How Can You Develop Compelling Win Themes for Grant Proposals?

A good proposal tells a compelling story, and to tell a compelling story you must have strong win themes because they help reviewers understand why you can provide the best solution to the problem identified in the grant guidelines.

One of the wisest people on the subject of developing strong win themes is Mr. Chris Simmons, the founder and Principal of Rainmakerz Consulting.  I strongly recommend that grant professionals read his five-part series on “How to Create Great Proposal Themes” at even though he is addressing a business audience.

According to Simmons, a strong win theme has four components:

  • It links customer benefits to your solution features.
  • It supports the solution.
  • It contains specific information.
  • It provides reasons and proof that evaluators need to select you.

Developing compelling win themes is not an easy process.  It will involve several meetings and plenty of brainstorming.  However, the results will justify the effort because your win themes will provide overarching story lines for the entire proposal

To develop strong win themes, you must provide differentiators, or proof that sets you apart from the competition and demonstrates to reviewers that your proposed solution is likely to work.  In other words, a good win theme has these elements:

Theme = Features + Benefits + Proof

To create compelling win themes, take these steps:

  • Step 1:  State the basic requirement.  Example:  Increase contraceptive use in Ethiopia.
  • Step 2:  Add features and benefits.  Example:  A social marketing campaign will increase contraceptive use by 10 percent over three years.
  • Step 3:  Add differentiator.  Example:  The same campaign has been successfully implemented in Sudan and Kenya.

Now you have a great win theme:  Our ongoing social marketing campaign will increase contraceptive use in Ethiopia by 10 percent over a three-year-period as it already has done in Sudan and Kenya.

However, your work has just begun.  To truly make this a compelling win theme, you will need to demonstrate (1) how the social marketing campaign will increase contraceptive use; and (2) why it has been successful in Sudan and Kenya.

This will involve focusing on the features of your campaign and your past performance in Sudan and Kenya.  In other words, a compelling win theme is the beginning of a compelling argument that will convince reviewers that you have a great solution to the problem identified in the grant guidelines.

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