Grant Writing 101

March 18, 2024

There are some universal guidelines to grant writing, which apply to any grant opportunity. These include:

  1. The most important part of your application is your project summary. Use this space to clearly but concisely explain how your project solves a problem, taps a new resource, or will positively impact its community.
  2. Many reviewers go straight from the project summary to the budget, before reading the rest of the application. Be sure to use the details of your budget to clearly explain the scope and focus of your project.
  3. Heritage tourism is a major consideration for our grants, as it relates to the goals of MHAA and your local Heritage Area. Use your application to explain what is unique about your project and how it will bring a new or expanded audience to the heritage area that you serve.
  4. Use your application to clearly explain the steps necessary to complete your project and what the expected effects of those steps will be. This is one of the best ways to demonstrate organizational capacity and articulate the importance of your project to readers.
  5. Grant reviewers come from a variety of backgrounds. Try to explain your project in generally-accessible terms to ensure that your message can be clearly understood by all readers.
  6. Be sure to include the local context of your project. Stress how your project will either be a unique asset to the area or will support ongoing local initiatives within your heritage area.


As the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Crossroads Heritage Area, I work to help every applicant to be as prepared as possible for a very competitive MHAA grant round. There were 260 Intents received across the state in 2024, but from experience, we know that not all those who submit an Intent go on to submit a full application. And, last year, only about half of the submitted full applications were funded (some partially funded) at the grant decision meeting in July.

You should know that by submitting an Intent, you will have access to the full application on the grants platform, unless it is flagged by MHAA staff. There is no “invitation” sent, but instead, the application will now appear in your choices in the drop-down menu related to your application in the grants portal. There is no other means of filing an application, and organizations that have not submitted an Intent are not eligible to apply.

The platform has a few basic features. It has tabs at the top for “Applications” and “Requirements” – which means required filings and reports. When the “Applications” tab is selected, it makes a distinction between “In Progress Applications” and “Submitted Applications” in the menu to the right labeled “Show.” If the “Requirements” tab is selected, your “Show” menu offers “New Requirements,” “In Progress Requirements,” and “Submitted Requirements.” If your grant request is funded, this will be the place you will submit the reports for your grant. If you receive MHAA grants from multiple years, these will be named in the lists below the red ribbon, and you will manage each grant separately. Contact the MHAA staff if you have any technical difficulties with the grants platform; to contact Andrew Arvizu, their email is [email protected].

Grant Reviewer Comment Summary from FY2024 MHAA Grant Round:

Around one third of positive comments from the reviewers focused on the overall quality of the project. These included comments about the importance of the work being done and the potential for positive impact. Reviewers especially supported projects that clearly addressed an established problem or tapped an underutilized resource. Similar excitement was shown for projects that displayed innovation in their field or offered fresh perspectives on established narratives.

The next most popular form of positive comments centered on a project’s potential to support heritage tourism. Reviewers especially commented on projects which leveraged a resource that was unique to the community that is served. Similarly, panelists supported tourism-focused applications that served small and rural communities.

A project’s fit with its Heritage Area’s goals and priorities was the third most common positive offered by reviewers. Many panelists strongly supported projects which aligned specially with the Heritage Areas’ strategic plans. Again, they also supported projects that would bring a new or unique resource to a Heritage Area.

Additional comments focused either on the applicant’s qualifications or the clarity of the application itself. Many reviewers praised applications that could clearly explain what the organization planned to do and how it was qualified to do so.

Some comments centered on urgency or the budget. Most of the urgent comments referred directly to damaged properties that were in immediate need of repair. Budget-focused comments mentioned clear, consistent, and detailed accounting of the project’s expenses.

We will add new information from the FY2026 grant round when it becomes available in December 2024. Best of luck with your plans and projects!

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