Nonprofit Network Blog

Common Grant Writing Mistakes

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 2:57 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)

Laura Fuller
Capacity Builder

As someone who has been on both sides of the grant game, I still sometimes wonder who has the harder job: the person hoping for funding, or the person trying to decide which projects get funded.  Today I want to share with you some of the things that I look for when reading grant applications in hopes of helping you not to make these common mistakes.  While this list is not all comprehensive, it is a good jumping off point.  I have seen these common mistakes made over and over again, and it is always disappointing to have to throw out an innovative and exciting proposal for these reasons!

1. Follow Directions!

I cannot stress this enough.  While some grant applications are all "narrative" and "free form" and may only ask for a basic budget that you can include as a table, these are the exception, not the rule. When you have a stack of a hundred applications to read and you are only going to fund ten of them, the ones that don’t follow the directions and include all of the required pieces are easy cuts.  It may otherwise be an amazing, innovative idea that could change the world, but if you don’t follow the directions, then it is seen as a lack of competence and organization and makes your ability at follow through come into question.  Make a checklist and check it twice, cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s” and don’t get weeded out in the first pass!

2. Make sure your project is a good match for both the grant you’re writing and for the funder.

There is nothing more irritating than reading a grant application and having to struggle to justify why the organization is applying for this particular grant.  Don’t try and stretch your mission just to chase dollars.  Funders notice mission creep, and it isn’t pretty.  If your organization is going after money that is outside of its mission and scope, then be prepared to make a REALLY good case for it. Fully explain why your organization will have the competence and the ability to complete the work you are proposing.

3. Budget Carefully!

Grants will require you to submit a budget, though the amount of detail can vary. When you are putting together your budget, make sure that the numbers make sense and there are allowed expenses. Don’t ask for the maximum amount just to pad your organizations budget, but actually give a good case as to why you need the amount you are requesting. Remember, the total number of grants funded might depend on the budget amounts requested.

Usually, the board of readers rank the projects from the most innovative or complete to the least. Then the fiscal agent determines how many of them can be funded based on the requested amounts.  If the total pot of money available can be split among 5 organizations or 10 organizations depending on their budget, then the funder has to decide if they would rather make 10 smaller grants or 5 larger ones.  This preference will depend on the funder, so check their past awards (Form 990) and see how many of them are at the maximum grant amount. Check 990's HERE

Need more tips, tricks and information? Join us at our upcoming Grant Writing Events;

Jan. 29th 2020 - Webinar: Grant Writing - Lessons from the Front Line

March 3rd, 2020 - FREE Workshop: Grant Writing's Optimum Role In Your Organization

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