5 Organizational Criteria That Win Grants

Transparency, credibility, and accountability are the criteria used to assess how your organization will succeed in implementing a grant proposal. Knowing who you are, what you want, and how you will get there as an organization is immediately apparent in a grant request. When you address these underlying points, the donor will be reassured that the grant will be well-managed and your research or project idea will serve the constituents. The five criteria that make a difference are:

Building Credibility

Donors want to fund success and strength. Thus, credibility is one of the most important criteria that can lead to success. Two overarching questions begin or end any proposal: Are you eligible and are you credible? The first is always easy to ascertain because the eligibility requirements are written in each RFP. Credibility, however, has to be built. Content credibility shows how effective you have been with similar projects. Fiscal credibility is a dual responsibility between you and your institution. Financial and legal accountability is involved, as well as excellent record keeping and storing of data produced by your previously funded proposals.

Demonstrating Team Effort

A proposal that does not demonstrate a team effort in the development and implementation phases can be suspect. From the beginning of your narrative, ensure that the focus of your request consists of the buy-in of several players in your organization. This will guarantee the project or research idea has a strong institutional interest and commitment, which is significant to the donor. Equally important is the discussion on how this particular request is part of a larger plan. Describing the background for your efforts – and that of others in your organization – implies sustainability for the project once the funding period is finished.

Confirming Available Resources

It is never a good idea to come to the table empty-handed. Your proposal’s success can depend upon the infrastructure that will support your activities. Almost all proposals have a section on resources, sometimes called Facilities and Equipment for researchers. Those who have access to better equipment and laboratories will have a much greater chance for success than those who do not. However, smaller institutions can band together and share resources via partnerships or collaborative proposals. Resources usually include laboratories, equipment, space, and personnel.

Proactive Planning

The reactive approach to grant-seeking can be accurately described as a fishing expedition. Submitting as many proposals as possible in hopes of getting a couple of grants is a poor strategy. You will probably write ten grants to receive one or two. First, grants are not about hope, they are about strategic thinking. Secondly, the amount of time necessary to submit ten proposals is a much greater effort than what it would take to submit four excellent and well-developed projects, which can lead to winning three. The latter method demonstrates the focus of a well-organized team that knows what is important to their constituents. While failure to win grants will lead to demoralization, success carves a path to the keen understanding that excellence and planning make a difference.

Ensuring Accountability

In today’s economic environment, donors demand accountability. Outcome- based requests now constitute a major portion of the solicitations from public and private donors. If your outcomes are strong with a large impact, this points to the good use of the donated funds. The other key component for ensuring accountability is an ongoing evaluation process that ensures the incremental success of the project. If you can positively answer the question of whether there is a strong evaluation component to serve as the process indicator that your outcomes are being achieved, you are in good shape. Donors want to be reassured that their grant money will be managed properly once it has been awarded.


How we define ourselves as an organization is important to donors. Demonstrating transparency, credibility, and accountability will convince the donor to place their confidence in you and your ability to manage the award money. Being proactive in an environment that supports and encourages team efforts and an institutional buy-in is the baseline for success. When you address these five organizational criteria, you are pushing your proposal above the competition.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

One thought on “5 Organizational Criteria That Win Grants

  1. Thank you, for this very helpful post, Mathilda. I am passing this on to my students. I still refer regularly to the course material I completed with you several years ago at UBC. Regards, Ann.

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