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Insider insights: 5 tips on how to write a winning grant application

Insider insights: 5 tips on how to write a winning grant application

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Writing grant proposals can be daunting. We’re lucky to have a few seasoned grant writers here at Imagine Canada. I sat down with Alex Pryse, our Manager, Partnerships to get some tips on creating a killer grant application. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind before you start.

Tip 1: Do your research
Research is crucial for fundraising success. Set aside enough time to do quality prospect research - ensuring your interests align with those of the funder. A funder has to be connected with your mission and your project to see its value. Hint: Tools like Grant Connect can help you find the best prospects.

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to communicate with funders
Don’t just submit your proposal and hope for the best. Funders, contrary to popular belief, want to hear from you. Reaching out to a prospective funder with questions can clarify expectations and help build a strong relationship. Hint: Frame the conversation around understanding their goals. This will help save everyone time by confirming your eligibility, funder interest, etc.

Tip 3: Customize your grant applications. 
Mass mailing of cookie-cutter proposals is a sure way to guarantee a refusal. You’ll get a better R.O.I. by spending more time customizing one grant application than spending a little time on many grant applications. Hint: to customize your grant application be sure to read application instructions very carefully because each funder will have different requirements and guidelines.

Tip 4: Focus on the why not the how
This tip might be the most important! When writing your application, be sure to focus on the outcomes and impact of your work rather than your workplan or processes. A funder won’t understand the importance of your project, and the impact of their funding, without the why behind it. Hint: think of the why as showing the outcome of the how - because funders want to support solutions to problems - not the workplan to get there. For example:

  • Avoid the how:  We need $20,000 for construction and renovations at our youth centre.
  • Focus on the why:  With $20,000 we will stop at least 20 at-risk youth from dropping out of school and ensure they move to post-secondary education

Tip 5: Make sure your budget tells the same story as your proposal
Last but certainly not least - align your budget to your proposal. The budget you submit as part of the grant application may be the last thing you include but it has an important role to play. The budget is an opportunity to illustrate your credibility as an organization and your readiness to make an impact with the funding you receive.

Alex Pryse is Imagine Canada’s Manager, Partnerships. He previously worked in a number of fundraising and grant writing roles at Toronto organizations like Community Living Toronto and Casa-Pueblito.

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Grant Connect
The must-have tool for Canadian fundraisers. Search thousands of funders, find grants, and win opportunities.