Top Three Traits for Winning Grants

  • Credibility
  • Track record
  • Completed application

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned more about grants, and I want to share my education with you.

Over a zoom meeting (, I had a couple of smart people ask me, “Dave, what do you think are the top three things for securing a grant?”

I’ve been dealing in grants every day for years, and I thought it was an excellent question. Based on my experience, here are the top three traits for successfully winning a grant.


Bureaucrats are risk adverse. Obviously. They must be: they are spending tax payer money.

If they are going to cut you a cheque, you need to be trust worthy.

The question then becomes, how do you demonstrate credibility? Here are some ways to help you get started:

  • Won a previous grant. If you won a previous grant and managed it well, you are on the right track. It could even be a small grant.  At least something that shows you managed a grant already.
  • Have worked for a company that won a grant. Many entrepreneurs have not won a grant, but if you have worked at a company that won a grant, you should let the agency know.
  • Win an award. If you’ve never won a grant, you should apply for an award. It gives you third party credibility.
  • Customer testimonials. One of the strongest ways you can win a grant is to demonstrate “market pull.” Make it easy for a grant agency to see how much your customers love you. 
  • Be professional. If someone on your team isn’t professional, keep them away from the grant meeting. I’ve seen several people after five years in business. No crazies. If you don’t think you have a crazy on your team, ask someone on your team if you’re it.
  • Financials. I’ve seen this situation many times. An entrepreneur has several companies. The company with the longest history is usually the best company to be the grant applicant.
  • Get introduced from your Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Do you think you’ll have the grant agencies attention? See my lessons from SPARK blog that proves politicians are boss in grants:


One note of caution. Introductions can be a great way to be introduced to a grant agency. HOWEVER, be careful who is making the introduction.

I’m sure some people drive grant agency staff crazy.

When I worked at the legislature, we would receive a call from some people WHO ALWAYS CALLED.

Be sure you trust the person making the introduction.

A short aside:

A second note of caution about credibility is the grant writer. This topic fascinates me. Here is the question: do you bring your grant writer to the grant agency meeting?

I’ve found mixed results. Some grant agencies feel that a company should have the resources to write the grant application. In reality this situation is difficult to do. Most business owners are hiring and selling, and the last thing on earth they should be doing is writing their grant applications.

I raised this question at SPARK (huge grant conference), and grant staff were fine with grant writers attending meetings.

Just check with the grant agency whether or not grant writers are welcome to sit in on meetings.

2. Relationships

Relationships are huge. When I was studying political science in New Brunswick, I remember studying what it was like when government’s change power. The legend was that road construction crews would change too – all patronage appointments.

Whether that is true or not still holds true today: politicians have massive sway in who wins grants.

Elected officials of all stripes love “cutting cheques” All parties:

 NDP loves grants

NDP loves grants

 Liberals love grants

Liberals love grants

 Tories love grants too

Tories love grants too

I was told that in some grant applications two stacks go to the minister: recommend and non-recommend.

The minister then decides from either pile: and he or she will take from the non-recommended pile.

What does that mean?

You need to know what the government wants.  And you need to know your elected officials.

If the government is interested in building its “rural base,” then you should highlight that aspect if you can.

If your MLA is holding a fundraiser, you should go.

Politicians need to get reelected, so you need to know them. They need places to do photo ops, so you should give them tours of your business.

The relationship is two ways: the business owner and the politician need it each other.


Here are some other relationship building tips you can do:

  • Thank You Cards.  Old-school thank you cards are awesome. Make sure you use them when you meet grant agency staff or elected officials.
  • VIP Tours. You must invite elected officials to your facility for tours, but make sure you clean the place spotless, especially the bathrooms. Be really planned (e.g. make sure they have the appropriate safety gear).
  • Open Houses. They always hold open houses at Christmas time. Drop in.
  • Events. All the main political parties have event pages, you can easily attend them and meet the ministers. NDP’s events can be found here:
  • Award ceremonies. Check out the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction: They usually have some economic ministers who attend, which is a great way to connect and relax. It’s awesome. Now here is an elite trick: if you are nominated for an award, you should invite your MLA as a guest at your table. Once you have reached this level, you are now at GRANT NINJA STATUS. Control the seating. The MLA sits beside the business owner or president. Always.
  • Invite an MLA to your event. If you’re holding an event, MLAs love to come and give greetings from the province. We had the late Rick Miller bring greetings to a house party. Miss you Rick!
  • Church. If they go to your church or religious place, you should introduce yourself.


Rounding out the top three top traits for winning a grant: a completed application. Grant writing is hard work and getting your application submitted is remarkable. Make sure you get the application submitted, and you are on your way! If you need help with it, give me shout!


Kind regards,

David Kincade

David Kincade

Phone: 780.297.6177


p.s. Do you qualify for millions in grants? Take this short survey to find out: