How to Increase Your Odds for a Successful Grant

Avoid the Spray & Pray method!

Have you heard that grant-writing is just a numbers game?

Does your organization adopt the Spray and Pray approach – sending out a million generic proposals a week and hoping the money will pour in?

Here’s a better approach to build relationships and increase your chances of getting your application funded.

BEFORE you apply 

  1. Do your homework. Are you applying at the right time in their grant cycle? Do they allow un-invited proposals? Did you read their criteria thoroughly to make sure your specific budget items are allowed?
  2. Call them to talk about your proposal. A good number of foundations encourage you to get in touch first. If you see a phone number or email, call and talk to them about what angle you should take in your proposal. If you’re an environmental group looking for climate change funding, you may find out that they prefer advocacy over research. Tweak your proposal to reflect their interests!
  3. Can’t find information? Not surprising since so many smaller foundations either don’t have a website, or the one they do have isn’t up to date. Get access to a prospect research database to find information on giving levels and interests. These databases can really help you figure out how much to ask for when it isn’t stated (very common). Can’t afford one? Try your local library – chances are they have a subscription you can access for free.
  4. Get a normal person to read the proposal. Not a fundraiser. Not a frontline staffer. Pick someone who doesn’t know your charity well and get them to hunt for flowery or vague wording, undefined acronyms and jargon. Eliminate those things!

WHEN you apply 

  1. Check EXACTLY how they want it submitted. Font size? Length limit? No staples? Emailed? Uploaded to a webpage? Mailed with 10 copies?
  2. Save a copy of your online application before you hit “send.” Many of those automated systems won’t let you back in once you have submitted and you may get a call that they never received it or that they want to go over specific points.
  3. File any proof of receipt you might get. If it’s mailed in, check after a week to make sure they got it. Use that call to thank them for accepting your application. Let them know you’d be happy to discuss it further if they have any questions during their review.

AFTER you apply 

  1. Once the decision date has passed, call the funder to check on the status of your application. Many of them don’t have time to let unsuccessful applicants know they didn’t make it, but are willing to give you advice for future requests. Stay cheerful and thank them just the same! If they sound in the mood to talk, ask them what kinds of projects DID get funded. Be congratulatory, not defensive!
  2. Put it all in your donor database so the next person knows what to do for future approaches to the donor.

So easy, non?



About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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1 Response to How to Increase Your Odds for a Successful Grant

  1. Heather says:

    Another great article! Love your blog.

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