The Art of Persuasive Grant Writing

Grant writing is more than just a technical exercise; persuasive storytelling is key. The best grant writers weave a compelling narrative that captivates grant funders, aligns with their objectives, and inspires them to invest in your project or cause. To stand out in a sea of proposals, grant writers must master the art of storytelling. Here’s how you can craft a grant proposal that resonates with grant funders and increases your chances of securing funding.

Grant proposals are a competitive field – there are so many worthy projects and ideas, so many needs to be addressed, and limited resources. Grant funders are looking to make the most impact possible with their funds, in the areas that matter to them.

A winning grant proposal will need to cover many different aspects – a proven community need, evidence that the project you propose is actually the right solution, and the demonstratable capabilities and capacity of your organisation and team. It’s not enough to describe what you intend to achieve or who you are – being able to convince your funder to select your proposal over the next-best alternative requires excellent persuasive writing skills. 

If you’re preparing a grant application, we recommend to focus your writing through the lens of Aristotle’s Three Persuasive Appeals: Logos (Logic), Ethos (Ethics) and Pathos (Emotion).

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Logos (logic)

Writing a grant proposal grounded in logic is certainly logical advice – funders want to see convincing evidence that there’s a gap to be filled, that your solution is thought-out and sensible, and that you have data and stats to back up your good intentions. 


Many of us have been inspired to donate by a compelling human story, and that’s certainly part of a winning grant application (which you’ll learn more about in pathos). But for grantseekers, a logical argument is particularly critical because funders tend to be more ‘sophisticated’ than microdonors. The world of philanthropy is increasingly focused on demonstrable social impact – and of course, many grants are made by government agencies that are accountable to taxpayers.


Likewise, Foundations and other grantmaking organisations are organisations first and foremost – they exist for a stated purpose; they may have a tax status based upon its fulfillment; and their decisionmakers will be working towards using funds to drive impact in that area. 


You’ll likely be submitting your grant through a form, which will be evaluated on the other side with a matrix – much like tender submissions. You’ll have specific questions you’re asked to address, your answer will be compared to that of other applicants, and your response will be reviewed based on the criteria set out in the grant guidelines. Your reasoning for why your project and organisation are the right choice should be clear, free of logical fallacies, and utilise or refer to evidence for any claims you make. It should be clear how you know what you know, and why you’re making your assertions. 



Logic, ethics and emotion lie at the heart of persuasive communication.

 Ethos (ethics)

As we’ve mentioned, your grant proposal will be compared to others. Other organisations have taken time to prepare a grant proposal; like your organisation, they are potentially exposing themselves to opportunity loss and wasted resources if their proposal is not successful. It is important to conduct yourself ethically when preparing a grant. Some aspects to consider:

▪ Is this grant proposal credible? Establish credibility by citing credible sources.
▪ Are we credible? Share the credentials of your organisation and key personnel involved with the project, such as awards, accolades, evidence of your achievements to date and reputation within the community you serve.
▪ Are we capable of delivering? Share examples of similar projects you have delivered successfully, and your plan for how you will achieve milestones towards delivering this project, communicate with the funder during its delivery (and manage project and people-related risk).
▪ Is the background research relevant, accurate and timely?
    ▪ Relevance what argument are you trying to make when citing a source?
    ▪ Accuracy – are we presenting a well-balanced view of the issue, rather than information that may be grounded in misinterpretation or misrepresentation?
    ▪ Timeliness – given that we are working to solve a problem now, are we ensuring the data we present is up-to-date, and widely accepted as currently representative?

Pathos (emotion)
Stories resonate. A well-structured logical argument may come across as dry and cold unless emotion is also incorporated. Qualitative case studies and stories of real lives changed resonate well with grant funders, and add layers of depth and context that can be difficult to capture with numbers alone. A winning grant application will appeal not only to the head, but also to the heart, leading the reader to care about the work your organisation does and the impact your project could have on the people you serve.

We recommend capturing the funder’s attention from the start with a powerful introduction. Consider beginning with a real-life story that illustrates the problem your project aims to address, and use anecdotes, statistics, or impactful quotes to prove the need for your project and set the stage for what they will be reading next. (No place in the grant application form to write an introduction? Consider attaching a cover letter as a supporting document). 

Your objective here is to convey your organisation as capable, impactful and committed to doing good. As such, you’ll need to communicate:

▪ your vision, mission, purpose and values, and how they align with those of the funder
▪ the purpose of this project, demonstrating genuine commitment to that purpose, how you’ve worked towards it in other projects, and how it aligns with your strategy
▪ social proof, in terms of what the people you aim to serve, and what other organisations in your sector, think of your organisation and its work. (This may require client interviews, surveys and workshops, testimonials and letters of support.)

Aim to make your grant proposal easy to read and follow, as you take your reader along on a journey towards the brighter future you aim to create together. Share a narrative that conveys depth and authenticity, with personal stories, testimonials, successes and learnings, and case studies that illustrate the difference your organisation makes and the potential for this project to drive much-needed impact.

Looking for support with telling better stories in your grant proposals? Contact ProposalPro to see how our experienced team can help convey your organisation and project in the best light, and keep an eye on ProposalPro Insights for more grantseeking thought leadership.



Competitive advantages aren't just for the private sector. The philanthropic sector also operates in an environment of limited funds, so you'll need to demonstrate why your organisation and initiative are the best choice. Stand out from the pack by following our Top 5 Grant Writing Tips.

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