Nonprofit grant writing mistakes and grant writing
writing grant proposals, nonprofit organizations often
make some common grant writing mistakes, which may be
corrected by implementing some professional grant writing
grant writing mistakes usually stem from inexperience
with grant writing (after all, you got into this to help
the planet, not to sit around typing), or a lack of resources,
like time or research skills. Many grant writing mistakes
also come from a lack of familiarity with the funder.
are some grant writing mistakes commonly made by nonprofits,
and some grant writing tips to help you avoid them.
Generic proposals. One
of the most critical aspects of writing a winning grant
proposal is to tailor your grant to complement the goals
of the granting agency. In other words, know your grantor!
What is their mission? For what purposes are they providing
grant funding? What results do they hope to foster? If
you forge a strong connection between your mission and
that of the granting agency, your proposal will have a
greater chance of being funded.
Not enough detail.
As an intimate member of your organization, your level
of familiarity may actually be an obstacle. For one, you
are already fully committed to your cause. Further, organization
executives or staff may be so absorbed in the day-to-day
business of fulfilling the group’s mission that it’s hard
to step back and clearly and carefully explain
the big picture. Certain details of your organization
and mission will be so obvious and so familiar to you
that you won’t even think to include them.
always remember that the people reading your grant may
be hearing of your nonprofit for the first time. Even
if you know the grantor, or have received funding from
them before, you should still provide complete information
about your nonprofit.
the organizational information section, provide concise
details on your organization including: Its history and
mission statement; the recipients of your services; a
description of your programs; an overview of your successes;
and why the grantor can trust you to use funds responsibly
not address targeted problems with broad solutions. Offer
explicit details about the actions you will take to address
much detail. While some areas will be
lacking in information, inexperienced grant writers often
include too much detail in other areas. While it’s important
for your grant proposal to tell a compelling story, don’t
get carried away with a lot of superfluous information.
other words, don’t spend pages waxing eloquent about the
problem or your ideals. Get to the point quickly and use
concise, objective examples to illustrate your successes—rather
than vague or subjective anecdotes.
much emphasis on the ‘why’—not enough on the ‘how.’
Of course, why your mission is important is important.
But after stating the problems, your proposal must focus
on presenting step-by-step solutions. You must approach
the grant writing process like you’re a for-profit business.
Your grant must include measurable objectives, and an
explicit plan of action. Include what records or data
you will collect, and how you will measure your program’s
accomplishments. You may also be asked to provide a logic
Poor writing. The
person reading your grant will probably have read many
others that same day. This means reviewers will have little
patience for bad writing. Make sure your proposal is reader-friendly,
and that it tells a compelling story without being overly
sentimental. Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Do say how the
grant agency’s goals fit with your objectives, but never
cut and paste phrases from their guidelines into your
proposal. Write a clear, informative and engaging grant
proposal that grantors will actually enjoy reading.
Circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is a veritable death sentence
for grant proposals. Circular reasoning can be explained
like this: When the problem being presenting is defined
as the absence of the solution that is being offered.
For example, “The problem is that our county lacks an
environmental watch-dog group. Therefore, forming an environmental
watch-dog group will solve the problem.” Avoid circular
reasoning like the plague in your nonprofit grant proposal.
Inadequate or unrealistic cost analysis.
Nonprofit organizations tend to low-ball when seeking
funds, thinking that the less you ask for, the more likely
you are to get it. This is not necessarily true. Agencies
would rather invest more and see your objectives fulfilled
than grant you less and see it wasted. Unrealistic estimates
also make you look fiscally inexperienced and unknowledgeable.
your budget section, document projected income and expenses.
Also include in your grant proposal whether you have other
sources of funding, or have applied for other sources.
Rather than making your nonprofit seem less needy, additional
funding sources may be a benefit. Most grantors will not
want to be a nonprofit’s sole source of funding for a
Lack of quantitative data.
Granting agencies want to see statistics. They
want to know that your objectives and your results are
quantifiable. For-profit businesses include such information
as a matter of course. But nonprofit grants are often
too light on hard data. To show that you are knowledgeable
about your area, your grant should include historical
data, statistical analysis, graphs and figures, and long-term
projections whenever appropriate.
the above common grant writing mistakes, and implementing
the grant writing tips, will help your nonprofit to
write winning grant proposals and secure grant funding!
the next article: Hiring
a professional grant writer.
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