10 Things Funders Look for in a Grant Application

Writing a grant is a lot of work, but the benefits can greatly outweigh the costs. These tips will make your grant application more appealing to funders. According to U.S. Senator, Patty Murray and her author, McBride, in the article ‘What Grant Funders Look For” there are many small things applicants can do to make their application stand out and gain approval.

  1. sandwich of moneyThought – Are your proposal and presentation well thought out? Does what you’re asking for make sense to you, to others, and to the funders? Unclear proposals will be rejected, so ask multiple professional to read your draft and explain it back to you, double-checking that you had said what you intended to say.  
  2. Double Duty – Research whether your service is unique or if there’s a duplicate program nearby. With a unique proposal the likelihood of being funded dramatically increases.
  3. Need – Is there a need in your county, school, or program? Define the need: who is lacking the benefits you plan to provide, how will you provide those, and what will those benefits do for the recipients.
  4. Reach – Everyone wants to make a difference, but when you can make a bigger difference for the same cost, funders like to know their support will make a big impact! Explain the scope and size of the proposed project, include as many exact numbers – of students, schools or families served – as you have.
  5. Prioritization – Give funders a specific and realistic budget for how funds will be spent. Funders are not looking for a wish list. While making the list, be sure the requested amount is reasonable.
  6. Progress – Identify the natural progression of your proposal. Dreams are good, but show the funders how they will help you get from where you are now to the end result. The more natural your plan flows, the more likely the funders are to buy into your dreams and plans.
  7. Sustainability – Short-term projects are great, but many times funders are looking for ways to make a long-term impact. Include a timeline in your proposal, and if your proposal has the ability to sustain itself over a period of time, be sure to point that out to the funders when you present.
  8. Community –Demonstrate that there is a strong local support for your proposal and that multiple stakeholder groups are invested in helping the project succeed. Also, be sure to state comprehensively how you project will impact your area.
  9. Accountability – Show funders how their funds will be overseen, managed properly and that accountability will be assured for all individuals working with the grant.
  10. Success – Everyone wants to be part of the winning team. Include why you are confident that you will succeed and how you will publicize your success, giving credit to your partners (including funding). When funders can see from beginning to end how they can assist in impacting others they are more willing to share in the proposal. Sharing past success stories can also help you establish credibility. 



Sarah Ransom-University of Tennessee Extension Family and Consumer Sciences


McBride, M. (n.d.). What grant funders are looking for: Advice for writing successful grant applications.

For More Information

What Are Funders Looking For In Grant Applications?