Did you know that only 1 in 10 grant proposals are accepted? Submitting a winning grant application can be challenging, here are 5 tips that can help.

For many nonprofits, applying for and securing grants is a pivotal component of accessing funding that supports their mission. In fact, about 20% of nonprofit income is derived from grants in the United States. If your organization relies on grant money to fund programs, you know that it can be a daunting and time-consuming process, even for the most seasoned grant writer.

According to the Charity Science Foundation, a foundation grant takes between 15-20 hours to complete, while it’s not uncommon for typical federal grants to take over 100 hours to complete. Recent data has also shown that only about 1 in 10 grant proposals are accepted, making it imperative to put your best foot forward when completing the application process.

Before we get into the tips for submitting a winning grant application, here are a few of the top reasons why a grant application could be rejected:

  1. The grant opportunity wasn’t a good fit.
  2. Your organization isn’t ready or doesn’t appear ready for grant funding.
  3. Your grant application does not follow the guidelines and/or directions.
  4. Your budget isn’t clear or defined.
  5. Grant funding is limited, competition is high.

Here is what to do if you recently had a grant application rejected.

Now that we have covered the top 5 reasons why a grant application is rejected, here are 5 tips that can help your organization make stronger arguments and be in a better position to win grant money.

Understand Your Audience

One of the most important steps to winning grants is having a clear understanding of the audience. Who or what organization created the grant? What are their values? How does your nonprofit organization and its mission align with those values. It is key to have an understanding of who your audience is and what they are looking for in a successful grant application. This knowledge will help you or your grant writer tailor your application in such a way that it stands out from the competition and meets all of the requirements set forth by the granting organization. Make sure to research their mission statement and any other relevant information so you can craft an application and supporting documentation that speaks directly to them, and the goals of their grant.

Create an Application Outline

Once you understand who is sponsoring the grant you are applying for, create an outline of what you want to include in your application package. This outline should include all key points, as well as any supporting evidence or data that will help strengthen your argument as to why this organization should award funds to your nonprofit. Creating an outline before diving into the actual writing process can help ensure that all essential elements are included in your final application. The application outline will create a foundation to build off of. It’s the roadmap to securing grant funding, take your time on the process.

Follow the Grant Application Directions

Each grant will have specific instructions on how they want applicants to submit applications. The grant application instructions will provide details on what to include in your grant proposal, such as a cover letter, executive summary, problem or needs statement, program budget. The grant application may also include an evaluation plan and instructions on how to submit and follow-up. Make sure all directions are followed carefully to eliminate confusion or delay in processing your request for funding. It’s also important to make sure all requested documents are submitted with the correct formatting, and within any specified time frame given by the granting body.

Stay Focused on Your Goals and Objectives

It’s easy to get sidetracked when writing a grant proposal, but staying focused on your goal is key to success. Start by clearly defining what goals, objectives, program this particular funding would accomplish, then use this information throughout each section of the proposal as evidence of how these funds would be used effectively if awarded. Be specific and focus on results rather than just tasks when talking about how these funds would be put into action if approved. This is an opportunity to share the good work that your nonprofit is doing within the community, and how additional funds would help your organization achieve even more.

The University of Toronto Scarborough has some great tips on how to writing goals and objects using the SMART method.

Proofread and Edit Thoroughly

Before submitting any document, go through multiple rounds of proofreading and editing so it’s error-free and presents to its intended audience well. Make sure there aren’t any typos, grammar errors, or confusing sentences; run spell check; double-check facts; verify dates; look over figures; etc., so nothing slips through unnoticed prior to submission.


Writing a winning grant proposal can seem like an overwhelming task at times, especially considering how much work goes into creating one. However, if you keep these five tips in mind while crafting yours, you will increase the likelihood of your application being accepted. Remember to understand your audience, create an application outline, follow the directions, stay focused on goals and objectives, and proofread prior to submission.

Looking for funding? Here are 5 places nonprofits can look for grants.