Competitive Opportunities – Who Gets Funded?

Your key to success in getting grants  starts with how you go about applying for grants. Simply put, focus on the areas under your control. Over time, this approach will give you the best results. Here are four places to start:

  • Apply to the right donors. Grant reviewers estimate that 50 percent of the applications they receive are inappropriate for their program. You need to evaluate donors’ guidelines and learn about their past funding behavior. If your cause does not fit their interests or patterns of giving, for whatever reasons, don’t fool yourself by saying, “Despite their guidelines, if I write the application about my idea, they will understand my proposal’s worth.” Decide to seek funding in places where your odds are 50 percent or better of getting a “yes.” A large percentage of your ultimate success, then, starts by shaping your request to the donors’ guidelines, not the opposite.
  • If the program allows communication, contact the donor before applying. Researchers who studied successful grant applicants found that people who make this contact increased their funding odds by 30 percent. Make sure your contact is professional, relationship building and appropriate.
  • Convey credibility. Credibility shows in the overall quality of your application. It also includes everything from following the donor’ direction on font sizes and layout to the proposal’s writing style and the soundness of your idea. You need not be fancy. Neat, consistent and solid make a stronger impression than investing in trendy covers and graphics.
  • Help the donor understand the quality of your planning and the need for the proposed project. Include information about your proposal from the perspective of those served, the community and the life of your organization. What makes your proposal unique? Tell them. When this project is successful, can others replicate it? Share this. What about the project is innovative? Write about this. What about the project will have broad implications? Identify them.

The above factors are the ones where you have most control. Some factors you may or may not be able to influence, including:

  • Your competition during any given cycle
  • Unannounced donor commitments, market influences or changes in donors long-term plans
  • Unknown bias that a review panel has about you, your proposal, your approach or even your hometown

Given human nature, when these factors work in your favor, you will celebrate your success. When they work against you, you might moan and complain you were treated unfairly. If factors like these affect you negatively, consider their validity and, if valid, take action. You can improve or clarify your case or find another donor. As a long-term player, you will almost never appeal a funding decision-better to wait until the next round and try again with your new knowledge.

If you wish to be among those who get funded, you need to apply for funds where you application is most appropriate, seek warm relationships with donors, grow your organization’s credibility and write a strong case. Over time, the people who use these techniques, consistently, put themselves in the best competitive standing and maximize their funding.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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