How to cash in on others’ success

It’s no secret that reviewing copies of successfully funded grant applications can help you write your own winning proposals. If you have access to the internet, there are copies readily available for you to study and evaluate. Here are a few points to keep in mind when looking at other people’s funded proposals:

(1) Be sure to look at the corresponding request for proposals (RFP), too. Although RFPs usually don’t change too much from competition to competition, they can–and you don’t want to follow the format used by someone else and include similar content if the RFP for this year’s competition is not the same.

(2) Read other successful proposals to get ideas about formatting. Check the use of tables and charts, and see how these types of tools can make maximum use of the space allotted in the narrative. Study the kind of data that were included to substantiate the needs section.

(3) With an objective eye, look at the scope of the project. Pay particular attention to how many students or clients the project serves, the expected outcomes, the amount of funding requested in relation to the scope of activities to be carried out, and the collaborative partners if any exist.

Here are some sites on the internet that contain copies of funded proposals:

(1) The SchoolGrants web site ( has a list of more than 20 successful proposals for education grants, including federal programs, mini-proposals, and foundation grants. Topics include technology, school reform, literacy, arts, and reading.

(2) Funded proposals for U.S. Department of Education grants can be found at the Earthwalk web site ( and include proposals for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant and a Community Technology Center grant. (Note that the 21st CCLC grant program has now become a state program, so check your state’s RFP carefully, as it may differ from the federal RFP that was in effect when this proposal was funded.)

Another example of a successfully funded 21st CCLC proposal is located at the Colorado Grants home page ( This proposal offers a good example of how to use data to support your needs and includes some great tables with demographic and student performance data.

(3) Although it doesn’t cover education grants, check out the Dragonfly Communications network web site ( Here, you’ll find several grants that focus on fire safety and emergency services. This site is helpful because it includes such a wide variety of funded proposals, ranging from federal programs and state grants to local foundations. It also provides notes that explain what is particularly unique or strong about each proposal that probably played a role in the funding decision.

(4) There are no sample proposals on the National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnership web page (; however, there is a very helpful list of the “most common shortcomings in unsuccessful 2003 proposals.” This list is especially helpful if the Math and Science Partnership program is on your list of grants to apply for in the next 12 months–but when viewed in general terms, the list also could help prevent mistakes in other federal proposals.

(5) The “Guest Share” section of the Charity Channel site ( contains two copies of funded proposals for community-based organizations. Again, although not education-specific, these are good examples to examine.

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or

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