly targeted towards the specific grant. One of the best ways is to make them "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).

  • Specific: Make sure the goal is clear and unambiguous.
  • Measurable: Add quantitative details such as percentages or ratios
  • Attainable: Assure that this goal is reachable within the bounds of the grant project
  • Relevant: The goal needs to relate to the project itself and the funding organization
  • Timely: State at which point the goal will be met.

Some examples of SMART goals for libraries are below:

  • Increase social media engagement by 5% within the first quarter of the year.
  • At the end of the grant project, 60% of the nonfiction collection will have been published in the last 5 years.
  • The program will engage at least 15 members of the community.

NDSL's YouTube Channel

This is a playlist of 6 tutorials regarding Grant writing. Click on the upper right hand icon to scroll through the various tutorials.

IMLS logo

Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.