Success Rate Isn’t the Best Indicator of Grant Success


I realize that from an outsider’s perspective, the success rate can appear to be a measurement of the grant writer’s aptitude and provide a tool to determine return on investment or job performance.  However, I find this question misleading, and here’s why:

  1. Success rate does not provide any understanding of what the funder was thinking. Why was a decision made? Was it the quality of the proposal or something completely outside of the grantee’s control? Was a grantee already designated even before the proposal was received?
  2. Success rate does not indicate the quality of the work. A well written proposal can stand on its own merit, even if it was not funded.
  3. Success rate does not incorporate the work that went into the proposal. A grant writer can spend 1-3 months on a large proposal, which helps enhance the capacity of the organization. If the organization can recommend the grant writer, even without a win, this is a testament to the grant writer.
  4. Success rate does not factor in cultivation. Did the organization actively cultivate this funder? Could that have made a decision in whether or not this proposal was awarded?

This is why I caution anyone to think about viewing success rate as the be all, end all of a grant writer’s capabilities. Other indicators such as writing samples, recommendations, project plans and other tools are integral components in a grant writer’s portfolio. They have equal (if not more weight) than limiting a grant writer to the success rate alone.