Focus On: Grants
“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” It’s important to remember that when you submit a grant proposal.
The proposal frequently is an agency’s first contact with a potential funder, so a lot rides on your written request. We’ve identified 10 common flaws found in proposals. Eliminate them, and your grant applications will be more competitive.
1. Doesn’t match funder’s priorities. This sounds so obvious, and yet many proposals are fatally flawed from the get-go because they don’t meet the funder’s specific grantmaking priorities. Applicants either fail to read the funder’s guidelines or ignore them. Some justify their submission by reasoning that “more submissions are better” or, “They should fund our cause.”
But it’s more strategic and much more effective to submit proposals only to those funders most likely to support your program. Further, it’s essential that you show, not just tell, the grantmaker why your request is a strong fit with its funding priorities. In other words: Don’t just “parrot back” the funder’s guidelines.
2. No logical order. The problem with a disorganized proposal is that it could cause the grantmaker to think that the applicant agency is equally disorganized.
Disorganized proposals tend to be overly long because they repeat information. Therefore, your proposal narrative must follow a logical sequence, from A to B to C, so to speak. If the funder has given you an outline or a list of questions, follow its format to the letter. That’s the order the funder is expecting.
In the absence of clear directives, follow the standard format that has a near universal following in the grantmaking field: summary, history/mission, needs or problem statement, objectives/outcomes, methods, evaluation, future funding and conclusion.
3. It does not demonstrate the need. Without a documented need that your program is addressing, there’s no justifiable reason for seeking grant funding. Yet all too frequently, applicants fail to fully describe the need, usually because they assume the funder already knows what that need is.