How to Write and Win More Grants with the Rule of Three

When Aladdin rubbed the magic lamp, a genie granted him three wishes. “Click your heels together three times and say ‘There’s no place like home’” is straight from the iconic movie classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” Kicking back further in time, Ancient Romans were fond enough of the rule of three that they called it “omne trium perfectum,” which could suggest things that come in threes are inherently more humorous, satisfying, and effective than other numbered groupings.

K-12 grant expert Olivia Smith-Daugherty reminded me of the importance of the rule of three for grant writing success when she guested on the latest episode of the Fundraising HayDay podcast:  Expert Opinion: K-12 Education ( As podcast co-host Amanda Day and I interviewed her about tackling those ginormous federal and state education grants, she detailed some key elements that have helped her and her team. She also shared some great tips and ideas and talked about trends in education funding, so be sure to give it a listen.

You don’t have to be a numerologist to see where this is going. Here are three recommendations featuring three components each that provide a helpful framework for grant-seeking success.

  1. Create a triple-threat calendar system to decrease stress about hitting those deadlines. Start with your electronic calendar of choice. Back it up with a paper calendar for those times when operator error causes mysterious google calendar entries with no subject. (Ask me how I know.) Finally, allow notification reminders at intervals that make sense for you. I prefer 30-60 minute popup reminders, but find what works best. If you never miss a meeting, come up against a last-minute push for a deadline, or double-book yourself, shine on!


  1. Read each request for proposal (RFP), FOA (Funding Opportunity Announcement), or NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) three times—once for the overall focus of the grant and to make sure basic eligibility requirements are in place, again to identify potential gaps in data or program design you need to address, and a third time to make sure supporting attachments and other requested documentation are in place, and that the final draft is as complete as possible. If you can absorb every aspect of a 100-page NOFA and remember it flawlessly for weeks on end, good for you!


  1. Create a three-tiered proposal review to help hit that “submit” button without the crushing feeling of doubt that you missed something. (Note to readers—you could ask me how I know, but I may be too embarrassed to tell you.) Read once for content to ensure that each answer fully addresses all the questions posed. Read once for the format to make sure all word or pages counts are where they need to be and that all attachments are present, accounted for, and labeled correctly. Read a third time to catch those pesky typos, word choices, and punctuation errors. If you are confident that your first drafts emerge flawlessly from your stress-free, perfectly focused mind to the screen every time—bless your heart! (Reader, if you are not from the South or know a southerner, then be aware that words don’t always mean what you think.)


Whether you follow the rule of three, measure twice, cut once, or use any other framework for quality grant development, spending the time now to find what works best will help buy time for what you really want to do. Because isn’t that what it’s all about?


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 5 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 4 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.



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