How to write a winning grant to expand or grow your project or program

These days, one of the most common questions we get is: Can you help us write a Grow Grant?

While there’s no trick to winning this grant, we follow a set of principles in our grant writing, which helps to make your application stand out among reviewers. (Full disclosure:  the author of this article was a former Trillium “Grow” Grant reviewer, as part of the Grant Review and Assessment team).

Have an idea with a proven track record of success – the intent of the grant is to build on, or expand your success with an existing concept. Perhaps you already received funding from elsewhere, and now you are ready for version 2.0. Before you begin writing (or call DoGood Fundraising), ask yourself: do you have a project which has had measurable success, with statistics, testimonials, and demonstrated change as evidence?

Remember that even a well-written application isn’t guaranteed – the news of being declined can be devastating, particularly when you put forth significant time and effort, and feel that you meet the funder’s criteria. However, remember that funding is limited, and amidst cuts from the provincial government (see CBC News), and increased competition, this means that sometimes your well-written proposal can be declined. Remember to seek feedback from the funder about their reasons for declining, and don’t feel discouraged to apply again. (We will explore this more in a future blog post)

Make sure you have strong alignment with priorities – a funder such as the Ontario Trillium Foundation clearly outlines their priorities for funding an expansion to your project or program. Not only does your project or program have to fall into one of their six pillars,  it also needs to meet specific priority outcomes outlined by the Foundation. Make sure you read this with a laser focus, as this will determine whether your application makes it to the review committee (for example, see priority outcomes, Ontario Trillium Foundation).

Ensure that there is true partnership and collaboration – have you ever requested a letter of support the day before its due? Sometimes, funders can tell when the partnership or collaboration is rushed, just to secure funding. Make sure you initiate your collaboration with partners months in advance, enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and ensure that each partner is contributing both cash and in-kind resources into the project.

Never ask for the project to be fully funded – this is a common mistake which non-profit organizations make. If you ask a funder to fund 100% of a project, they will often decline your application because: 1) you have not demonstrated widespread community support, and 2) your organization is at risk of not continuing the project once the grant is complete, due to lack of funds. You should ensure that you have diverse sources of funding (DoGood Fundraising can help you with this), and that when your project is done, you will not need to return to the same funder for funding.

We hope that this will help you to successfully receive a Grow Grant, Phase 2 funding, and project expansion funds. If you have any questions, please reach out by emailing We are happy to speak with your organization about how to secure funding.