What are Good Win Themes in 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 www.rainmakerz.biz/news.html.  Although his advice is for businesses, grant professionals will benefit from it too.

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.

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 may be software, hardware, methodologies, processes, reduced costs, and the number of key personnel, to use a few examples.  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.

Below are two examples of compelling win themes that can be used to tell a great story in a grant proposal:

  • 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.
  • XYZ Hospital’s five-year sickle cell disease outreach program will provide outstanding educational and case management services to an underserved and neglected population because we are partnering with four very successful sickle cell community-based organizations in New York City.

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