How to Win a Grant Award


By Michelle Jannazo

Feeling lucky? Of course—everyone enjoys a run of ‘good luck.’ But—you will need much more than luck to create a winning grant application and secure grant awards. Securing grant funds is a skill and growing grant revenue requires strategy, collective effort and patience. Here are a few basic tips to give your fundraising team an edge:

Know the grantees. Educate yourself on who the previously funded grantees are for a particular grant. This will help you focus on the kinds of organizations and initiatives supported. If the previous grantees are not listed on the grantor’s website, ask for a list. You might even contact a previous award winner to discuss their project and application. While they probably won’t share their financials, they just might share other details of the application.

Know the location. Before you begin, identify the location where previous grants have been awarded. If you’re in Florida and the list of previous awards are all in the midwestern U.S., chances are you may not have a chance even if the guidelines state that eligibility includes Florida. Family foundations are often focused on communities where the founders or current members reside.

Know the range. Note the award range and check the history. If a granting entity never awarded more than $50,000, don’t ask for more. Make sure the amount requested reflects an understanding of their giving. If it’s your first application to a funder, best to keep the request on the lower end of the award range unless you are directed otherwise. If awarded, you can always request a larger award the second time around.

Know your partners. The strongest grant applications and funding proposals discuss multiple strategic partners. Identify your current and potential partners and their roles. Their involvement will improve your chance of leveraging the most possible funds to maximize the impact for your target audience.

Know the deadlines. Identify the deadline and incorporate it into your organizational calendars. Submit your application on time. A missed deadline is a missed opportunity. Organizations that are deadline driven are usually able to submit more applications and increase the likelihood of an award. The “2021 State of GrantseekingTM Report” by GrantStation shows applying for more grants increases your likelihood of winning a grant. Of survey respondents who applied for 1 grant, 78% received at least 1 award. Of those who submitted 3-5 applications, 91% won at least one award. Of those who submitted 6-10 applications, 97% received at least one award. Of course, it takes time and effort. A consultant might be a good choice since learning to write grants by trial and error is time consuming and costly. Or you might consider professional development and focused training for your team to develop a strategy mirroring your operational plan or refine group writing plan.

Be realistic. When you start submitting proposals, you’ll be fortunate to get 30% success rate. Rejection letters are inevitable. (Most grant writers don’t have a 100% success rate and if someone tells you they do, I’d have them buy you a lottery ticket because they’re extraordinarily lucky.) Seriously though, your team must weigh the risk. Some folks apply for grants they know they are going to receive, and the application is formality. If you submit proposals to existing and new funders, your success rate may increase to 60%.

Make time for the funders to get to know your organization, demonstrate your progress and build the relationship. And remember, most of the factors that determine whether your organization wins grant awards has little to do with writing skills. It has to do with the worthy work you and your team are doing for the betterment of your community.

Michelle Jannazo is a development professional with Blue Door Consulting. Her expertise in grant writing and organizational development has helped clients throughout the United States secure funding to further their mission and serve their communities more effectively.