grants, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits, writing

Top 3 Do’s and Don’ts of grant writing

People ask me all the time, “What is the secret to grant writing?”

The truth is, there is no secret! The difference between winning and losing proposals are pretty simple, and here are the top three:

Winning proposals…

1.Answer all the questions!: Writing a successful grant application is actually more of an exercise in careful reading rather than writing, as the number one reason grant applications are not funded is for failure to answer all of the questions adequately and appropriately.

2. Use data: Don’t just say you do something, or prove it! Use data rather than fluffy language to convey the impacts and successes of your program, as well as justify the need.

3. Follow the rules: If the grant guidelines say to use 12-point font Times New Roman, use 12-point font Times New Roman. If only PDFs are allowed, submit PDFs. If their maximum award amount is $10,000, don’t request more than $12,000. This really comes back to number one above – read carefully to ensure you have done everything the funder says, exactly as they want it. And be sure to also follow the rules of proper writing, grammar, and citations. NO typos!

While seemingly simple, following these three rules will help ensure that your grant application does not go directly to the ‘no’ pile. From there, funders will have the opportunity to read about your innovative ideas, and see how valuable your work is!

 

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grants, nonprofit development

Submitting an online grant application? Read this first

Submitting an online grant application-

 

It is Thursday night at 11:50pm. You are furiously uploading all the required documents into a funder’s online grant system to submit by 11:59pm – the deadline. Suddenly your cat jumps up on the desktop to come sit in your lap, but turns off your computer with his paw on the way up. You frantically turn the computer back on, begging it – “Come on, please still be there, please still be there!”

CRAP!

Only the first part of a 15 part application was autosaved. It is now 11:56pm. There is no way you will be able to upload everything in the next three minutes. You give up and go to bed, possibly shedding a tear along the way. Over 20 hours of work in the past month – for nothing! Your only consolation is that there will be another opportunity to submit this application…next year.

The truth is that this is not an uncommon story. Not only is it more stressful to be submitting a grant application close to the deadline, there are more reasons to avoid this common pitfall:

  1. TIMESTAMPS

Oftentimes funders print out grant applications submitted online so each Board member gets a copy. Online grant systems often print a cover page, and the very first item on this cover page is typically a timestamp. So say your cat did not jump up and you were able to submit by 11:58pm. The very first thing funders will see is that you submitted one minute before the deadline. If you can’t get your act together enough to submit early, can you really be trusted with a $1 million grant, as you were requesting? Not to say that submitting close to the deadline would completely count you out, but in today’s extremely competitive grant cycles, there is absolutely no room for anything less than perfection. Funders are inundated with grant applications, and they need something to thin the crowd. Seeing that you submitted very close to the deadline would be an easy way to go directly to the no pile before they even read a word.

2. OTHER PROCRASTINATORS

When there are lots of people (procrastinators!) on a website at one time, especially when it comes to grant application systems, those systems sometimes fail. Don’t take the chance – get in the system when it is calm to avoid any issues. I always recommend that clients submit at least two days before the deadline.

3. SYSTEM INCOMPATIBILITIES

Sometimes it takes doing it to realize if something is not going to work. For example, in one grant application system they required PDF documents only, when I had created Word docs. Luckily I had plenty of time to convert all the files and upload them, as there were still a few days to go. But had it been 11:50pm on the deadline date, I would not have had time for this simple fix. I have also heard of browser incompatibilities, difficulties copy/pasting into the application boxes, and the list goes on. By getting in there early, you will be able to address any incompatibilities well before the deadline.

4. RUSHING = SLOPPINESS

You never produce your best work when you are rushed. You make typos, don’t answer the question fully, repeat yourself, and other major grant writing no no’s. By planning to finish your grant writing and application a week before the deadline, you save time to come back to it in a day or two with fresh eyes to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Again, there is no room for error, so your narrative and all associated documents must be perfect.

 

While it is true that some people cannot complete work unless a hard deadline is looming, massive amounts of stress, anxiety, and eventual heartache can easily be avoided with some simple planning when it comes to grant deadlines. As they say, those who fail to plan can plan to fail! Stay tuned for my next post where I will explain how to make a simple plan and never miss a grant deadline again!