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How to get started in grant writing

If you’re interested in combining your passion for writing with nonprofit work and gaining valuable experience to launch a career in fundraising, learning how to get started in grant writing is an excellent way to achieve these goals. Choosing this career option also equips you with transferable skills that can benefit you not just in other nonprofit sector roles but also in diverse fields. We asked a recent grant writing intern for his insights. 

Check out these grants writing tips

1. Get guidance from professionals 

At Roots, we are happy to offer grant writing internships with two small fundraising agencies; teams of fundraising experts who provide research and grant writing services to African nonprofit clients. Small nonprofits often lack the resources and know-how to effectively navigate the grant-giving landscape, so this support is often a catalyst for sustainability and growth of the social impact or environmental projects they run on the ground. 

Layne Meyer, a Bachelor of Arts student at Fordham University in New York City, recently completed a grant writing internship with one of these fundraising experts, Katalyst. It allowed him to work with a number of nonprofit clients in Africa, while working from home in the US. 

“My summer grant writing internship exposed me to an entirely new industry and allowed me to support the fundraising efforts of some incredible NGOs in Southern Africa,” he says. “I am proud to say that I wrote 15 proposals on behalf of NGOs in Kenya, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, totaling approximately $600,000 in total requested funding.”

2. Gain and develop your new skills

Grant and proposal writing are vital skills within any nonprofit organization. While there is a recent shift towards getting an increasing amount of funds through individual giving campaigns, a majority of nonprofits still depend on grant and corporate funding for their financial sustainability – and therefore for the success of their projects. Gaining experience in grant writing, then, is a great way to create a resume that will be highly attractive in the NGO sector. 

Nonprofit organizations, says Layne, “often rely on grants from foundations, government, or corporate donors for funding, so those with experience writing proposals can leverage this to get their foot in the door of this highly competitive sector.”

3. Acquire an in-depth understanding on the nonprofit sector

But you can expect to do more than just drafting proposals and applications during a grant writing internship; you’ll also be involved in doing the necessary research to find relevant funding opportunities, building relationships with funders, reaching out to potential nonprofit clients, and creating backed systems for fundraising. 

The multifaceted nature of these internships offer an in-depth insight into the inner workings of the nonprofit sector. “I enjoyed learning from an experienced fundraising professional, coming to understand the nuances of proposal writing, prospect research and funder engagement strategies,” says Layne. 

“I think the internship gave me some better insight into the non-profit landscape in Southern and Eastern Africa specifically. The clients I worked with ranged in size, budgets, and areas of focus, from well-established organizations running schools to small grassroots groups supporting organic farmers, so I was able to gain additional insight into this dynamic regional sector.

4. Benefit from international exposure

Doing a grant writing internship with us will also add an international element to your resume, as you’ll be working with African based organizations – something that Layne was specifically interested in. “Personally, I wanted to work with African NGOs in preparation for eventually traveling and working on the continent in the near future. I have been able to leverage my grant writing work to contribute to the efforts of the Better Me Foundation in Kisumu, Kenya (who I connected with via Talitha and Roots), starting in January 2022.”

“The grant writing internship absolutely met my expectations and then some – it gave me a legitimate skillset that I can leverage in pursuit of future opportunities in the international development industry.”

Why consider a grant writing internship? 

For the aspiring writer who has a keen interest in fundraising, learning how to get into grant writing is a natural and valuable choice. It offers highly relevant and practical work experience in your chosen field. Moreover, the skills acquired during these internships are transferable and can be applied to other positions within the nonprofit sector.

“I feel that this internship will be helpful as I pursue my future career path in international development,” Layne continues, “specifically working with major contracting firms that implement USAID projects overseas. One of the major skills involved in this industry is “business development,” which involves writing large proposals to win these contracts and is highly valued at the entry level.”

Moreover, the writing experience you’ll gain will also be beneficial in any other writing careers, whether it’s in journalism or in a communications position within a company. So even if you’re not aiming for a job within the nonprofit sector, having this type of proposal writing experience could be a great move. 

Ready to apply? 

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out our two grant writing internships. We have openings at both internships for 2022, and there are opportunities for both remote and on-site working. Check out these two opportunities here; 

Or check out all our fundraising internships in Africa 

If you’re keen to apply, or if you have any questions about these opportunities, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Marketing and Business Development Internship