How to Break into the Lucrative World of Grant Writing

As a freelance writer, you’re likely constantly searching for well-paying, recurring gigs. But often the pickings are slim. You might feel stuck with one-off assignments that pay only meager returns.

That’s where grant writing offers a huge opportunity.

I started grant writing as a college intern, then for a small after-school nonprofit program, and never looked back. Now, 12 years later, I run a seven-person team at Professional Grant Writers, and we work with organizations around the world to develop and maintain robust grant writing programs.

Why you should consider writing grants

Grant writers are in high demand for nonprofits hoping to raise money for operations, capital expenses, events, and programs. The work pays well: as a freelance grant writer, you can start out charging about $25 an hour and work your way up to $100 an hour, though this will vary depending on the organization you’re working for.

Even better? Often, nonprofits look to enter into long-term contracts with a reliable grant writer. They may have a large volume of grants due every month, so you can earn good, steady income – all while working from home.

If you dip your toes into this arena and want to turn it into a full-time career, a typical grant writer salary is about $48,000/year according to Payscale, and $54,000/year according to Glassdoor.

Learn how to write a grant proposal

But how do you write a grant proposal? If you’ve never written a grant before, you should consider taking a course on grant writing and even earning your certification.

Introductory grant writing courses are usually available at community colleges and universities, or you can find online training that will cover the basics over the course of just a few weeks. Nonprofitready.org offers several free courses on grant writing, and GrantSpace and the Grant Training Center offer instruction, too.

From there, you may want to pursue a more strenuous course through the Grant Professionals Certification Institute. Lots of certification programs exist, but this one is the most extensive and well respected.

I decided not to get certified because I had significant experience in grant writing to launch my business, but if you’re just starting out, certification can help you gain credibility and overcome a limited background in this type of work.

Connect with organizations that rely on grants

One way to get started is volunteering at a nonprofit, even if your tasks are nowhere near grant writing. Assist at fundraising auctions, help an office with data entry, join a board, work a phone bank, solicit event sponsorships — any of these options will help you get a foot in the door with a nonprofit and learn about the organization’s needs.

Contributing your time to administrative and fundraising initiatives will help you see the inner workings of this type of organization, more so than direct-service volunteering. You’ll build connections as you build your business.

Nonprofits often form a small, tight-knit community, so your volunteering will help get your name out there — and maybe even turn into a paying gig.

Finally, consider volunteering your grant writing services to a local nonprofit as you’re starting out. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this for long, it will help you build a solid portfolio. Having a few grants under your belt and a nonprofit or two to vouch for you will help you sell your services as a paid grant writer when you’re ready.

Build your network in the fundraising community

In addition to lending a hand at a specific nonprofit, join your regional professional fundraisers organization or local nonprofit employee organization. Any professional organization along those lines that meets regularly is a good place for you to meet other people in the industry and eventually shop your services.

Other professional groups can be helpful, too. Maybe there’s a young professionals group that meets for cocktails and networking, or something similar. These won’t be as directly helpful as shaking hands directly with nonprofit professionals and other fundraisers, but it can’t hurt to get your name out there.

Make business cards, build a website, and add your grant writing work to your email signature; these are all great ways to create a legitimate business and to market your services effectively. And when you attend networking events, hand out as many business cards as you can.

I find that even though grant writing is a growing profession — especially among freelance writers — there’s still lots of room for more writers.

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Tero Vesalainen/ Shutterstock 

The post How to Break into the Lucrative World of Grant Writing appeared first on The Write Life.

6 Old Grammar Rules That Are Finally Going Out of Style

The internet loves a good argument.

See: the 400+ comments on my piece on the Oxford comma debate, which devolved into everything from political jabs to commentary on the fairness of overtime laws.

Amid the many readers continuing to rail against my adoption of AP style on a blog I specifically say uses AP style, I found one observation in particular that made me pause. Some readers pointed out my use of a dangling modifier. And I confess: You caught me.

I also confess: I don’t feel terribly bad about it.

Which lead me me down the rabbit hole of a whole ’nother debate: When does a grammar rule pass into obsolescence?

Grammar rules we should just forget about already

At what point is non-standard sentence construction widely accepted as standard? Can we as writers loosen up on certain rules when general usage renders an “incorrect” syntax perfectly understandable to the average reader?

Hold onto your outrage, Internet. Tell your grammar checker tool to buzz off.

Here are six grammar rules that are going out of style.

1. Never end a sentence with a preposition

Attempting to follow this rule can result in some painfully stilted sentences, like this gem attributed to Winston Churchill: “This is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” (Sadly, this attribution is only anecdotal, but it’s still a gem.)

