• Chanel Grenaway

4 Actions That Will Create A Compelling Grant Application (part 2 of 2)

Updated: Dec 21, 2018


This blog is related to the Fall 2018 Status for Women Canada: Call for Proposals. However the suggestions can be applied to any application process. You can check out part 1 of this blog here.


You have reviewed the applicant guide and assessed that your organization meets the eligibility criteria and now you have to come up with a project concept and write the application. Where do you begin?


Action 1: Dream a little

Funding opportunities provide you with a chance to imagine and reimagine ways that you can enhance your organizational effectiveness and impact. You might want to ask yourself “what if….?” or “how might we….?” See what ideas immediately come to mind. You can also reflect on times when you have said “I wish we had funding to do….” Can this funding opportunity help you solve an issue, frustration or limitation that you have been dealing with for a long time? What other pain points exists on an organizational, governance, community or systemic level?

Consider dedicating a few hours to dream, reflect and brainstorm ideas. This can be done as an individual or with your team or a combination of both. Research has shown that ingenuity comes from a combination of individual and collective methods. We all think differently on our own and in group settings, so utilizing both approaches can be very advantageous. Have staff members take an hour to dream and reflect on their own and then come together as a group for a larger brainstorming session. This is also a great opportunity to up-level ideas, combine, modify, substitute, eliminate or magnify concepts. Bring out that flip chart, markers and post-it notes to visualize connections, themes and opportunities within ideas and initiatives that are generated.


Action 2: Look at your ideas through different lenses

I have facilitated amazing collective ideation sessions using specific activities and questions that enable participants to view an issue or problem from a different perspective. When you change your lens, you are taking a more holistic approach and may be able to identify other gaps, barriers or needs related to your project. What lens might you consider for this application? Look at the goals of the grant, revisit the Women’s Program focus areas, consider your organizational assets and weaknesses, apply a GBA+ lens, look at the idea from the lens of the beneficiaries (what do they need? how would they shape this grant request?) Identify 3 – 4 applicable lenses, create some guiding questions and as a group analyze your ideas and concepts against them.


Action 3: Idea refinement

Let others help you to refine your project idea. Sharing your concept and talking about your project will help you to clarify your thoughts, and you might discover different ways to frame and speak about the project that make it more compelling. You want to be able to easily and simply explain the problem or issue and how this project and your activities will address it. Talk to other staff members, potential partners, board members, women that you support and anyone else who can provide a different point of view. You can also take some time and research other initiatives related to your idea. What have other organizations done? What effective practices, tools and resources already exist? How can we leverage what is already available? Reach out to groups in different regions that may have expertise that you need, are they willing to host a site visit, webinar or presentation? How can these activities be built into your grant request? Consider reaching out to other women focused organizations that might be interesting in collaborating or partnering with you.


Action 4: Write it, review it and check it again

When it comes to writing the application, my best advice is to give yourself plenty of time to prepare, revise and complete it – it often takes longer than we anticipate! Keep the grant assessment criteria front and centre as you are writing the application, this may help to keep you focused on the critical information that is required. You want your application to be as clear and concise as possible. Can someone who is not in the sector understand your request? Have you made a compelling case demonstrating that the project idea will enhance organizational capacity, governance capacity, community or systemic issues that impact your work?

As someone who has read quite a few multi-year granting applications, please make sure your budget numbers are balanced and realistic. At the same time, don’t be afraid to put in the real costs of administration (in this case not exceeding 20% of the direct delivery costs), project activities and learning and evaluation.

Good luck, I can’t wait to see what project ideas get funded. If you are looking for additional support thinking through your application don’t hesitate to connect with me here.

BONUS TIP: Don’t hesitate to contact the funder directly for clarification or additional information.

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