Keys to a Successful Non-Profit Grant: Top Five Things Funders Really Want

By Amy Smith

Everyone seeking funding has heard at least one “holy grail” story. You know the one. Our fledgling agency scratched out a grant proposal in less than twenty-four hours on a half-baked idea and received full funding. We didn’t even have to report on the money—no strings attached.


Contrary to the “holy grail” stories (as well as late-night television ads designed to appeal to out-of-work homeowners, single parents returning to school, and others struggling to make ends meet), the federal government is not giving out “free money.” In fact, more than ever before, obtaining grant funding is complicated, time-consuming, and not for the faint of heart. There is hope. Even in a time of federal cutbacks and increased oversight, funders have money to award and they want to support great ideas that produce results. The key to writing a successful grant is to understand what funders really want and give it to them. Following are the top five things that funders want when they are searching for fundable proposals.


#1: Funders award funds to organizations that have clear ideas


#2: Funders award funds to organizations that understand current trends


#3: Funders award funds to organizations that have strong track records


#4: Funders award funds to organizations that show need through data and stories


#5: Funders award funds to organizations that produce results


In a time of dwindling resources with new players vying for those smaller amounts of funding, set your agency apart by following these key steps to writing successful grant proposals that funders will be excited to support.



Amy SmithAmy Smith, Ph.D., works for a non-profit organization where she has guided others to higher levels of work excellence in the areas of communication, training, leadership, and organizational development for over 17 years.  A graduate of the University of Louisville and Georgetown College, Amy holds a doctoral degree in education, with an emphasis on training, leadership, and organizational development. She is the creator of an award-winning corporate university and works daily to help employees and groups achieve personal and professional goals. Amy can be reached at learndomore@yahoo.com.

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1 Comment

Elaine Shryock Allen on Wednesday 08/01/2012 at 09:25PM wrote:

Dr,Smith, I find your comments insightful, clear and quite accurate. After 16 years of grant writing as a means of supporting and funding our countiy's adult education programs, I would highly recommend your format for anyone new to this task.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.