10 Grant tips from a Pro

Looking for money to support your organization’s next important project? You may want to consider applying for a grant. We had the pleasure of hearing from speaker Jane Colacecchi this week who writes grants as part of her work at her company JHC Associates. Here are some of the tips that we took away from her presentation:

  1. Read the directions carefully. Then read them again. …and again. If they ask for 4 copies, give them 4 copies. If they want it mailed, don’t e-mail it! If it’s due by 5 pm, don’t drop it off at 5:01.
  2. Focus your application on the specific piece of the project that you are asking them to fund. Your funding request may be part of a larger project, but the funder is primarily interested in the part that they will be funding. Spend the majority of your time explaining that one piece of the project and why it is important. An example: Let’s say you are doing a historic building renovation over the course of several years, and are asking for money to replace the roof this year. Focus on describing the roof replacement, rather than giving detail about the window replacements you’ll do next year, or the foundation work you did 2 years ago.
  3. Explain why your organization is credible and can be trusted to complete the project. Many applications ask you to give an overview of your organization. This is your chance to raise their confidence that you will make good use of their funds. Talk about your past successes and other things that show your stability and ability to follow through.
  4. Tell them “why” your project matters to the community. Don’t just tell them “what” you will do. Tell them “why” it’s important. What problem are you solving? What positive impact will it have?
  5. Project budgets must be supported properly. Don’t guess on costs for your project. Make sure to get bids from the vendor or service provider, and include that documentation in your grant. Simply getting a price from a catalog may not be sufficient for some applications.
  6. Matching funds. If you can show that you already have money committed to the project, that will help your application (and some grants require it).  However, as long as a match is not required, don’t let a lack of a match stop you from applying. You may still score high enough in other areas to qualify for funding.
  7. Contact the grant maker. It’s always a good idea to contact the person in charge of the grant for questions or clarification (look for the contact person listed in the application). Do not be afraid to ask questions!
  8. Proof read! Have at least 2 people read over the grant to review content and look for grammatical errors. This means you can’t wait until the last minute to write the application!
  9. Use the scoring matrix. Many grant applications include a table that explains exactly how you will be scored by the grant review panel. Make sure to use this and write your grant so that it will score at the highest level! (See example matrix below from the Warren County Philanthropic Partnership grant).
  10. Identify measurable outcomes, within the right timeframe. When the funder asks how you plan to evaluate your outcomes, they will be interested in things that can be objectively measured, and will occur within the timeframe of the grant. An example: If you are replacing playground equipment, one outcome will be the number of people per day that use the playground in the months following the installation, and how much that has increased from before the replacement. 


The MOST IMPORTANT “tip” of all – Get it done! The tips above are all best practices, but the most important thing is that you get the application done. Even if it’s not perfect, as long as you complete every section and do not get disqualified (make sure you follow the directions!), you still have a shot at that money. If you don’t turn it in, your chances are zero! 😉

Click here for the full powerpoint from Jane’s presentation, “How to write a winning grant”

Ready to go after a grant? Here is a list of grant opportunities for Warren County organizations and governments: Grant Opportunities for Warren County Orgs

More grant listings and links to applications on our grant resources page.


Example Grant Scoring Matrix:

WCPP scoring matrix.png

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