Using AI to Improve Your Grant Writing: An Interview with Philip Deng of Grantable

Join me as I interview Philip Deng, Co-Founder and CEO of Grantable, on the topic of using artificial intelligence to assist nonprofit organizations. This is one of the hottest topics right now, so jump right in!

[If you need a primer on AI, check out my blog on AI and ChatGPT: What is it and how do I use it?]

Margit: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions that I’ve heard from my readers. First of all, what is Grantable and what motivated you to create it?

Philip: Grantable is a world-class grant writing assistant for any organization, powered by generative AI language models. It has the ability to help take existing written content and quickly draft responses to grant proposal prompts, and to rework responses to adjust things like length and tone. Overall, using Grantable can dramatically reduce the amount of time and energy folks spend on the most repetitive, least creative aspects of grant-seeking.

I was motivated to create Grantable based on 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. I founded a nonprofit in 2014 and quickly became acquainted with the painstaking process of applying for grant funding. Over time, I developed hacks and systems to make myself more efficient, especially by organizing my boilerplate content in ways that allowed me to modularize my grant writing to reuse content blocks.

In 2020, during the pandemic, I began challenging myself to create custom software that would allow me to share my process more widely with others, which is when I heard about GPT3 and saw how these concepts could come together.

I began working on Grantable and participated in two startup accelerator programs in 2021, which is how I met my co-founder, Robert, who is an outstanding software engineer.

Margit: I can appreciate the time and effort it took to develop this level of user-friendly software. But how will Grantable help my nonprofit clients? What if they are brand new to grant writing?

Philip: Grantable helps nonprofits, especially small and over-burdened teams, to add an AI teammate that is very good at creating precise and well-written content for grant applications. It’s critically important to provide Grantable with high-quality initial content to base its writing upon. The best thing to upload would be a recently written grant proposal of substantial length. That way, Grantable will have plenty of material to draw from.

For folks who are brand new to grant writing, Grantable could help to ensure the form and style of writing is outstanding, but I would caution new grant applicants to seek expert guidance here. Again, Grantable works best when the source material you give it is high-quality, which means it may still make sense to consult with grant professionals to make sure your foundational content is in good shape.

All that said, we understand it’s not always easy to find good information or support, so we’re working on features that focus on the experience of first-timers. We’re looking at ways to leverage AI to help make sure the systems and processes are in place to ensure any organization can have a thorough and orderly process for applying for grant funding.

Margit: Aha…so it sounds like my All About Grant Writing online program would be the perfect way for someone to develop their FIRST really solid grant application. Then they can head over to Grantable (shameless plug 😊).

Margit:  I’ve been playing around with Grantable for about a while now, and the content that is generated is mostly astounding (with some editing necessary so it’s my authentic voice). I’ve heard so many people talk about their concerns regarding privacy. Is the content they upload to Grantable seen by people outside of their private account? Is the content that Grantable generates kept private on the account?

Philip: Information in Grantable accounts is completely private to the users in the account. It’s held on state-of-the-art cloud systems with cutting edge security features.

When users interact with the AI features in Grantable, some data is sent to the AI language models, but this information is not used to train the models, which is in accordance with OpenAI’s data handling policies:

Margit: Good, so my information is not available to the public. What about plagiarism? As grant pros, we need to consider ethics, so this is a big issue. How can we be sure we aren’t stealing someone’s content when we use what Grantable generates for us?

Philip: One of the ways to think about Grantable versus, say, ChatGPT, is that Grantable is like a private chef who comes to your home and cooks food using your ingredients, while ChatGPT is like going to a restaurant and ordering food, which is prepared with the restaurant’s ingredients. What that means is Grantable’s outputs mostly use your content, which is one way to avoid even the appearance of plagiarism.

That said, it’s also helpful to understand how large language models like GPT work, and why plagiarism isn’t a likely occurrence. These models, which are trained on vast amounts of written content, from which they derive predictive algorithms, are generating outputs based on probability, not by looking through the training data and “copying and pasting” content.

Each word in an output is selected based on its likelihood of following the previous word, which is why hundreds of people giving ChatGPT, for example, identical prompts will receive different results. The model is generating each word based upon an extremely complex calculation of probabilities. In this way, it’s nearly impossible for someone to “steal someone’s content” and similarities in outputs arise mainly when the information being requested is very straightforward with little or no room for variation.

Margit:  That is a great way to explain it! If people want to try Grantable, what are some great examples of helpful prompts that people can use right away on their free Grantable account?

Philip: The prompts in Grantable are simply the questions you encounter in an RFP or grant application. Savvy users get the best results with the following pro tips:

  1. Choose source material precisely – Grantable can auto-select what it thinks is relevant content from your library, but the best way to ensure the AI drafts a good response is to select source material yourself. Most grant writers know the sentences and paragraphs they want to draw from, and Grantable makes it easy to search and give these selections to the AI assistant.
  2. Give specific instructions – Grantable allows users to tell it how to answer a response. This is where directions to follow length limits or to modulate tone, help to create high-quality writing, fast. [I’ve used it for generating a response in 500 characters or less, for example]
  3. Have a playful mindset – Interacting with generative AI technology is something very new for most people. Learning how to prompt this kind of software is much more like learning to work with a human teammate, which requires time, patience, and iteration. If you’re not getting the results you want at first, be patient with yourself, and try to frame the experience like a puzzle or game you’re trying to figure out.

Margit: Philip, THANK YOU for taking the time to answer the very questions that so many people have been asking!


Philip is offering all my readers (you) a special intro offer of 2 months free (the equivalent of 100,000 tokens, the currency used to pay when you have a Pro account).

To get started free AND use your 100K tokens just create your account here and subscribe to Grantable Pro. Then use coupon code: GRANTS100K at checkout. Let me know how you like it (or what needs improvement).

Want to learn more? Then sign up to watch my on-demand webinar, ChatGPT and AI for Nonprofit Fundraising and Grant Writing.

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margit brazada poirier

Hi, I’m Margit Brazda Poirier

I founded Grants4Good in 2009 to help nonprofit organizations and businesses find and get grants. Since then, I’ve helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars for programs via private coaching, customized grant writing training, and my course All About Grant Writing.

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