Developing Strong Win-Themes For Your Gov’t Grants

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    Good government grant proposals tell a compelling story. 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. When you start your proposal, first create your Win-Themes.

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

    A Strong Win-Theme:
    • Links your solution to the problem identified in the grant guidelines — a problem or a need that your project is supposed to address.
    • Supports your solution by providing evidence that your program will help address the problem or need
    • Provides reasons and proof that evaluators need to give you a high rating.

    A Strong Win Theme has Three Elements:
    Features are characteristics or elements of your solution. They may be software or 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 government agency’s problem or address a major concern. In grant proposals, they usually involve the provision of services. Benefits address the all-important “So What” question.

    The proof is the evidence that demonstrates your solution is likely to work.

    Creating Great Win-Themes
    Step 1: State the basic problem or need identified in the grant guidelines. Example: Increase contraceptive use in Ethiopia.
    Step 2: Add your features and benefits. Example: A social marketing campaign (feature) will increase contraceptive use by 5 percent over three years (benefit).
    Step 3: Add proof. Example: The same campaign has been successfully implemented in Sudan and Kenya.

    Now there’s a great Win-Theme: Our social marketing campaign will increase contraceptive use in Ethiopia by 5 percent over a three-year period, as it already has done in Sudan and Kenya.

    A terrible Win-Theme simply rehashes the grant guidelines and fails to answer the “So What?” question. A bad Win-Theme is all features and no benefits. A great Win-Theme combines features, benefits, and proof to frame your grant proposal.


    Dr. Jayme Sokolow, founder, and president of The Development Source, Inc., helps nonprofit organizations develop successful proposals to government agencies. Contact Jayme Sokolow