Competitive Grant Resources


FY22 Grants Information Session Resources

Click here to download the Annual Competitive Grant Information Session PowerPoint presentation.

Access a downloadable version of the Letter of Intent form here. Please note that all Letters of Intent must be submitted through the online grant portal between October 13, 2021 – November 12, 202.


What kinds of projects receive competitive grants funding?

Take a look at our Previous Grants Awarded to get a good idea of the sort of grants that have been successfully awarded.

How competitive is the process?

Only about one in five letters of Intent (LOIs) receive funding and only about half of the Full Applications receive funding.

Do you provide funding to organizations that do programming in the Tampa Bay Area but are headquartered somewhere else?

Yes, any nonprofit based in or serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando or Citrus counties that exhibits strong management and sound leadership is eligible to compete for a grant.

What is your typical grant amount for new organizations?

Our average competitive grant award in 2018-19 was around $14,000, but grant amounts ranged from $4,000 to $60,000.

What do you look for in first time applicants that can help create a successful application?

When reviewing applications – whether first time or veteran applicants – we look for signs of efficient and effective organizations. The criteria below are a general guide, not a definitive checklist. We are interested in learning about how your organization is achieving success and consider whether you meet the review criteria listed in our competitive grant overview.


This advice for developing a successful grant proposal can be applicable whether you are applying for a grant from us or from other funders (developed by Matt Spence).

1: Get to know your funder

No single approach will work with every funder. Set an appointment and invest in getting to know them.  What types of projects do they tend to fund? What are their priorities and how well do they align with what you do? Who in the organization will be your contact and how involved does the funder want to be in your work? If you do some research and make that personal connection, your proposal is more apt to align with their goals.

2: Match your request to the funder

Some funders are all about capacity building, helping you operate for maximum impact. For these funders, show them “This is what we do well.  With your support, we could do x.” Others are more interested in funding a specific program or a new initiative that can take your work to the next level.

3: Understand the funder’s review process

The person who administers the grant application process may or may not be part of the decision. In a lot of cases, the proposal will go to a review committee. Some have to go through public boards with Sunshine Law requirements that need to be considered. Ask for the formal rubric for scoring the grant. Many funders will share them. If there isn’t one, that may tell you that your story is more important than the technical points.

4: Tell a compelling story

Painting the picture of the impact you make on the people you serve is often an overlooked element in a successful proposal. There is real heart and value behind the life-changing work we do. But make sure to strike a balance – don’t pull on the heartstrings too much.  Funders need to have confidence that you can manage the work without being blinded by it. A story should both illustrate the work and share the details of how you will meet the technical requirements of the grant. Weave the story in with the plan for what you hope to accomplish through the grant.

5: Have a diversity of funding streams

Funders want to see that you have support from numerous sources. If most of your money comes from one source, you could be at risk if that funding is lost. A new funder may be nervous about having to carry you if that happens.

6: Plan for how to give your funders credit

Think about how you will recognize your funders and share that with them. “Here are the 11 places your logo will be seen, and X number of people will know you support this work.”  It’s important to articulate what you can do for them. Do they want credit? Can you help them look good to their boards? Can you enhance their reputation in the community?

7: As you seek new funding, don’t forget your long-time supporters

You want to be particularly respectful of the funder that took a chance on you. For instance, if a new funder requires equal or priority billing with an existing funder, call your existing funder to let them know you are courting a new funder, share what that funder is looking for and ask if it’s okay with them.  Remember, you are building relationships with funders. If your existing funder feels a sense of ownership, they may be uncomfortable with a new funder getting equal recognition.

8: Remember to share periodic progress

How often and how much does your funder want updates?  Beyond the formal reporting requirements, be willing to offer occasional informal progress check-ins.

9: Get real feedback from funders

At the Community Foundation, we fund $1 -$2 of every $10 requested. But each rejection goes out with my name on it, so I encourage those who don’t get funded to set up time with me to learn why.  It builds strategic learning. Those that take me up on my offer tend to get funded in the future if they take the feedback to heart.  I encourage you to value the process of putting together a strong grant.  Consider:  “Even if we don’t get this grant, what is this grant going to give us?”

    1. More time with network partners.
    2. The impetus to construct a real budget with real numbers.
    3. A deeper understanding of what we do, how we talk about it and the value we bring to the community.
    4. Building a strength in going after stretch grants that help us grow.

10: Track the effort you put into grant proposals to be sure you are using your time and resources in the best way

There’s an internal cost to applying for a grant, not just the grant writer’s cost, but also what it takes to gather all of the inputs from other employees/partners. You’re spending time and money on this. Begin to track the effort.  You want to balance effort with opportunity, so be sure to consider all the costs before applying. Your batting average depends on the kind of asks you are making. If you’re being thoughtful, having conversations with the funder to be sure you know what they are looking for and being judicious with your grant writer’s time, your success rate should high.  If you’re often stretching for a big win — a MacArthur grant, for example — you’re not going to win as often but if you get one, it can be worth it because of the size.

11: Get to the point

Plain language almost always wins out over jargon and academic language, especially with limited word counts. Remember that the evaluators may not understand your acronyms and buzz words. Keep it simple while still demonstrating the value of your work and its complexities. It’s not easy, but it’s essential.

12: Take a chance on a big idea

There are funders who are willing to take a risk on a big idea. You need to demonstrate confidence in your ability to see something through, and a willingness to be honest about the outcomes, even if they are not favorable. These types of funders understand that even unsuccessful ideas can contribute to strategic learning. They want to be part of innovation and change.