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Avoid the 5 Most Common Grant Writing Issues



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Grant proposals are among the chief tools in the fundraising tool chest for most nonprofits. Yet many nonprofits see a small percentage of their proposals actually receive funding.


Of course, there’s never enough money to fund all the applications, but sadly and more commonly, grant proposals often don’t follow the funder’s guidelines and contain a number of avoidable mistakes.

Don’t be the nonprofit whose grant proposals sink to the bottom of the funding pile.

There are common issues that are easy to fix – regardless of the funder or the process. Avoiding them will help your submissions soar to the top.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common errors.

First, be in sync with your funder and follow directions.

Nonprofits want to make sure that their organization’s mission and proposed project is directly in line with the funder’s mission, objectives, and priorities for funding. If you’re not on the list of eligible programs or priorities, chances are you won’t get funded.

If you are a match for potential funding, make sure you read all of the instructions, detailed guidelines, or other special requests the funder requires. Not following directions will get you cut from the funding pool. This is one of the easiest mistakes to correct in grant writing and one of the most common. Read the directions first and follow them. Funders read hundreds of applications and those that don’t follow the instructions are left in the unfunded pile.

Second, make the ask.

It’s truly surprising how many grant submissions don’t include the actual amount of the funding request. Further, grant writers often omit the detail on how the funding will be spent. Whether your project includes provisions for basic needs, like food and shelter, or education programs, including summer camps or after school programs – whatever the need, make sure you detail it for your funder. Be clear on the amount you’re requesting and why you need it. It’s pointless to write an entire proposal about your terrific project and not ask for the money to support it.

Third, nothing is more important than impact.

All proposals or funding applications will ask a grant writer to describe the need for the project and what the proposed outcomes will be. Don’t skip the question. Be clear about your plan for impact, specifically how will children, families, seniors, or others in need in your community benefit from your project. Proposals should describe a need, how you will solve that need, and what will change as a result.

Avoid this common mistake by describing how your successful project will make a difference.

Fourth, narratives and budgets must match.

Your project’s budget is another way to tell the same story as the narrative – numbers instead of words. A funder should read your narrative and find the exact correlation in your budget. Numbers that don’t add up, costs that are inflated, line items that are omitted – all of these will be red flags that your organization may not be able to manage the funding. Be honest, be complete, and match the budget to the narrative.

Finally, proofread, then proofread again.

It may be obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes grant writers make is having a submission filled with typos, grammatical issues, spacing problems, repeated phrases or sections, and other common editing mistakes. Pity the grant reviewer who reads hundreds of applications only to have to reread sentences in your submission because of typos and grammatical errors.

Use spell check to catch glaring errors. Proofread entirely for grammar mistakes, cut-and-paste issues and repeated phrases (preferably after you have set the proposal aside for at least 24 hours). And finally, have a friend or colleague proof your submission.

Contrary to what’s often believed, there are no secrets to grant writing.

Putting together grant proposals takes diligence and organization. You’ve spent the time developing an incredible project that will help others and your community. Now, spend the time on your grant proposals, avoid these easily avoidable issues, and start looking for opportunities to be successful!

For more information and resources for nonprofit professionals, join NPO Centric’s membership program. >>