Integrity Rules: Why Honesty is the Best Policy Writing Grants

“Honesty is the best policy,” said every parent–ever. And it is especially true for grant writing. Grant writing is essential for organizations to fund things like community projects, business ventures, and research. It’s all about convincing funders to support your project or cause. However, it also involves some serious ethical considerations. Concepts like transparency, accountability, and sustainability are key to establishing your organization’s credibility and to building lasting relationships with funders.

To that end, GrantWatch has advice on how to ethically write grant proposals and the benefits of maintaining your integrity. The database also contains thousands of grant funding possibilities that may apply to businesses, nonprofits, and individuals alike. The diverse list of categories includes BIPOC, Conflict Resolution, Community Services, and Technology, just to name a few. The grants on GrantWatch come from Foundations, the Federal Government, and various other sources. They are all unique in that they have different requirements and rules. However, they also have one thing in common: the desire to help and do good work. For this reason, it’s imperative to maintain your integrity. It turns out, your folks were right, honesty really is the best policy.


The foundational principle of writing grant applications is honesty. Everything about your nonprofit or business project must be transparent. What does this mean for you? It means accurately describing your organization’s abilities, the project’s scope, and the expected impact. Misrepresenting information, like overstating the project’s potential or downplaying its challenges, will lead to your application being rejected. Worse, it can cause donors to mistrust you, and no one is going to fund an organization they don’t trust. The potential damage to your organization’s reputation is too great to risk losing future funding.


Ethical grant writing also requires accountability and accurate reporting. This means setting realistic goals, delivering promised outcomes, and being open about the challenges your project faces. It’s important to follow the grant reporting requirements and schedule. Regular, timely, and transparent updates to funders and stakeholders will build trust and show your organization’s commitment to the project’s success and ethical standards.


Long-term sustainability and impact means your grant writer should be looking beyond the immediate project. Indeed, they need to consider how it will continue to affect the community in the future. It is being realistic about the extent to which the project can achieve what it sets out to achieve. More than that, it all needs to be within the defined timeframe and budget. Have an eye on how its impact can be sustained beyond the initial timeline. Proposals should include a clear sustainability plan, with things like additional funding, community engagement, or integration into larger programs.

Conflict of Interest

There are times when a conflict of interest isn’t such a big deal. Grant writing is not one of those times. A conflict of interest occurs when personal or organizational interests potentially interfere with the grantee’s. It can arise in various forms during the grant writing process. This includes having a pre-existing or current personal relationship with funders or partners. Most of the time though, it has to do with financial interests that could influence the project’s execution. Such situations require disclosure to all parties involved to prevent any bias or unfair advantage. Having clear organizational policies in place helps manage conflicts of interest effectively. Ensuring that all funding decisions are made based on the quality of the proposal and the potential impact of the project, helps maintain the integrity of the grant process.

Equity and Inclusion

We usually think of equity and inclusion in terms of underrepresented groups and marginalized individuals. In the grant writing world, there’s a small twist.  Equity and inclusion in the grant writing process as a whole refer to the removal of personal bias. In any grant proposal you write, your language needs to be clear and rational. Showing passion for your mission is great but ensure your language doesn’t perpetuate systemic biases or inequalities. After all, grant funding is meant to uplift communities, not create rifts that ultimately harm them. Ethical grant writing lends your organization a ton of credibility and helps to cement relationships with donors.

An Example of Why Honesty is the Best Policy

Brenda K. Banks, from Omaha, Nebraska, learned the hard way that lying to get a grant has serious consequences. As the Executive Director of Angels on Wheels, she submitted fake documents in 2018 and 2019 to get extra funds. She fooled the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE), which are funded by the Nebraska Lottery, by altering checks and invoices. She even lied to get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, pocketing over $60,000. Her deceit led to a federal court sentence for wire fraud, four months in prison, and a hefty fine.

Lying to get a grant is not just morally wrong, it’s risky and damaging. Grant money is meant for organizations that genuinely need it to do good in their communities. Fraudulent actions can ruin your reputation and lead to serious legal trouble, as the FBI and courts take fraud very seriously. Moreover, dishonesty undermines trust in grant-making organizations, making it harder for them to help those in need. Brenda’s story is a clear reminder: honesty is always the best policy when it comes to securing grant money.

The Bottom Line

We said it before , and we’ll say it again, “Honesty is the best policy.” The ethical considerations in grant writing go well beyond just following rules. It is designed to promote a culture of integrity and responsibility. Being transparent, original, and accountable is what it takes to be successful in any venture. It simply makes no sense not to be as honest as possible to get the funding you need. After all, following ethical guidelines will ensure that your organization gets the funding opportunities that have the greatest positive impact on your community.

About GrantWatch

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Please Note: There is no guarantee by GrantWatch nor the author of grant awards as a result of this information.

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