Three Essentials for Grant Success: Ingredients, Preparation, and Presentation

When the donor is expecting excellence, resourcefulness, and a keen awareness of how best to assure outcomes that make a difference, the best way to meet their needs is to incorporate the three essentials for grant success. The three essentials for grant success are ingredients, preparation, and presentation. All of these are crucial, equally important, and required for success.


  1. Excellent match between the grant proposal and the donor’s priorities
  2. Answering the “so what” question of your research
  3. Simple prose and white space on the paper
  4. Examples of the approach
  5. A clearly written proposal
  6. The grand finale: the significance of the results


Read the entire RFP, from top to bottom. Once you clearly understand the directions that the donor provided, you can begin to put the pieces of the proposal together. Double check that you and your organization are eligible for the grant you are seeking, and that your project or research aligns with the donor’s mission. This makes certain that the match is made between yourself and the donor, and preparation of the pieces of the proposal can begin. These segments will be the product of extensive research on your part to move in the right direction. The pieces are:

  1. Abstract – This will take careful preparation since it is the most important part of the application. It is the first impression, the precise summary of the entire proposal, and the evidence that success is possible.
  2. Introduction – This is where you will present the problem or question to be addressed. The “so what” question for your project or research must be apparent, and should begin or lead into the narrative.
  3. Need Statement/Statement of Significance – This is where the convincing argument for the project takes place. You will tell your impressive story, citing research and examples with enthusiasm and clarity.
  4. Plan of Operation/Methodology – This is the heart of the proposal. Your plan should be tightly structured and consist of the goal (or hypothesis), objectives (or Specific Aims), and activities. Each segment will clearly illustrate the way your proposal will unfold in a logical manner. The evaluation follows, which should be clearly outlined in the incremental measurements of each activity – and these will be used to ensure your success in meeting your goal.
  5. Outcomes and deliverables– This will be the section that demonstrates how the outcomes have unfolded, and what you are delivering to your constituents and the donor. In short, this is the resulting product of your proposal.


Your presentation should be memorable. Don’t assume that reviewers will overlook sloppiness because your idea is phenomenal. You can achieve a superior presentation with images, graphs, and Gantt charts, which are easy to understand and memorable. Most importantly, if your proposal will make a significant impact, it should be stated as such. For instance, provide examples of how your work will make a difference, change the field, save lives, or set the stage for future change. Whether the presentation necessitates the elegance of a fine dining restaurant or the simplicity of a well-prepared meal at home, the true mark of success lies in what was expected and what has been delivered in an impressive manner.

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.

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