How Can You Use Good Win Themes to Strengthen your Grant Proposal?

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  Although his advice is for businesses, grant professionals will benefit from it too.

One key to developing strong proposal win themes is to understand the difference between a feature and a benefit.

Features are characteristics or elements of your solution that satisfy or exceed the requirements of the grant guidelines.  They are the means to your end, not the end itself.

Benefits are advantages that solve the customer’s problem or address a major concern.  They usually involve the provision of services to provide a solution to the customer’s problem.

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

A strong win theme has demonstrable differentiators.  A bad win theme is all features and no proof.  A terrible win theme simply restates the grant guidelines and fails to answer the all-important “So What?” question.

Placing your win themes strategically in your proposal is the next step.  They should be in your Executive Summary and lead your major proposal sections.  Putting them in bold or in a call-out boxes will help reviewers get your points without any effort.

Once you have created your win themes and integrated them into your proposal draft, you should review your draft to answer these questions:

  • Are my win themes along with features, benefits, and proofs clear and highlighted throughout my proposal?
  • Are my win themes used as thesis sentences to begin key sections?
  • Do I use focus boxes and other devices to emphasize my themes and proofs?
  • Do I use action captions under each graphic that link them to my win themes?
  • Are there any unsubstantiated claims?
  • Do I quantify the benefits to provide proof?

Remember, good win themes are very important, but you must find ways to highlight them throughout your proposal so that reviewers can find them quickly and understand them easily.

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