Errors by Grant Applicants

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently interviewed several grant makers and consultants at the Council on Foundations annual meeting in Philadelphia.  The topic: common mistakes made by grant applicants.  Here are the high points of those interviews including some of the extra points given in the comments.


Overpromising is a big no-no.  It’s easy to do, though, with all the competition out there.  However, don’t let the stress of getting the funds get in the way of truth.  Be sure to make realistic goals and have the data to back them up.

“Only One” Mentality

One funder states that it is risky to say your organization is the only one accomplishing a certain task.  They might even know of an organization offering a similar program .  Again, have the data or proof to back up your claims.

Flying Solo

Several of the comments centered around organizations writing an entire proposal without checking with the foundation at all.  With this has come many errors along the lines of not knowing the proper way to apply for a grant, who to send the paperwork to, and not knowing the appropriate amount for which to ask.  This is problematic and a fairly immediate turn-off for most foundations.  It says that the organization didn’t care enough to properly research the Foundation or isn’t concerned with details.

Shooting Blind

Complementing the previous topic is this one where organizations request an amount totally contrary to what the foundation typically awards.  This can be easily found out by contacting the foundation, reading the previous year’s 990, checking out the annual report and probably by reading the RFP (Request for Proposal).  A big mistake would be to ask for $100,000 when the foundation typically only funds up to $10,000 or requesting $10,000 when they might consider $100,000.  Some organizations were also completely unaware of the mission of the foundation.  If the foundation was established to assist work to people with disabilities, the proposal should meet that need as well.

In summary, read and follow directions.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Be honest and factual about what you do and can do.  Lastly, proofread what you are sending.  Double, no, triple-check everything before you send it out.  If a proposal is filled with typos (check even the spelling of the Foundation and contact’s name), it will probably be tossed out before they really get a chance to read it.

Watch the video here.

CDP is offering our “Mastering the Art of Grant Writing” training July 7, 2011.  If you would like to register for this training, or any others, follow this link to our website.


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