Grant Application Tips to Help You Get Approved

By Barbara Brown , last updated December 17, 2011

Knowing how to write persuasive grant applications can help your organization receive approval and funding from foundations and government grant funding sources. Most nonprofit organizations rely on grant money to support operations and special projects. Hundreds of foundations and government agencies make grant money available to applicants that meet their requirements and serve their target population or cause. However, the competition for grant monies is fierce and requires diligence in preparation and proposal writing.

Match Grant Application to Foundation’s Mission

Grantors and foundations have a mission to serve a specific population or meet a clearly defined need. Before writing a grant application, review materials published by the funding organization about their mission and goals. Make sure that the foundation’s goals match the interest and skills of people in your organization. In writing a grant application, an organization’s previous successful service and commitment in meeting the needs of the target population is a key discriminator in winning funding.

Establish Personal Contact

Building a personal relationship with individuals from a foundation or funding source can improve the chances of getting a grant request approved. Use a foundation’s directory or website search to identify the appropriate contact person. Call or write to the contact and introduce your organization. Provide them with written materials about your group and web site links or invite them to make a site visit. Building a relationship before submitting a grant application ensures that the grantor has relevant context information about your organization when considering the grant proposal. Many funding sources encourage potential grantees to talk with them about a proposed program or project before spending time completing an application.

Follow Instructions

Grant applications have detailed instructions on topics, funding levels and format requirements. Failure to follow the instructions can lead to rejection of a grant application before the content is considered. Before writing a grant application, review all instructions. If you have questions, contact the funding source to gain clarification. Make a checklist of all requirements and review your grant application’s compliance before submission.

Offer Creative Solutions

Winning grant applications often offer unique or creative solutions to the needs of the foundation’s target population. A grant application should demonstrate knowledge of solutions previously tried and an understanding of why those solutions failed. The proposed solution should be contrasted with prior failures, illustrating key differences and providing evidence to support expected success.

Make Proposal Outcomes Measureable

Grant applications that include measureable progress in improving performance, reducing risks or increasing services are more likely to be approved than proposals that offer vague promises. Use numerical performance measures, based on previous experience, that demonstrate your organization’s ability to make a difference. Tell the grantor how your organization will measure success, such as expected percentage increase in test scores, reduction in at-risk behaviors or number of clients served. Show how the performance measures achieve the foundation’s mission and goals. Include testimonials or letters of support with a grant application to validate past performance.

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