This rule stems from Latin, English’s ancient ancestor, in which sentence-ending prepositions simply can’t be done.

In modern English usage, however, there’s no reason to cling to this rule — unless you want your writing to sound more formal (or your characters to come across as pompous know-it-alls).

So the next time you wonder, can you start a sentence with a preposition? The answer should be, hell yes!

2. Never start a sentence with a conjunction

You know what kills me about this one? There’s no real basis for this rule except teacherly bias and a misplaced fear of sentence fragments.

According to David Crystal in The Story of English in 100 Words, teachers in the 19th century were annoyed with their students’ overuse of conjunctions as sentences starters. Rather than working to correct this tendency, they created a hard-and-fast rule against it — no doubt making their lives easier, but causing quite a headache for writers for centuries to come.

The truth is, there are different types of conjunctions. Subordinating conjunctions (like if, because and when) join a dependent clause with a standalone one. Break apart “If you build it, they will come,” and you have an independent clause that could be its own sentence (“They will come.”) and a fragment that doesn’t make sense by itself (“If you build it…”).

Coordinating conjunctions (like and, but and or) join two independent clauses together: “I was looking forward to the beach, but it rained all day.” Separate the clauses in these cases, and you still have standalone sentences, each with a noun and a verb: “I was looking forward to the beach. But it rained all day.”

While you don’t want all your sentences to be this abrupt, it’s OK to pepper some in for flavor.

grammar rules

3. Don’t use sentence fragments

Beginning a sentence with a conjunction will result in some sentence fragments.

As with any other “rule” on this list, this is a no-no for formal writing (i.e., articles in traditional publications, cover letters) but allowable for informal (i.e., blog posts, fiction).

One goal of informal writing is to sound more conversational, and like it or not, we use plenty of sentence fragments in everyday conversation. 

So. Add them in! Lean into it! Your writing will be more engaging because of it.

4. Never split infinitives

This one’s another holdover from Latin sentence construction. In Latin, an infinitive is a single word; it literally cannot be split. But English’s two-word infinitives can, so why shouldn’t they be?

Opponents argue the split infinitive is inelegant.

An infinitive is a two-word unit that expresses one thought, they hold, and splitting it up makes a sentence less readable.

But there are plenty of times when avoiding a split infinitive can lead to linguistic contortions that make a sentence clumsy or ambiguous. It can also change the impact. “To boldly go where no man has gone before” just doesn’t have the same ring as, “To go boldly where no man has gone before.”

Whether or not you split an infinitive is largely a matter of preference; it if makes a sentence smoother or more powerful, go for it.

Use as needed — without feeling bad about it.

5. Never use “who” when you should use “whom”

As Megan Garber argues in an Atlantic article titled “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” grammar rules are intended to clarify language to avoid confusion. And in many cases, “whom simply costs language users more than it benefits them.”

“Whom” has been falling out of practice for some time now. As a result, the majority of people don’t know how to use it, resulting in plenty of second-guessing, incorrect usage and less-than-smooth sentences. (Admit it, “Whom You Gonna Call?” hardly makes for a catchy song lyric.)

If you find yourself wrestling over “who” vs. “whom” in a sentence, your best bet is to rephrase the sentence to avoid the issue altogether. A reader may trip over, “With whom did you meet?”; a simple rewrite to, “Which person met with you?” solves the problem.

6. “They” is not a pronoun

Yes, using “he” as a default pronoun sounds sexist. But flipping between “he” and “she” in the same piece can be awkward, and using “he/she” brings the flow of a sentence to a grinding halt. Unless you want to use “it” as a gender-neutral pronoun — which seems insensitive, if not psychotic — that leaves you with “they.”

I get why this makes grammarians cringe. “They” is a plural noun, and we’ve twisted it into a faux singular noun in an attempt to be PC. It’s an imperfect solution, but until a widely recognized alternative comes along, we seem to be stuck.

What’s a writer to do?

Grammar, like language itself, is a constantly evolving creature.

Practices frowned upon in the past make their way into general acceptance as they become widely recognized. Contractions were once considered uncouth, but no one questions them now.

Just like spoken language, written language has dialects, and the adept user knows how to switch between them. An academic paper calls for a vastly different style than an article in a fashion mag.

The best rule of thumb when it comes to deciding whether to follow a seemingly antiquated grammar rule is to know your medium and audience.

Know the rules…so you can make an informed decision to ignore them.

That’s what being a pro is all about.

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via  Charles-Edouard Cote/ Shutterstock 

The post 6 Old Grammar Rules That Are Finally Going Out of Style appeared first on The Write Life.