grant writing success rate

What is a good grant writing success rate?

Nonprofits and other grant applicants often wonder, “What is a good grant writing success rate?” The answer is that funders only accept about one in every 10 grant proposals, on average.


That’s an average grant writing success rate. That means many grant writers have a lower grant writing success rate and many have a higher one.


So why do grant proposals fail? Why do even professional grant writers who have honed their skills over many years receive rejections?


Here’s a breakdown of the most common reasons a funder rejects a grant application. Note that some of these are outside of the grant writer’s control, but all have a bearing on your grant writing success rate.


1. The foundation liked the idea but didn’t fund it

This is one of the top reasons an idea gets rejected despite having an excellent grant writer. Perhaps the board of directors of the foundation in question spent all of the allocated funding on pet projects before they could get to your proposal. Or maybe there were so many good ideas to fund that there just wasn’t enough money to go around. This sort of thing happens behind the scenes and doesn’t reflect at all on the strength of your proposal.


2. The organization wasn’t well prepared

We come across this problem often: An organization asks a grant writer to step in to write a specific grant proposal they’re set on, and the grant writer takes their word for it that they have all the details ironed out. But the organization can’t get everything the grant writer needs together in time, so details are thin and the proposal is weak despite the writer’s best efforts. This will impact a good grant writing success rate.


3. The grant opportunity wasn’t a good fit

Often proposals are rejected because they don’t fit with a funder’s stated (or unstated) interests. This is either due to sloppy prospect research or a lack of information from the funder.


4. The proposal was poorly put together

This should speak for itself. Funders do sometimes make grants based on badly written proposals. That’s often thanks to the strength of the organization alone or because of a board connection (see #1) but more often than not, they throw it in the trash.


Learn about what other components your nonprofit needs for a good grant writing success rate.

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  • Avatar for Waddy Thompson

    Waddy Thompson

    10.01.2019 at 07:42 Reply

    I wish more nonprofit boards and EDs understood this. Grant proposal writers aren’t miracle workers. We can only work with the materials we’re given. Also, these are important things to remember when considering a proposal writer’s touted success rate. Someone who works primarily for large, established organizations will obviously have a much higher rate of success than someone who helps new nonprofits.

  • Avatar for Janine Perkins

    Janine Perkins

    04.02.2020 at 11:36 Reply

    I agree with Waddy. I cringe when people ask about my success percentage because there are so many more factors contributing than my skill as a writer or (shudder) “salesmanship.” Like location-location-location, EDs should think “relationship-relationship-relationship” + mission/focus fit (stated or unstated). A great majority of my wins are due to personal relationships cultivated by our ED or a repeat volunteer with a connection to a family foundation.

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