Grant Writing: Answering the Question How Do You Know You Will Be Successful in Doing What You say You Can Do?

In What Foundation Reviewers Want to Know, Asked or Not we presented the eight questions grant reviewers want answered. Two weeks ago we explored the question “What Need Will You Meet?” Last week, we talked about answering the question “How Will You Meet the Need You Described?” Today, we delve into how you can project success, even if you are writing about a new program.

Answering how you know you will be successful in doing what your say can do is trickier than it sounds. Many grant writers only project the success of program implementation. But, as we have seen, it is not how well we implement organizational structures that foundations are interested in. Foundations are interested in mission impact. So, if it’s not your program assessing, how do you project success? 

Measuring Goals and Objectives

You project success by how well your nonprofit will reach its goals and objectives, not how well it implements its programs. Remember, programs are organizational structures. Reviewers don’t care about organizational structures. They care about impact. They are interested in what impact will be made in the community through their donation. They want to know what impact their money makes in solving a community issue. Your organization’s program is only a conduit for them to reach their missions. So, remember to talk about mission and goals when touting your organization’s success. Make the foundation the hero in the impact your nonprofit will make as a result of their grant. If you matched missions and based your goals on your needs statements, this will be easy because your program will already be lined up with the foundation’s mission.

Of course, the big, hairy, bodacious issues your nonprofit are addressing will probably take years to significantly show improvement. Your goal statements are broad and not easily measurable within a year’s worth of funding. To show improvement over a year, you measure your objectives. If you’ve written SMART objectives, it’s easy to measure them. Let’s take the example objective of five hundred eleventh grade students will learn how to write essays through the We Can Succeed As Writers writing program as measured by a score of ninety-five or above on the eleventh-grade state writing aptitude test. When we talk about how we want to evaluate whether we’ve succeeded, we just ask whether five hundred eleventh grade students who went through the We Can Succeed As Writers program scored ninety-five or higher on the state writing aptitude test.

Writing about how you measure your success is simple if you’ve written good goals and objectives. I find the evaluation sections of my grant proposals the easiest ones to write.   

Articulating Historical Success

Another way to project success is through history. The history piece is usually the organizational background and description section of your proposal, also called the credibility statement. The best predictor of future success is past results. What are your nonprofit’s past results? Is your agency an old pro at doing what it says it can do? What past results has your program achieved? How is that program similar to the one you are proposing? What infrastructure is already built that will help your organization achieve your program’s desired results?

What about people outside your organization? What do clients say about your program? What about service partners and agency collaborators? What have funders said? What have evaluators said? Did they say anything about your whole organization? Is your nonprofit known for being the best at something? What is it? Who says so? If you’ve been successful at something before, chances are you will be successful at that again.

The history doesn’t have to be something your organization or program has done. You can also be replicating others’ successful programs, like evidence-based programs. Evidence-based programs have been validated to work in the studied populations through objective, third-party research. To become evidence-based, these programs are usually applicable across a wide spectrum of communities. If you are going to be using an evidence-based program in your interventions with clients, make sure you cite the research findings. That research will give your program tons of credibility and assurance that your program will probably meet its goals.   

Using Comparative Data

Another way to show success is to use comparative data. If you have data you’ve collected from your program clients, you can compare results over time. If you serve clients for long periods of time, you can show improvement before and after the intervention. If you serve different client groups at different times, you can show repeated success over time. You can also compare your clients’ outcomes to national, state or local averages. If your outcomes are better than average, you have a strong argument for success. In addition, you can compare your clients’ outcomes to client outcomes of similar programs in similar communities. If you are implementing a program new to your organization, you can compare outcomes of similar population groups or communities who have utilized your program choice to your organization’s client population group or community. If the population groups or communities are similar, logic dictates that success in one group is transferrable to a similar group.

Your evaluation section is where you measure your nonprofit’s success in meeting its goals and objectives. However, success can be addressed in other sections of you grant proposal as well. Your organizational history should demonstrate your agency’s success. Use of evidence-based programs in the describing your you program are also often used to anticipate success. In addition, comparative data be effectively used to predict success.

Wrapping It Up

  • Goals may take years to measure significant impact.
  • Evaluating your program objectives is simple if you’ve written SAMRT objectives.
  • The best predictor of future success is past results. Use historical data to anticipate program success.
  • Comparative data can also be used to effectively forecast success.

Contact me about an hour of fundraising counsel at joanne@joanneoppelt,com. I look forward to hearing from you!

See my books and trainings