Top Five Problems with Your Grant Applications

There are certain application mistakes that new grant writers make.

I’ve listed five of them for you, take a look and see if they apply to you:

  • Too ambitious, too much work proposed
  • Unfocused aims, unclear goals
  • Uncertain future directions (sustainability)
  • Describing your project
  • Demonstrating organizational capability

When a grant application crosses your desk, it’s tempting to see just the dollar signs. You are embarking on a project, one that may take several years to complete. You may not be successful the first time out. A few words of advice, don’t despair. The grantor needs to know you can be a reliable promoter of their goals and objectives. Wait, their goals, you say?

Every philanthropic organization has its own agenda. The family trust or corporation desires to help communities in very tangible ways. Be sure you know how to make your school an attractive funding recipient to help them meet their goals.

You can make some common mistakes:

  1. Your goals are too ambitious; you’ve described a project that is too robust for its budget. It’s often a good idea to scale back your first effort to solve a discrete problem identified by your test data. Ask yourself, “Why do we need money to accomplish this goal?” Perhaps an adjustment in strategy can provide the same outcomes. Have you aligned your curriculum to CCSSI? This is a big one, grantors are very aware of the Common Core.
  2. Your goals are all over the map. In one paragraph, you’re talking about raising math scores in your fourth grade classrooms by 1.2 grade levels in a school year. In the next paragraph, you’re talking about how your project will also raise reading scores. Keep it simple. The foundation wants to help, but they need to know you have prioritized your needs.
  3. You have no idea where you’re going with these concepts. Worse than this, you haven’t figured out how you’re going to pay for the project after the foundation has moved on to help another school. You’ll need to carefully plan with school leaders to make sure they are on board with your project and can commit to providing resources and funds next year. Ideally, the city budget will pick up the project when the foundation moves on; it shows a commitment to the school and the project team.
  4. Have you thoroughly described the activities you will use in your after school program to raise the scores? You’ll need a timeline showing each week between the start of funding and the end of the school year with specific materials and supplies that will be needed to carry out your work. Coordinate with the foundation liaison to make sure you know when (if funded) the check will arrive, sometimes they will want to start next year, be realistic in your long term planning.
  5. Is your school capable of pulling this off? It’s a fair question. If you suspect that you have a weak link in your staff, and that is the real problem with the math program, the foundation will know. They’ve been doing this for a long time, they know how to solve problems and they know the limitations you have when trying to correct personnel issues. One way to demonstrate capacity is to describe another project you’ve carried out that met goals and objectives. You are building a relationship, you need to be transparent at all times, and you’re spending their money! Your school needs to be a good steward of that gift.

If this is your first effort with grant writing, you may need to manage your expectations. It will become second nature after a while; be patient with yourself.

Grant writing tutorials:

Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.



This entry was posted in Grant Research, Grant Writing on by .

About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *