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12 Books for Grant Writing: Beginner to Experts

pastel color books with 12 Books for Grant Writing: Beginners to Experts text
12 Books for Grant Writing: Beginners to Experts

As someone who has pursued a career in grant writing, I have read numerous books on the subject. Each book has played a crucial role, depending on my experience level. When I first began, the books I read introduced me to the basics and provided insight into the ethics of grant writing.

As I progressed into the intermediate phase, I read books that helped refine my skills and think deeply about how community demographics and needs impact content creation. With this knowledge, I started to train others.

Now, with almost a decade of grant writing experience and close to 100 successful applications, I look for books that challenge my assumptions and introduce me to more nuanced ways of describing community resources and challenges, such as the principles of asset-based writing and people-first writing.

The nonprofit landscape has changed significantly, and grant writers must stay current. If you want to learn which books to read, I have compiled a list of my top 12 books on grant writing and philanthropy that you can add to your reading list.

For Beginner Grant Writing

This article will consider beginners as individuals who have written less than 15 grant applications, those with less than 2 years of grant writing experience, or those with less than 10 successful grant applications.

The books below are highly recommended for someone interested in learning about the sections of the grant application and how to respond. As you get some practice, they remain great resources for improving your grant writing skills and increasing your chances of success.

1. Grant Writing for Dummies by Beverly Browning - This book provides a comprehensive overview of the grant writing process, including identifying funding opportunities, developing a solid proposal, and managing the grant once it has been awarded. It is an excellent resource for both beginners and experienced grant writers.

2. The Only Grant Writing Books You'll Ever Need by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox - As the title suggests, this book covers all aspects of the grant writing process, from researching potential funders to submitting the final proposal. The book also includes sample proposals and worksheets to help you stay organized.

3. The Complete Book of Grant Writing by Nany Smith and E. Works - This book covers everything you need to identify the right funders to approach to crafting a compelling proposal using practical advice and real-world examples. It also includes tips for building relationships with funders and managing the grant once awarded. 

For Intermediate Grant Writers

In this article, we will refer to intermediate grant writers as individuals with 3 to 5 years of experience in grant writing who have written between 15 and 30 grant applications or have successfully secured between 15 and 20 grants.

Below is a list of books to help you improve your grant writing skills, allowing you to create compelling narratives and competitive project designs.

1. "Storytelling with Data" by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, published in 2015, is a comprehensive guide to data visualization and communication. The book covers how to use data visualization techniques to present information, gain credibility, and secure funding effectively. Additionally, it provides a clear roadmap for data-driven decision-making.

2. "Words That Sell" by Richard Bayan is a must-read for anyone interested in using words to attract, engage, and convince the reader to take specific action. In the case of grant writing, we want them to see an immediate need and write a check now! In all seriousness, this book offers tips on creating headlines, writing effective sales letters, and using language to persuade and influence that can translate into revenue.

3. "Writing to Win Federal Grants" is an exceptional resource for individuals seeking federal grants. The book provides comprehensive coverage of federal grant writing style, application questions, various grant awards, and policies governing eligibility and the application process. "Writing to Win Federal Grants" is a valuable asset for anyone looking to venture into one of the most challenging and detail-oriented forms of grant writing.

4. "Prepare for the GPC Exam" is a study guide that helps grant professionals prepare for the Grant Professional Certification (GPC) exam. The book covers all the topics tested on the exam, including grant research, proposal development, and grant management. I particularly enjoyed the sections on relationship building, ethics, and the professionalism of grant writing that can’t be found elsewhere.

5. "Perfect Phrases for Grant Writing" by Beverly Browning provides examples of effective phrases and sentences that can be used in grant proposals. The examples cover various aspects of grant writing, including needs assessments, goals and objectives, and budgeting. What I love most is that the examples can be adapted to your organization. This book is my go-to when writer’s block hits.

6. "Perfect Phrases for Fundraising" by Beverly Browning is a practical guide that provides examples of phrases and sentences that can be used in fundraising letters, emails, and other communication materials. The book covers various fundraising topics, including donor cultivation, fundraising events, and online fundraising. Many of the examples can be used when applying to family foundations or when crafting grant appeals to local small businesses.

For Experienced Grant Writers

In this article, we will consider an experienced grant writer to be someone who meets any of the following criteria: they have over five years of experience in grant writing, have written more than 30 grant applications, or have successfully secured more than 20 grants.

Experienced grant writers interested in philanthropy, fundraising, and social change can expand their role from practitioner to change agent with these three books.

1. "Benefactors: Why Some Fundraising Professionals Always Succeed" by Joshua Birkholz and Ami Lampi. This book provides insights into the key factors contributing to fundraising professionals' success. The authors draw on their extensive experience in the field to offer practical advice and actionable strategies for achieving fundraising goals.

2. "Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance" by Edgar Villanueva. This book explores the impact of colonialism on the world of philanthropy and offers a vision for a more equitable approach to giving. The author draws on his own experiences as a Native American philanthropist to provide insights into how we can all work to decolonize wealth and create a more inclusive and empowering philanthropic sector.

3. "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World" by Anand Giridharadas. This book critically examines the world of philanthropy and social change, arguing that many of the efforts to address social problems perpetuate the inequalities they claim to be addressing. The author offers an unconventional critique of the "win-win" mentality that often pervades philanthropy. It will ruffle a few feathers, no doubt, and challenge the reader to reimagine how we approach social change.

I hope that you found our book recommendations helpful. They are in no way comprehensive of everything in the marketplace, but they have served as a great knowledge base for me over the years. Many times, I return to them and learn something new. I have also shared these recommendations with people who have taken our past training classes.

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