Especially when foundations have a TON of guidelines and requirements, it can be pretty easy to mess something up. And those bloopers may disqualify you. Here are some of the most common–and fully preventable–grant proposal mistakes:
1. Not following directions: Like I said, it’s easy to overlook some of the details when you’ve got a 20 page proposal sitting in front of you and a 10 page booklet of instructions and requirements. But missing out on one of these details will make you look sloppy and careless…definitely won’t help your case. Be sure to read over the instructions multiple times before you send your proposal in.
2. Inconsistencies: Make sure the numbers in your budget add up. Read over the narrative and be sure you haven’t promised something in one section and left it out in another. Be sure your project name is consistent. Stuff like that.
3. Spelling and grammar mistakes: Bah. Whoever is reading your proposal may dismiss a few mistakes, but you’ll add professionalism points if your writing is flawless.
Get someone else to read over your work. Self-editing is flawed. Also, make sure you’re well-rested when you write and when you review your work.
There are different forms and formats for full grant proposals. Every grantmaker has different guidelines, priorities, deadlines, and timetables. Some grantmakers accept a Common Application Form (CAF), which is a single proposal accepted by a number of grantmakers to help you save time and streamline the grant application process. Always follow the exact specifications of the applications, invitations, and proposal guidelines. Full proposals are generally a maximum of 15 pages (single-spaced), and include the following components:
1) Cover Sheet – basic contact information
2) Cover Letter – includes your proposal summary and case statement
3) Narrative – needs assessment, goals and objectives, methodology, and evaluation
4) Budget – a realistic budget with detailed explanation of funding request, committed matching funds, and long-term funding plan
5) Qualifications – your organization’s background, staff qualifications, funding history, and capacity to carry out your plan
6) Conclusion – a brief, concise summary of proposal
7) Appendices – additional attachments required by the funder (proof of tax-exempt status, financial documents, staff lists, support and commitment letters, etc.)
Present your proposal neatly, professionally, and in an organized package. Organize and present it in the order listed in the application and guidelines. It should be typed and single-spaced. Only include relevant information. Remember, your proposal will be judged solely on content and presentation.
FULL PROPOSAL GUIDELINES
Preparation is very important for the grant writing process. if you perform the proper planning and research, the actual writing will go a lot smoother. Organize your proposal, pay attention to detail, follow the grantmaker’s specifications and format, use concise and persuasive writing, and request a reasonable funding amount. Clearly understand the grantmaker’s guidelines and make sure their goals and objectives match your grantseeking purposes. A well-written proposal should include the following steps:
· Research grantmakers, including funding purposes and priorities, and applicant eligibility.
· Determine whether the grantmaker’s goals and objectives match your grantseeking purposes.
· Apply for grants that are appropriate to your field and project, but do not limit your proposals to one funding source.
· Always follow the exact specifications and proposal format of each individual grantmaker.
· Contact the grantmaker prior to writing your proposal to confirm you clearly understand their guidelines.
· Reflect planning, research, and vision throughout your proposal.
· Prove that you have a significant need or problem.
· Deliver an answer to that need or solution to the problem. Do this based on experience, ability, logic, and imagination. Make sure you describe a program or project for change.
· Demonstrate project logic and outcome, impact of funds, and community support. Be specific about broad goals, measurable objectives, and quantified outcomes.
· Be clear about why you are seeking a grant, what you plan to do with the money, and why you are a good match for the grantmaker.
· Always include: project purpose, feasibility, community need, funds needed, applicant accountability, and competence.
· State your organization’s needs and objectives clearly and concisely.
· Answer these questions: Who are you? How do you qualify? What do you want? What problem will you address? How will you address it? Who will you benefit? How will they benefit? What specific objectives will you accomplish? How? How will you measure your results? How does your proposal comply with the grantmaker’s purpose, goals, and objectives?
· Write well! Use proper grammar, correct spelling, and active verbs. Be clear, factual, supportable, and professional.
· Present your proposal in the appropriate and complete format.
· Include all required attachments.
· After submission, follow up with the grantmaker about the status, evaluation, and outcome of your proposal. Request feedback about your proposals strengths and weaknesses.