Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grant Writing Mistakes to Avoid

The list of grant writing mistakes to avoid could be longer than the list of tips to do it right because there are so many ways to slip up, particularly when writing large and complex government grants. Here's a quick list of a few mistakes to avoid that have come up lately:

Mistake #1: Not reading everything in the RFP.  This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but you would be surprised how often people don't read everything. Reading everything in the RFP is so important that you should do it no matter how many times you have written a particular category of grant.  Things change.  Yes, they really do. I'm working on a grant project right now that has undergone some major modifications.  The RFP is full of brand new detail, websites to visit, and assessments to review.  Calling it complex would be a bit of an understatement. It would be a huge mistake not to read absolutely everything.

Mistake #2: Not participating in the informational conference calls and webinars. About 50% of the time, there is nothing shared on the informational call that is not also in the RFP; however, half the time, some valuable detail is shared that will give you a competitive advantage.  Ok, ok, I know.  That's not supposed to be the way it works.  Everything you need to apply is supposed to be included in the Federal Register announcement and the RFP, but that's just not the way it works. I know an organization that was denied funding because they did not comply with a restriction that was explained in the informational webinar and not in the RFP.  It's still in appeal, but it would have been a lot easier just to participate in the webinar.

Mistake #3: Not using the checklist provided in the RFP.  This is such a common mistake, that many funding agencies now require that you include the checklist in your application.  It's their way of making sure that you have actually looked at the checklist.  Using the checklist helps you be sure not to leave required pieces out of your application.  It won't help you with the quality of the narrative response (follow the scoring criteria for that), but it will help you submit all the required documents in the right order.

Mistake #4:  Waiting until the last minute to call with your questions. This requires some advance planning. You can call to ask questions, but the representative from the funding agency will usually not answer the phone, and he/she may not return your call in a timely manner.  If you have waited until the last day to ask a critical question, you'll be out of luck. 

Mistake #5: Not reading the FAQs or supplemental information suggested in the RFP. This is related to mistake #1 (above), but often people do not think that the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are really part of the RFP, so they don't read them.  Some agencies publish the FAQs separately.  They can contain some very valuable clarifying information.  The same is true of supplemental information referred to in the RFA.  Sometimes the website the funder is pointing you to really is just for extra information that you don't need or may already know, but from time to time those references include critical information that will make the difference between success and failure.

Mistake #6:  Including needs that you don't plan on addressing in the project.  It's really easy to get carried away providing all sorts of information about how needy your organization is, but you need to be sure that you target your needs section toward the project at hand.  If you identify a need, then your project to address that need (at least in part).  Remember, all of the sections of your proposal need to be connected - from needs, to goals and objectives, to design, to management, to evaluation, to budget.


Related Posts:

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Grant Objectives

How Can the Grant You Just Finished Help Make You a Better Writer?

Lessons Learned from Failure

Top 10 Lessons I Learned from My Grant Writing Mentor

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.