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10 Tips for Increasing Your Odds of Winning a Grant Award

Securing grant funding is a skill, not your good luck falling into place. If you want to win a grant award for your organization, you need to put in some serious effort. The following pointers are tried-and-true best practices that will put you at the head of the grant seeking pack:

  • Be deadline-driven. Every grant has a published deadline, even if the deadline is on a rolling basis, no matter the type of funder. Your job is to quickly find the deadline, plot it on your project calendar, and then work feverishly to get the request in to the funder on time. Missed due dates are missed opportunities; you don't get a second chance.

  • Know the number of grants awarded in any given funding cycle. If a national funder is awarding only ten grants, your chances of winning such a highly competitive grant award are slim. Shy away from such low odds and look for grant-funding competitions with higher numbers of grants awarded. The more awards given out, the higher your chances of grabbing one.

  • Get a handle on the types of previous grantees. When you know who the previously funded grantees are for a particular grant, you can get a feel for whom and where the funder gives. In most cases, you can even call a previous grantee and ask for a copy of its grant application (minus the financials, of course) to guide you.

  • Scout out the geographic locations of previous grantees. Geographic tracking of where previous grants have been awarded can be a significant clue as to where future grants will be directed. For example, if your organization is located in Puerto Rico and the list of previous grantees are all located within the 50 U.S. states, you may not have a chance of winning a grant award even if the guidelines state that the eligibility includes Puerto Rico.

  • Pay attention to the funder's grant award funding range and/or cap. If the largest grant ever awarded was $50,000, don't ask for $100,000. Funders won't consider you for funding when you want their whole basket of apples rather than just a few.

    Keep your request closer to the bottom of the award range amount when you're asking a funder for monies for the first time. After that, you can increase the amount of money you request (still keeping it within the award range, of course).

  • Stay focused on your organization's capabilities. Your organization's background and capability narratives carry high review points with every type of funder. Make sure you create and maintain an annual boilerplate document that covers 100 percent of the history and grant management capability of your organization.

  • Give them graphics galore. Entertain funders by adding visual pizzazz to your grant-application narratives. You can create a relevant table or chart or add a map or some other graphic to underscore the narrative in that particular section. Readers need diversions, and a graphic provides visual stimulation and delivers critical information (location, service numbers, grants received) in an aesthetically appealing format.

  • Maximize partnerships. Funders look at who your collaborative partners are and the roles they play with your organization. Always have a bevy of at least ten collaborative partners you can list in every grant application.

    Fewer than ten collaborative partners and your organization appears to be slacking in its networking duties, community involvement, and/or stakeholder feedback. Submitting a grant application that omits collaborative partners reduces your chance of proving that you can leverage every available dollar (organization's and grant funder's) to maximize the trickle-down impact for your target population.

  • Stay in tune with politics. Politics prevail in good times and bad and can make the difference in your organization getting (or not getting) a highly competitive grant award. Know all the political factors that may aid in securing funding from a potential funder for your organization.

    At the federal and state levels, contact your congressional representatives and ask them to track your grant application after you click the Submit button on Grants.gov to check on your application's progress at the funding agency. Locally, attend political events and get to know the local movers and shakers.

  • Maintain contact with funders. After you turn in your grant application, you need to develop a schedule for contacting potential funders that have your grant application under review. Carefully planned contact time frames allow you to remind funders that you're available to address questions or concerns about the contents of your grant application.

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