A Blog series to help small and medium-sized nonprofits win and grow grants


In my previous post, I wrote about my grant writing process that will explode your grant getting ability without getting you killed doing it and calculating EGV. The question was how to choose between chasing the flashy grant everyone is going for versus the sure bet. We also talked about how to calculate your EGV or Expected Grant Value.

Solid Bet vs. Flashy

Foundation A is a solid bet. You fit the criteria well. You’ve got the things that you need to get the grant done. You think I probably have a 50/50 shot of getting this thing. Great! Look at it this way: 


$5,000 x 50% of success= $2,500. That’s your Expected Grant Value (sorry, statisticians). 

Now Foundation B is flashy. They’ve put up ads all over town and are promoting it like crazy. Please apply! Your board is super jazzed about it. They’re giving out a $100,000 grant! We are PERFECT! With this grant, you might think, “I’ll bet 200 organizations are going to apply.” Well, 1/200 is 0.5%. 

$100,000 x 0.5% of success=$500. That’s your Expected Grant Value or EGV

$100,000 is a lot more money than $5,000. But it doesn’t take a math wizard to know that $2,500 is more than $500. But, of course, determining the percentage chance that you get a grant is more of an art than a science, so this isn’t intended as a cure-all but to help you start thinking about grants a little differently. 

When you drill down and ask some basic questions–do you have a real shot of getting it? How many other applicants are likely? How long does the application take? Is it a good use of your time?  

Whether you know it or not, you’re constantly deciding which grants to pursue and which to pass on. Hopefully, this framework can help you make better decisions. I don’t expect you to create a spreadsheet or something for this. I’ve seen your spreadsheets and…hard pass. It’s up to you to make a decision but make that decision with a bit more clarity. 

As for me, which decision would I make or recommend to my clients? Keep reading…

Volume without drowning

So the answer to the question of flashy vs. sure bet and what would I do? I think it’s a false choice. I would pursue both of them, because I’ve set things up so that I have the time since time is money. Is this a cop-out? No, it’s the point of my essential operating mode.! In the past three years, I haven’t passed on more than ten grants that I could go for, and I submit upwards of 750 proposals a year without drowning. I want to get you to that volume by working smarter. Volume is king if you want to increase your chances of winning more and better grants. 

Everything we will learn in this blog series is geared towards saving time and reducing the amount of time and energy into every single grant application. I call it the “turn-time per proposal .”Can we establish a set of processes to reduce the average turn-time per proposal? For example, can we reduce our time from 16 to 8 hours? To 4 hours? To 2 hours? Some proposals can take as little as fifteen minutes using some of my techniques. So you’ll have time to do Foundation A and Foundation B, and prospect some new corporate and foundation donors. Yes, I’m being honest. But don’t tell your board. Let them think you’re working extra hard. Seriously, don’t tell your board a thing about this. They’ll just add something else to your plate, like additional auction items for your silent auction. Ugh. 

Turning back to Moneyball, 

My approach is this: I don’t care how many rejections I get. Every grant writer I’ve met likes to talk about their success rate. “I get about 50% of the grants I apply for,” they announce triumphantly. To which I think, “Then you aren’t applying for enough grants.”  

I achieve about a 35-40% success rate for my clients. Sometimes, getting started, it’s as low as 25%. Not to brag, but I just don’t care. I apply for two to three times the number of grants that other grant writers go for. And the success rate is irrelevant. So let’s do some math to show you what I mean. 

Grants Submitted Success Rate Total Grants
Traditional Approach 30 50% 15
Moneyball Approach 80 35% 28

So, who do you want? Do you want a grant writer with a 50% success rate or a 35% success rate? Do you want to get 15 grants or 28 grants? So, don’t focus on your conversation rate. Instead, focus on the total number of grant dollars that you get. That’s what’s important, right? 

I know you’ll have questions. And comments. To answer the first question, yes, this method got the same 15 grants as the other grant writer and added thirteen extra grants to your total. You didn’t leave anything on the table. You applied to Foundation A and Foundation B. Foundation B said no, by the way. The Foundation board chair’s sister-in-law’s organization just happened to get it. To answer your second question, it took about the same amount of time to write 80 grants as it did to write 30. Maybe even less! 

To answer the third, yes, there’s additional reporting required, but we make that process easy, too. After all, stewardship is a vital part of the process! And we’ll get to it in another post.


Matt Leighty
2920 W. Broad Street Ste 17
Richmond, Virginia 23230
6 Centerpointe Drive
La Palma, California 90623
Contact us