How to Win Grants and Influence Funders

by Susan Perri

Link to full article here.

Because social problems are rarely solved within the course of a grant cycle, collective impact is at the heart of effective grantseeking practice. Cross sector alignment with government, nonprofit, philanthropic, and corporate partners is a collaborative approach to improve our communities via shared agendas and measurements, common goals, and emerging evidence of best practices.

Funders want to work with great organizations doing great works, verified by evidence that documents impact. According to a recent study of more than 15,000 funders to a variety of causes, funders seek to invest in organizations that have a solid history of achieving results.

Garnering funder support, and long-term partnership, requires showing the return on social investment. Assessing and documenting collective impact also allows funders and nonprofits to learn from each other and establish meaningful measurements while working towards common objectives. The two key questions for grantseekers are: (1) how do you know what you are doing is working (what is your level of evidence); and (2) how is it innovative (how are you doing it differently with better results)? From these questions emerge the talking points for sharing a story with funders and others. This story captures the organizational or cause identity, and is essential to help others get to know that organization or cause - especially potential funders.

Consider the following questions and tips in framing grant requests:

  1. Is the project truly innovative? Beyond a mere buzzword, prospective grantees must demonstrate innovation, meaning that a proposed project or service goes beyond conventional practice in its field and has the potential to yield greater results. What is the need the innovation will fill? Show metrics that clearly demonstrate the community need for the proposed project.
  2. Is project just a great idea? Untested concepts are high risk for the majority of funders. Grantseekers will have the burden of showing promising results through piloting, testing, or another means of demonstration. Grantseekers will need to speak to their measures of success, and how are these validated. These steps also show funders that grantseekers have taken the time and invested the resources necessary to meaningfully assess and inform their practice.
  3. Is there impact beyond a single organization or isolated group of organizations? Grantseekers should consider how, if successful, their project could be further brought to scale to serve more people, communities, or organizations. How will the project be sustained after funding ends? Effective grantseekers will have a comprehensive plan that outlines goals, performance indicators, and action steps to achieve project scale and sustainability.
  4. Does the grantseeking organization have the experience, knowledge, and skills needed to successfully implement the project? Contributing partners and their specific level of support should be clearly identified.

Bottom Line: In an increasingly competitive grants landscape, funders seek partnership to serve specific populations and scale successful programming to serve additional communities. To win that partnership, grantseekers will need to effectively share their existing impact, how their approach will continue to be successful, and how it is aligned with the funder’s priorities for impact.

Susan Perri, MPA, is a national consultant helping organizations tell inspired, compelling stories to win the support they need to make a difference. More information about Susan and her organization, Social Goody, can be found at

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