Winning Grant Writing

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Frequently Asked Questions


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Many grant applications are accompanied by scoring criteria or rubrics. Read them carefully, because they will give you specific guidelines for creating a winning proposal. In the absence of a scoring rubric, read through the grant guidelines and make a careful list of all the items you must answer. As you fill out the application, check off each item so your proposal is in full compliance with the grant requirements. Aside from knowing the donor's prerequisites to win a grant, you must have a well-crafted idea, excellent research, collaboration, innovation, and need for your proposed proposal.

When your staff cannot professionally research, write, and complete grant proposals, your organization must hire a grant writer. Grant writers assist nonprofits, small businesses, government agencies, and individuals, with a variety of services.


Grant Writers may assist your organization in the following ways:
Researching for grant prospects: Locating federal, state & local grants; and Finding foundation grants and contracts.


Grant writing: Writing proposal narratives; Developing budgets; Researching the needs of the target population; Completing needs assessments; and Researching literature for best practices.
Evaluating programs: Preparing evaluation reports; and Monitoring quality assurance.


Crowdfunding: Developing crowdfunding campaigns for: Entrepreneurs, Nonprofits, Teacher and students, Artists, Inventors, Researchers, Start-ups, Social movements, Sports teams, Social media strategies, Fundraising materials, and Identifying perks for contributors.


Developing business plans: Evaluate business needs; Develop marketable programs; and Identify venture or angel funding.

Writing and developing curriculum: Educational surveys; Research existing curricula; and Writing age-appropriate curriculum.

Here are the questions you must ask, before seeking a foundation grant:

  • Have you met the legal requirements for nonprofit status? Are you registered as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity? Most foundations insist on this as a starting point. It's amazing how many people just get an idea and then go off looking for funds. It doesn't work that way.
  • Where is your nonprofit in the lifecycle of a nonprofit? Fully functioning nonprofits don't just appear full grown. They go through typical stages, such as the idea state, startup stage, growth stage and mature stage. Foundations are looking for nonprofits that are already up and running well. Grants are meant to supplement a nonprofit's resources, not to fully fund it.
  • Are you clear about your purpose? Do you have a compelling mission statement? Your mission should be unique and specify what you plan to accomplish.
  • Do you have capable leadership? You need qualified staff and an active board. An experienced CEO and a supportive board that is willing to fundraiser are hallmarks of strong nonprofits.
  • Do you have relevant programs with a good reputation for service delivery? How are your programs different than other nonprofits working in the same area? Can you demonstrate that your programs make a difference for those you serve? Are your clients satisfied?
  • Do you have an efficient operation and good support systems, such as enthusiastic volunteers, transportation if needed, and enough staff to handle your clients? Can you deliver on your promises?
  • Does your nonprofit plan and evaluate on a regular basis? Do you have a long-range plan? Do you evaluate your programs to see if they are working?
  • Do you have adequate facilities? This includes basic physical facilities but also technical ones. Do you have an updated computer system? Financial tracking abilities? A donor management system? You need to have the tools to function well.
  • Are your finances stable and do you have diverse revenue streams? Foundations want to be reassured that you don't have all of your eggs in one basket...especially theirs.
  • Do you have a track record? Measure results of your programs so that you can point to verifiable results. Seek out other nonprofits to collaborate on the project you propose to a foundation. This is especially useful if you are a newer nonprofit. Collect letters of support from community leaders and organizations.
The amount of time and work it takes to prepare a grant application is a direct function of the number of people on your project team. Most grants have four to six weeks between the time the application is released and when the proposal is due. For larger, more complex grant proposals, this may not be enough time. Planning well in advance of the application release date can give you a head start and alleviate some of the pressure. It is important for your organization to plan in advance and have a grant calendar of release dates and of rolling grant opportunities. This is absolutely something that we can work on together with your organization.

Competitive grants require a specific type of application. Although state and federal agencies and especially foundations have different requirements, the basic parts of a grant application remain the same. Those components are:

  • Summary or Abstract is the most important part of your proposal because it is the first impression you make on the reviewer.
  • Needs Statement/ Statement of Significance is the reason for your project and makes the argument for why the grant should be funded. Relevant data and research, such as surveys, preliminary studies, a literature review, and identified successful models of previous studies will all substantiate the needs of the targeted population or for your research project.
  • Goals and Objectives are your plan of operation, and must be aligned with the project’s identified needs. A goal will be the end result of your project or research, and the objectives will prove how the goal will be met in measurable and quantifiable terms.
  • Activities explain how each objective will unfold to meet the goal.
  • Timelines describe the project activities in terms of deadlines. These may include your plan of operation, evaluation, and budget.
  • Evaluation Plan is one of the most critical components for a project grant application, especially with the current heightened level of accountability. You must detail a comprehensive evaluation plan that incrementally tracks the effectiveness of your proposed objectives.
  • Outcomes are critical in all evidence-based grant proposals. Outlining the short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes with specific benchmarks for success is vital for the donor’s understanding of the ultimate purpose for the funding. A helpful tool in developing and demonstrating the process indicators for successful outcomes of your proposal is the logic model.

This will depend on the scores of your application, rejection comments or letter. If your proposal has been rejected for a flawed idea or because you applied to the wrong donor, you should not reapply. However, if you have been rejected for defects in some of your activities, lack of examples, or a weak evaluation, you should speak with the donor concerning their recommendations on what needs to be fixed, and reapply as soon as possible.


As you develop the grant application, many more questions will arise. These can be answered by experienced colleagues at your institution or your grant administration office. Others, which deal directly with your expertise, can only be answered by you. The range of universal questions is wide; however, the ability to answer them effectively will lead you in the right direction for being funded. Most importantly, success depends on a well-crafted idea, extensive research, collaboration, innovation, and perseverance. Never take a rejection as a negative and give up on applying for grants for your organization.