Experts Share 7 Tips for Grant Writing Success

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and the richest person on the planet, announced that he’ll donate $10 billion to fight climate change with his new initiative called the Bezos Earth Fund. This is one classic example of how powerful people are creating foundations or funds to improve the environment. How can you, as a concerned citizen or community-based organization, tap into these highly competitive funds? 

After speaking with a leading grant writing expert and researching successful strategies, we have unearthed 7 highly sought-after grant writing tips can help groups win environmental grants

It’s Always Grant Writing Season 

I recently sat down with Arif Ullah, Director of Programs at Citizens Committee of New York City, to get his recommendations for applicants and combined them with some of our favorite grant writing tips.

Citizens Committee for New York City Logo

The Citizens Committee for New York City is a prominent private foundation that awards grants to neighborhood groups and nonprofits. In 2019 alone, they awarded $2.3 million in grants to support 593 projects in 150 neighborhoods.

Can you image how many applications they must go through?

We know that grant writing can be a long, tedious process for all parties involved. From the initial application, to the review process, to finally receiving the funds, it can take months or sometimes the better part of a year. With these grant writing tips, you can speed up your application process and hopefully increase your chances of success!

1. Tell A Passionate, Yet Clear and Concise Story 

When your work is your passion, you can talk effortlessly about it for days. However, translating what you’re doing into a clear and concise story can give you an edge over the other applicants.

Give funders, who read hundreds of applications, a break by making sure your application distinctively tells them what your project is about while also remembering why you’re doing this in the first place. It is a balancing act between business and passion, so be the best narrator that you can be.

Planning out the grant writing process

Recommendations: Start by making an outline of your application to clearly convey your story. Use voice-to-text to have the application read back to you, and make sure that you’ve addressed the key aspects of the grant application.

2. Demonstrate Your Process

For multi-stakeholder projects, it is important to describe who you are working with, how you are working with them, and why you are working with them. What was your venting process? Did you conduct a cost comparison? Did you look into their previous projects and see their results?

In the narrative portion of the application, describe your partners and how they add value to your project.

Recommendation: In some applications, add your third party partners to which can strengthen your proposal. 

3. Make Your Grant Writing Context-Based

There’s nothing worse than asking a business question and not getting the answer you need before finalizing a deal. The same goes for your application. Root your story in facts, locations, and relate it to your funder. 

Fact recommendations: What is happening in your area? What are the latest statistics available that validate the need for your work? What are the potential quantifiable benefits that your project will produce? 

Location recommendations: Arif and his team at the Citizens Committee for New York City give funds to organizations who work within New York City. You wouldn’t go to a new location without first checking your google maps, right? Help your funders locate your work and if you can locate your project within a relative proximity to their office, even better.

Why? Imagine a funder is reviewing your application and by providing a location near them, they can start to picture what your project would look like, and the social impact it can have. 

Map of New York City with a pin at the Citizens Committee for New York City office

Relate to your funder recommendations: In relation to your funder’s office, is there a pressing issue that everyone knows about? Is there a need to have environmental air, water, or soil data to support new development in low-income areas? How will your project help an issue in your shared city?

Ensure that your application, while being truthful, addresses your funder’s core mission.

4. Clearly Outline Your Project Budget  

Funders need to see that their money is going directly towards your project, and not on unnecessary administrative services. As such, tell the story of your project through the budget narrative. 

Recommendations: You can provide transparency by working backwards and estimating how much money you would need for your project, and where exactly the bulk of the funds will go.

This information should include details about the actual expenses for your project, resources required, anticipated responses, and a timeline. By providing a clear budget for your project, you will demonstrate transparency and show that you have a working plan in place should you be the recipient of their funds.

Grant writing project budget template

5. Leverage Previous Projects

You would not walk into a job interview without a resume that clearly exhibits your ability to do the job you’re applying for, correct? The same applies for your grant application.

Recommendations: Leverage your previous work to demonstrate your expertise and ability to manage projects. Specify how your project was conducted, quantify your results, and show how you will continue to measure the results if you are awarded.

Transparency is Good Governance.

Arif Ullah, Director of Programs, at Citizens Committee of New York City

6. Meet the Local & State Demands

Many states require nonprofits to register with the state’s charity officials, which is usually within their departments of state. Given each state’s requirements are slightly different, give yourself enough time to check the requirements and arrange any necessary paperwork. Discovering this too late can mean the difference between a successful application and a rejection.

Recommendation: Check state as well as federal requirements.

7. Follow Application Requirements & Guidelines

Through my own experience leading a global challenge with the World Bank, World Economic Forum, and SAP Next-Gen, make sure that you follow the application’s requirements and guidelines. 

The quickest way to decide if your application makes it to the next round simply depends on if the entire application was filled out correctly. Did you submit all of the necessary documents? Is your project within the geographical limits of the application? Is the funding you’re looking for a good fit? Did you respond to all the questions?  

At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, eighty percent of the grant applications that come through the door are immediately rejected.

Dickey, 2003

Recommendation: Make a checklist of items you will need to submit for the application, and give yourself enough time to get all the materials in order. At larger foundations, this information may be readily available. If you’re a smaller organization, it may take more time.

Interested In Applying for Environmental Grants?

With the only no-code environmental engagement platform provided by yours truly here at Temboo, we can open the doors to more environmental grants.

Thanks to our Kosmos platform it’s easier to not only provide status updates for your current projects, but also use the environmental sensor data collected to obtain further grants. Grant writing just got a lot easier!

For more information, please reach out to us at