The “Five Cs" of a Competitive Proposal

The “Five Cs" of a Competitive Proposal

April 22, 2015

Getting a foundation grant has always been a competitive endeavor. What would make a program officer pick up your grant proposal amidst the huge stack on her desk? Better yet, what would motivate the foundation to fund your cause?

To make your proposal stand out from the crowd, be sure it embodies the “Five Cs”:

Clear: Your narrative must be a comprehensible and logical read. Start with an outline to organize your ideas. Wordsmith until not one superfluous statement remains. 

Concise: Your executive summary must summarize your entire proposal, yet encourage the reader to continue for more details.

Compelling: What if your project title is your one and only chance to persuade someone to read your entire proposal? Be sure your title answers the question, “What is the intended impact?” Conclude with an inspiring story that touches the reader’s heartstrings.

Credible: Drive home the strength of your organization and its commitment to see the project succeed. Build trust through your organization’s history, leadership, and track record of accomplishments.

Collaborative: Describe your network of allies and collaborators that that will serve to support successful outcomes.


Securing a foundation grant can be a long, complex process, but you can gain a competitive edge by following the “Five Cs” in your proposal.

Luz M. Rodriguez
Training Specialist
Foundation Center