Grant Coordinators and Writers


Exploring this Job

Volunteering for nonprofit organizations is a good way to find out about a grant coordinator's work firsthand. Contact local churches or synagogues, charities, health organizations, or social service agencies. In nonprofit organizations that have grant coordinators, the ideal internship or volunteer experience involves assisting with a grant application project. Sometimes schools have their own grant application projects several times a year. You can get an understanding of all of the work involved by seeing the application or proposal process through from start to finish.

The Grantsmanship Center offers The Grantsmanship Center News, and the guide, Grantsmanship: Program Planning and Proposal Writing, which provide useful information for grant writers and coordinators. The Grantsmanship Center also maintains a reference library.

Many fund-raising organizations also have helpful publications for the potential grant coordinator. An annual almanac, Giving USA, is published by The Giving Institute

Read books about grant writing such as Grant Writing For Dummies, by Beverly A. Browning; Winning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing, and Writing Successful Proposals, by Tori O'Neal-McElrath, Lynn Kanter, and Lynn English; and Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, edited by
Eugene R. Tempel, Timothy L. Seiler, and Dwight F. Burlingame. 

Some colleges and universities offer courses in fund-raising. These may even include business lectures or seminars on the grant application process. Many colleges also offer courses in arts management or in nonprofit work that would help potential grant coordinators and writers understand the type of work required in this occupation.

The Job

The number of grants awarded each year in the United States is very large, and so is the competition among grant seekers; hundreds of institutions may apply for the same grant. Furthermore, organizations that award grants have very specific rules and requirements that must be satisfied for a proposal even to be considered.

Grant coordinators must be familiar with all applicable funding organizations and their requirements. They often make the difference in securing the grant for their organizations. Grant coordinators plan and organize all grant-funded programs for their agency or organization. They conduct extensive research on foundations and grant-offering agencies by ordering their publications, visiting their Web sites, following them on social media, and contacting officials at the foundations.

To determine which grants the organization should apply for, coordinators work with other officers in their own agency. Grant coordinators participate in many of the planning stages for the agency. For instance, they may sit in on meetings in which budgets are planned and financial officials determine operating budgets, anticipate income, and forecast expenditures. Employees of the nonprofit organization may suggest programs, equipment, or materials that they would like to have funded by a grant, and the grant coordinator determines the best sources of funding for each need.

Before applying for a grant, a grant coordinator maps out a proposal for how the funding would be used. Often these proposals are long and complex. Other employees may help the grant coordinator write a proposal justifying the need for the program or equipment.

Some nonprofit organizations are fortunate enough to have one or more employees whose primary function is grant writing. In these cases the grant coordinator does not write the grant proposal. The grant writer creates the proposal document, developing its vocabulary and overall structure. Working with the staff whose programs require funding, the grant writer devises a strategy, translating the program to make it relevant to the funder's interests. In the proposal, the grant writer also must communicate both the short-term and long-term goals of the organization so that they are understandable to an outsider. The grant writer also may be responsible for assembling supporting documents that accompany the proposal, such as the organization's budget, board of directors, history, mission, and executive biographies. The grant writer must create different proposals for different kinds of funding, for example, general operating support for the organization overall versus funding for a specific program or project. Additionally, if a grant is received, the grant writer often has to prepare a final report required by many funders.

When an organization does not have a separate grant writer on staff, the writer may be a financial officer in the organization, a teacher in the school, or an employee in charge of a particular project.

Drafts of the proposal usually pass through many hands, including fiscal officers or other executives, before being sent to foundations or grant-offering agencies. Once a final draft has been approved, the grant coordinator or writer prepares the grant proposal using the format required by the funding agency. The proposal then is submitted to the foundation or funding agency. It is the responsibility of the grant coordinator or writer to follow up on the application and meet with agency or foundation representatives if necessary.

Once an organization receives its grant, the coordinator makes sure to meet all of the requirements of the grant-giver. For example, if the grant covers the purchase of equipment, the coordinator confirms receipt of the correct equipment and completes follow-up reports for the foundation or agency. In some instances, the grant coordinator hires an outside agency to monitor the implementation of a grant-funded program. The outside agency then may submit its periodic monitoring reports both to the funding agency and to the grant coordinator.

A large part of the grant coordinator's work involves maintaining files and overseeing paperwork, which is usually done on a computer. A thorough grant coordinator must keep the literature published by funding agencies for reference and file copies of all applications and proposals.

Grant coordinators are essentially project managers. They must understand the overall work of their organization while focusing on finding and obtaining the best grants. They see to it that their organization presents itself to funding agencies in the best possible way.