5 Questions To Ask Before Writing Another Grant Proposal

Are the grants you’re applying for the right fit for your organization? It’s best to find out before you begin the application process—and these questions can guide you to the answer.


​​If you are responsible for writing grant proposals for a nonprofit, you may have experienced the frustration of spending days or even weeks writing grant proposals that don’t yield results. If that’s the case, know you are far from alone!

On an average day, roughly 2,700 grant proposals are submitted, and less than 200 will receive funding.

Or maybe you’ve secured multiple grants, but the grant terms are creating more challenges than solutions due to their restriction on fund use or excessive reporting requirements. These types of challenges can mean you are spending more time behind a computer than doing what you love—working with your community (that’s why we believe in trust-based, flexible grantmaking).

If these experiences resonate with you or you are looking for grant writing tips, these five questions will help you determine whether that grant proposal on your to-do list is worth your time and energy.

Consider asking yourself these questions before submitting a new grant proposal:

    1. Is the grant program calling for open submissions?

    Before you go any further, double-check for this caveat! Many grantmakers don’t accept unsolicited grant proposals. If the grantmaker isn’t advertising open submissions, Julia Cawthorne, a grant writer at Nyaka UK, recommends moving on unless you have an invitation or connection with the grantmaker. But some funders are looking to build relationships and fund organizations new to their network. If that is the case, they’ll usually state it on their website.

    2. What type of grant does my organization need?

    Before researching the grantmaker’s approach, it’s a good idea to clarify your organization’s needs:

    • Is your organization looking to get a specific project funded?
    • How much money does your organization need for the grant-funded work to succeed?
    • Is there a finite time for which you need funding? For example, will your project take two years to complete, or is it recurring?
    • Does your organization need flexible funds like general operating support to, for example, support administrative needs or staff salaries?
    • What problem or challenge is your project or organization aiming to solve?

    Answers to these questions will help you narrow down potential funders.

    3. What problem or challenge is the grantmaker trying to solve?

    Dig into your research on the funder’s goals and mission. Sometimes this information is explicit on their website and materials. Some funders are specific—maybe they are trying to solve the effects of climate change in Brazil. However, some have broad focus areas, like supporting women and girls. You may need to investigate to get a better understanding of the funder. See whether the funder points to any shared goals like the Sustainable Development Goals. Review which organizations they have funded in the past and how many times they’ve funded the recipients. The answers will give you more clarity on the funder’s aspirations.

    4. Does their grantmaking approach align with my organization’s needs, values, and strategy?

    Once you have a solid grasp of what you and a prospective grantmaker are looking for, it’s time to determine whether the grantmaker’s funding approach fits your organization’s needs.

    Consider these follow-up questions to help you determine whether a grantmaker is your perfect match:

    • Does the funder provide the type of grant payments your organization needs?
        – Multi-year or one-time grant payments?
        – Unrestricted or restricted fund use?
    • What expectations does the funder have in terms of grant reporting? Are you comfortable fulfilling the requirements?
    • How will the grantmaker’s expectations about programmatic influence impact your organization?
    • How involved does your organization want the grantmaker to be in the programmatic process?
    • Do your organizational values and mission align with the grantmaker’s?
    • Does your organization have the capacity to measure impact according to the grantmaker’s expectations?

    Your position on the questions above with allow you to move on or ask yourself a final question before writing the grant proposal.

    5. Am I confident this grant proposal could lead to a balanced, mutually beneficial relationship with the grantmaker?

    Just like any other relationship, the relationship between grantees and funders should be grounded in respect and trust. A mutually beneficial relationship is vital. Setting standards about which funding opportunities your organization is—and isn’t—open to will help you prioritize the grantmakers you choose to pursue. Remember, your organization provides value to grantmakers, too!

If you’ve done your research and feel good about the alignment between you and the funder, then congratulations—you are ready to apply!

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Featured Photo: Help indigenous women conserve the environment by Diwo Ambiental
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