How To Increase Your Chances of Being Awarded a Grant

What are your chances of being awarded a grant? On average, sources state that 1 in 10 applications are approved for funding. By far, the most frequent reasons that funders reject proposals are:

  • They don’t have enough funds to accept every request.
  • The request falls outside of the funder’s giving interests.
  • The applicant didn’t follow application guidelines.

So how can you increase the odds of being awarded a grant?
We’ve listed our top 8 tips to help you secure upcoming funding opportunities:

1) Target Your Funders

In 2017, respondents reported the most frequently cited sources of grant awards were from:

Private foundations continue to be a funding source for most respondents; 75% reported that they received awards from private foundations. Although government awards are still “big money,” organizations should research today’s private foundations. If your organization is small (budget under $1 million), new (in existence for less than five years), or has never received a grant larger than $45,000, the funders that will be the best fit for you are going to be smaller foundations.

2) Submit at Least Three Grant Applications

Applying for at least three grant awards increased the frequency of winning an award. The likelihood of being awarded a grant increased when more applications were submitted. Based on 2017 data collected from nonprofits in the USA, revealed submitting:

  • 1 Application: 63% of respondents were awarded at least one grant.
  • 2 Applications: 75% of respondents were awarded at least one grant.
  • 3 to 5 Applications: 89% of respondents were awarded at least one grant;
    69% of respondents were awarded two to five grants.
  • 6 to 10 Applications: 96% of respondents were awarded at least one grant;
    77% of respondents were awarded three to ten grants.
  • 11 to 20 Applications: 98% of respondents were awarded at least one grant;
    77% of respondents were awarded three to 20 grants.
  • 21 to 30 Applications: 99% of respondents were awarded at least one grant;
    87% of respondents were awarded six to 30 grants.
  • Over 30 Applications: 99% of respondents were awarded at least one grant;
    85% of respondents were awarded over 11 grants.

By submitting three or more grant applications to various funders, you are more likely to receive at least one grant.

3: Do the Research

Compiling a grant application takes time. Grant research, submission, and reporting took more than three days per grant for 40% of grant seekers. Making a plan for the grant application and writing the grant took more than five days for 40%. This is an important process that you should not rush. After all, if a foundation is willing to fund your project, you can’t expect them to blindly award funds. Show facts!

You should consider hiring a professional grant writer for help with the research, development, and overall polishing of your grant application. Grant writers have experience in writing winning grant applications for every federal grant-making agency.

4: Meet the Eligibility Requirements

If you apply for a grant that has strict eligibility requirements, and your organization doesn’t meet them, your application will not be funded. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that the funder might bend their eligibility requirements after they read about the great work of your organization. The reality is that most funders receive so many grant applications, they actively look for reasons to eliminate applications from consideration. If your application does not pass the check for basic eligibility requirements, it won’t be read.

One simple piece of advice we often give is, “If you don’t qualify, don’t apply.”

5: Submit a Compliant Proposal

A grant application has two parts, the substantive content and the packaging of the application (which includes formatting). Both parts must adhere to the funder’s guidelines to be compliant. 

  1. A funder’s application guidelines will usually tell you how to structure the proposal. This includes major headings as well as components to be covered such as: how you’ll identify your beneficiary population, what your strategy will be, and why you think your project approach will work and lead to the desired outcomes.  

  2. On the packaging side, did the funder say to submit a 14-page proposal with 11-pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced text, and 1-inch margins, on letter size (8 1/2 x 11 inch) paper? Did you submit a proposal that met all of these requirements? If you haven’t formatted your proposal correctly, it will be obvious to the funder that you have not followed the submission guidelines. If you haven’t followed the directions, you should assume the funder will not read your proposal. Formatting checklists come in handy for this kind of cross-check. 

Another area where applications can fail is with the submission guidelines. If the proposal guidelines say to send a copy via email as well as a hard copy version, you need to do exactly what is asked or risk having your proposal thrown out for not complying with the guidelines.

6: Be Coherent and Readable

If you submit a poorly written proposal, your application will be unlikely to be funded for two reasons.

  1. First, the funder may not be able to figure out what you are proposing to do or how you intend to do it.

  2. And second, a poorly written proposal can suggest that the thinking behind the proposal may not be clear, something that may make the funder question whether your proposal would be a good investment.

Even if you have met all of the application guidelines and prepared a compliant proposal, your application may be shortlisted for further review. This includes if the reviewers cannot follow your proposal because it is so poorly written, or because its persistent grammatical errors are distracting. If you do not have strong writing skills, or if you need to prepare a proposal in English and it is not your first language, it is essential to find an editor who can work with you to polish the text.

7: Don’t Submit a Generic Proposal

Submitting a proposal made up of text copied and pasted from other proposals is unlikely to be successful. While some text can be reused from one proposal to the next, proposals have different requirements and funders have different interests. If you do not tailor each proposal, your proposals can sound generic and flat.

8: Know Your Strengths

Are you seeking general operating or start-up funding? These types of grants are generally tougher to get than program funding. Grant proposals have a much greater chance of being funded if they can offer a compelling solution to a well-documented community problem.  It’s important to remember that grants are a primary resource to help your organization help the community – not typically to help you stay afloat or get off the ground.

Is your organization structurally and fiscally sound? Sometimes the best-written grant proposal can be rejected because the funder has serious questions about the organization’s capacity to carry out the scope of work described in the proposal. Funders will ask for previous tax returns and financial records, so ensure these are up to date and in compliance.

Getting Started:

Free grant resources are available online to help with grant applications. You can view sample grants, funding documents, grant application toolkits, and find legal support to help you get started. It’s important to learn the glossary of funding terms, especially LOI (letter of intent) and RFP (request for proposal, aka the application).

When locating funding opportunities, is the leading grant search engine and database. They list grants available for nonprofits, small businesses (for-profits), as well as individuals.

If you do not have an in-house grant writer and don’t have the time to locate grants, or are not comfortable with writing an application yourself, we recommend to hire skilled and expertise grant professionals.

Good luck with your grant application and we hope these tips can help your chances of being successfully awarded!

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