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Make Sure Your Grant Proposals Beat The Odds!

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I saw a recent article on the odds of winning a grant. The short answer was, “Not Good.”

The author pointed out that there are 1.5 million nonprofits in America competing for the attention of 87,000 foundations, give or take. If every nonprofit applied for one grant and every foundation only gave one grant, your odds of winning a grant are 1-in-17. You are three times more likely to get food poisoning.

In reality, many nonprofits don’t apply for grants and most foundations award several grants a year. Still, the rule of thumb is that nonprofits only have about a 10-30% success rate.

Beating The Odds

The best way to increase your success rate is to understand what foundations want before you apply. Research is fundamental to effective grant writing. Start with the foundation’s 990 filing. It tells you how much they tend to give nonprofits, what missions they support, if your board has any connection to their directors, and how receptive they are to first-time applicants.

Add it up and it tells you whether you are a good fit and how much you should ask for.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky

Once you identify the likely prospects for awards, it’s like the carney says at the county fair, “The more you play, the more you win.”

GrantStation does an annual survey of grant application and success rates. Here’s the relationship between the number of grants applied for and the results:

Seventy-five percent of respondents who only applied for one grant got it? Seem kind of ridiculous to me. But if those percentages seem high, remember it is a voluntary survey. Nonprofits that know what GrantStation is or that it has a survey are more likely to have mature grant programs. Plus, if you aren’t having any success with your applications, would you even fill out the survey?

These numbers demonstrate that research, consistency and building on success can create a snowball effect, allowing you to increase your award rate.

Grant writing is not the miracle cure some nonprofits hope it will be, but it can be an incredibly important part of a well-balanced revenue stream. The key is to do everything you can to improve your odds of success. Otherwise, you are just playing nonprofit roulette.


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