What Are Funders Looking For In Grant Applications?

Many programs, including numerous school food programs, which are conducted in the United States receive a large portion of their funding through grant proposals. Because this is such an important piece of why these programs’ success, applications for more grants must be written, careful recordkeeping must be carried out so funders can be kept happy.

According to the research McBride has conducted, most funders are looking for the same key elements in proposals: a clearly stated purpose that matches the funder’s interests, strong community support, and accountability for the project activities, outcomes and use of funds.

The Foundation Center also wrote that having “a history of funding by other sources, whether governmental or private, helps establish creditability” (2013). Being creative when presenting how the school staff will procure funds for the proposal is also a big plus to future funders. Let the funders see that you have diverse sources of funding. Depending on only one or two funders places a lot of pressure on them, let them feel like they’re contributing but not solely supporting. Naming diverse funding shows widespread interest in and support for your project.

Researcher, McBride, gives several suggestions in the article; some of these suggestions are summarized into the top ten in the article “10 Things Funders Look for in a Grant Application.” One of the suggestions was to have a detailed understanding of the proposal before you begin writing.  Knowing what you’re promoting allows you to explain it very well to the possible funders. When funders realize there is a knowledgeable foundation at the base of the proposal, it increases their confidence that their financial support will be well managed.  When writing the proposal, it is vital the the author uses proper writing styles and grammar. Ask two or three professionals to proofread the proposal before you submit it.  Consider asking the funders to help you; seeking their help to improve weak areas, they know they’re helping on a deeper level than just financial support.  McBride explains, “Everyone wants to be part of the winning team, share the spotlight with stakeholders and funders”.  By sharing in the success, funders are content and are more willing to continue or start helping you as they see the great successes you’re having.

After proposals are submitted, if accepted be sure to send proper thank-you notes and give timely updates on the progress of the grant. If the grant is denied, seek to understand areas of improvement and continuing applying for grants. Many proposals are denied, and once the authors work together to continually improve their proposal, upon reentry or follow up, some of these same grants can be accepted. The most important part of grant writing is always try again and strive for improvement.


Sarah Ransom-University of Tennessee Extension Family and Consumer Sciences


Foundation Center. (2013). Guide to funding research.

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

For More Information

10 Things Funders Look for in a Grant Application