Whether you are new to grant writing or a seasoned writer, there are a few common mistakes to avoid to increase your chances of being awarded a grant. GrantWatch wants your nonprofit or business to get the funding it needs to thrive, so we have compiled a list of the top five mistakes grant seekers typically make.
1. Not following directions
Following directions is crucial when applying for grants. This is because not all grants are the same. Each grant will have its own instructions on how to apply. Some require a Letter of Intent/ Inquiry (LOI), whereas others might ask that the applicant provide a curriculum plan in their proposal. Some might even require attendance at a conference or that the applicant is a member of a specific organization.
It is important to read all the guidelines, especially when it comes to more extensive proposals. You also want to make sure you are following all the formatting directions and pay careful attention to requirements and any application guidance. If you miss one step or don’t follow the instructions completely, the funding source will likely pass on giving funding to your organization.
2. Starting Last Minute
One of the mistakes grant seekers typically make that can almost ensure your proposal will not be a success is waiting too long to start on it. At a minimum, you want to give yourself three weeks to write a grant proposal but more time is definitely preferred. Grant proposals demand fine detail and clarity, both of which require skill and time. A rushed grant application is not a winning application and oftentimes lacks substance.
Especially when it comes to the budget and the needs statement, you want to make sure that you are being as thorough as possible and including all the numbers and information they are asking for. If you spend less time on these sections, grant funders will be able to tell. These funders will see this as sloppy work and infer that you are not as passionate about your cause and the work of your nonprofit because of this.
3. Failing to Show Impact
Funding sources want to be able to see the tangible impact of the project you are requesting funding for, specifically whether or not the project will have a clear positive impact. So, it is not enough to say you do something, you need to prove it. Some grants will even ask for proof from past projects your nonprofit has completed.
Even if there are a lot of different problems your nonprofit wants to tackle, it is important to choose one issue as your focus. Be as specific as possible. Focus on the central concern. Talk about the lack of opportunities in this area. Be direct. And don’t focus on the side issues vs. the main ones.
Make sure you have a clear way of identifying your impact and prove your organization has the capacity to manage, deliver and evaluate your proposed activity. Show how you will be able to continue the project once the funding period is over. Let the funders see what their money has accomplished and how the good you plan to do with their money will continue after the grant funding ends.
4. Being Careless with Your Budget
Specifically, when it comes to your organization’s budget, it is important to be very detailed. You want to show exactly what your financial situation is, as well as how you plan to use the money if you win the grant. Being careless with your budget can be one of the mistakes that cost grant seekers their funding.
Create clear breakdown of costs, outline the costs for pilots, development phase or an investment-ready proposal. Be realistic when breaking down costs: budgets should accurately reflect the planning, research, project delivery and evaluation. Grant and funding assessors will always look out for over and under-estimated costs. If you don’t have a financial officer in your organization to help you with this, it is worth seeking advice from an external financial expert so that your budget will be as precise and realistic as possible for the achievement of your goals and objectives.
List any other funders you’ve received funding from, and the terms you have with them. Give details about the other investors and in what capacity you’re working with them. Some funders will only take on projects where they’re the sole granter, so be sure before you apply that you are eligible.
5. Forgeting to Do Your Research
When applying for a grant, it is important to do your research on the funding source giving out the grant. You need to demonstrate that your nonprofit’s mission and program matches that of the funding source.
Look through their website and social media accounts and see what other organizations have said about them. Do they participate in similar events or have similar values as your own nonprofit? If not, seeking funding from them could potentially risk your nonprofit’s reputation and lead to losing donors and supporters.
In addition, you might even call the foundation to see if they would welcome your application. Ask questions or add them to your e-mail list. It can be important in the future to make connections with the foundation staff.
We hope these tips will help you in your grant-seeking journey! We are constantly putting out content such as this to provide resources for grant writers and nonprofits in all their important work.