Proposal Writing Errors and Ideas for Success

When writing proposals to secure foundation and government grants, you may want to stay away from a few common grant-writing errors and incorporate tips to help you create a winning proposal.

 Errors to Avoid

  1. Make sure your proposal team doesn’t just “skim” the proposal. Reading pages of boring grant proposals can be time-consuming, but if you don’t read through everything, you will probably miss a rule. Read the opportunity, make calls for clarification, and do basic research.
  2. Scheduling unnecessary meetings is not a great idea. Assign someone on your team to make decisions to go forward with a grant proposal. No waffling or hesitating!
  3. Letters of commitment are not just letters of recommendation or support. You need a letter that lists how another organization will commit to your proposal.
  4. If your project is “fuzzy”, refine it. Do not hold back from your collaborators. They need to know what you are doing, including details about who will administer the grant, what it will accomplish, why you are applying for funding, and when the project will be complete. Be sure to map out your needs, talk about what services you want from  collaborating partners, and if applicable, agree upon their compensation.

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Ideas for Success

  1. Be willing to modify your goals, objectives and metrics. You may need to compromise or change your ideas to fit the grant.
  2. Use charts and visual concepts when necessary.
  3. Answer all questions fully. Make sure your agency and the population it serves is defined exactly. One-sentence answers do not always suffice.
  4. Be strong in every category. Some agencies feel that if they “fall short” in one category, they will make up the points in another. This really isn’t a good attitude; you need to make sure you get all the points awarded in every category.
  5. Everyone on the team needs to take responsibility for the proposal and the final grant. Although someone should be the designated team leader who can coordinate and communicate, keep in mind everyone on the team should contribute.

Adapted from tips by Paul Secor, president of Secor Strategies