How To Write Well

Persuasive Writing Techniques

Writing successful funding applications requires specific technical writing skills: YOU NEED TO WRITE TO SELL. 

Funding applications are documents of persuasion. To persuade the funding body to invest in your proposal, tell them WHAT you are going to do and WHY it will meet their requirements (see table below).

Convince the funder that:

  • An urgent and compelling problem exists
  • Your solution will address the problem, achieve its objectives, and impact the community
  • Your organisation will successfully execute the proposal
  • The cost involved is appropriate.

Explaining the What & Why of Your Proposal

Do not just TELL the funder Explain and clarify
What the problem is WHY it is urgent
What activities you will undertake

WHY the activities were selected

WHY they will achieve the outcomes and impact the community

What the previous experience of your organisation is WHY your organisation will successfully meet the their objectives and the funder's expectations
What the cost of the proposal is WHY it is value for money

Convincing applications ALWAYS:

  • Make a strong entrance
  • Stress one important message
  • Write from the funder's perspective
  • Appeal to the interests of the funder
  • Highlight the strengths of your organisation
  • Emphasise the benefits of your proposal
  • Are concise, easy to follow, and jargon free.

What Is Your Message?

It is easy to get caught up in the process of writing and forget to clearly articulate your key message.

Plan what you will say. Ask yourself six questions before you start to write your funding application:

  1. What am I trying to achieve?
  2. Who am I writing to and what do I know about them?
  3. What do I want to say? 
  4. How much space do I have?
  5. How will my application demonstrate knowledge and competence?
  6. How much time do I have to complete my section of the application?

Develop an outline and list the:

  • Most important points you want to make
  • Information you want to get across
  • Facts you want to write about.

Checkpoint: ​If you start to think "where am I going with this", go back and have a look at what you planned to say. 

The Funder's Perspective

You must show that you care about the funding body's reputation and objectives:

  1. Read, address, and comply with the funding body's application guidelines 
  2. Tailor the application, even if the proposal is for a continuation of services, to the items specified in the funding guidelines
  3. Highlight how your organisation's and application's objectives correspond with the funding body's objectives
  4. Demonstrate that your organisation will address the identified need in an evidence-based and financially responsible manner.

Remember: The person assessing your application may have read similar proposals:

  • Capture their attention
  • Tell them something new and interesting
  • Present your message creatively
    • Ask "how can I describe this in a way that people will remember?"
    • A story or case study can be more vivid and memorable than facts alone
  • Know your target audience
    • Assess their knowledge about the topic
    • Understanding their needs and expectations will help you decide what to include in your application. 

No-one is born a good writer. Learning to write well is a skill. It takes lots of practice and requires constructive, critical feedback. Use the exercises provided to develop and/or hone your writing skills. 

TIPS: How to Write Well

Write for Your Audience

  • Write for your reader and only your reader.
  • Try to engage your reader.
  • Do your research. Find out what your reader is interested in supporting.
  • Read the funding guidelines and/or contact the funding body to confirm what you can and can't include in your funding application.
  • Provide specific detail on what you will do.
  • Do not exceed the word or page limits. 


  • Do not use jargon.
  • Use simple words and terms readily understood by a layperson.
  • Define any specialist terms that you use.

Sentence Structure & Text Format

  • Keep sentences short. Short sentences (e.g., 5-6 words) can convey great emphasis.
  • Write clear, unambiguous sentences.
  • Do not use dense blocks of text. 
  • Use headings and white space.
  • Use dot points, indents, tables.
  • Use graphics and images.

Logic Flow

  • Place your key points up front, then expand. Do not make your readers work to get to the main thrust of your proposal.
  • Ensure a clear logic flow.
  • Read your proposal out loud to ensure that it is clear.
  • Always check and correct grammar, syntax and tense.


  • Provide relevant references. The requirements for references for proposals are not usually the same as for journal articles. The usual requirement is that the assessor should be able to find the source of the information you provide. 

References & Resources

Websites with Writing Exercises

YouTube Videos


Complete the activities below by en​tering text into the fields provided and/or completing the attached documents. If you download and complete an attached document, you will have to save this to your personal file.

You may also:

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  • Print this page: Users may print the page
  • Save and continue to next step: Users may save their responses to a secure server before continuing to another section of the resource. Users may then export and print all their saved responses from Your Funding Portfolio
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Activity 8.1.1 Preparing to Write the Funding Application Checklist

Before you begin writing your funding application, complete the attached checklist. If you answer NO to any of these questions, refer back to previous sections in this resource to
address them.

8.1.1.pdf (114 KB)

Activity 8.1.2 Analyse Your Audience

Read the attached CIVICUS toolkit ‘Writing Effectively and Powerfully'.

Complete an audience analysis by answering the questions below.

Writing_Effectively.pdf (275 KB)

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Activity 8.1.3 Brainstorm and Develop an Outline

You need to persuade the funding body that your:
1. Need is real and urgent
2. Proposal will help meet the funding body’s goals
3. Proposal is methodologically sound and has achievable objectives
4. Team and organisation has the necessary skills and experience to successfully implement the proposal and deliver results
5. Costs are appropriate.

Develop an outline and write what you want to say very briefly by completing the sentences below.

8.1.3.pdf (209 KB)

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