The Importance of Grants for Nonprofits

By Sophie McKnight / Intern at United Way of Bucks County

It’s crunch time here at UW Bucks as many of our staff members write, proofread, edit and repeat to submit grant proposals to bring in additional resources.

While writing a grant requesting a large amount of money isn’t exactly an intern’s work, it got me thinking, why are grants so important for nonprofits?

According to Charity Navigator, $410.02 billion was given to charitable causes in 2017. And every year, $50 billion is awarded through foundations and corporate grants.

This money can be awarded to any type of special-project, capital campaign, operational cost, endowment funding and more.

However, grants are a great way for nonprofits to receive a large amount of funding for their organization, it should not be the main source of funding that the nonprofit relies on.

It is highly recommended that only 20-25% of a nonprofits funding be grant-based. Any more than that and the organization is putting itself at risk by relying on grants they can’t be guaranteed to receive.

With all of the deadlines, different formats, and preferences a foundation can have, it can be extremely difficult for nonprofits to figure out the best way represent themselves and their cause.

A leading community foundation in Santa Barbara provided three basics tips through Nonprofit Kinect to think about when writing a grant:

1. The Need. Describe the need your project will be helping in your community.

2. Differentiation. How is your nonprofit and its projects different from all of the others applying for this grant.

3. Make a Difference. Explain how this money will make a difference in the community.

Nonprofit Kinect also provides their own list of things to avoid while writing a grant that is often seen in grant proposals:

1. Talking more about the problems than the solutions. Instead of listing a bunch of information about problems the community, the organization must acknowledge that they are aware of the issues, and focus on what they are going to do about them.

2. Addressing specific problems with general solutions. Be specific; provide a clear picture of what the organization will do about the issue.

3. Using buzzwords and jargon. Indistinct claims, stylish language and vague terms won’t impress the funder.

4. Budgets that don’t make sense. It’s surprising how many submitted budgets are flawed or don’t add up.

5. Repeating exact phrases from the funder guidelines. The proposal should fit the guidelines, but tell why they fit and what is important.

Taking all of these tips and considerations in mind, UW Bucks is diligently working to make sure that we have enough money to continue all of our current initiatives like BKO Hunger and Stuff the Bus, while also starting some new projects like Pre-K STEM.


Join us in changing lives in Bucks County for good by making a donation today. Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to, United Way of Bucks County, 413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills, PA 19030.