A big thanks to Kristal Johnson for providing her thoughts and insights again this month on 3 (easy to fix) common mistakes applicants make on their grant proposals.

As someone who reviews grant proposals on a regular basis, I understand that every word counts. Your grant proposal itself is as important as your relationship with the funder because it is your first chance to sell them your ideas.  Just like a job interview, your grant proposal is the first step in an integral process. Because of this, you want to make sure it represents your organization perfectly. When I review grant proposals, I can quickly tell the organizations that took time to craft a detailed plan, the organizations that have organized their ideas, and the organizations that did not review their proposal prior to submission.

It is for these reasons that I want to offer 3 mistakes to avoid in order to present your organization as it really is: organized and ready to launch your project. There are three huge mistakes that are all too common and thankfully are easy to fix: spelling errors, using too much jargon and not following directions.

Easy Mistake to Fix #1: Spelling Errors

This may seem too basic, but I see this often enough that it is worth mentioning. Incorrect spelling sends the message that little effort went into the planning of the proposal.  Having a third-party review your proposal makes all the difference to make sure you are presenting your proposal in a way that says exactly what you want it to say.

Easy Mistake to Fix #2: Using Jargon and Acronyms

Whether it’s company jargon, industry acronyms, or just general abbreviations, these unclear messages may confuse the reviewer. It’s not wise to assume the reader of your proposal is privy to the language that is used within your company or personal network. If a reviewer has to spend time figuring out the meaning behind your abbreviations, your proposal will be set aside.

Easy Mistake to Fix #3: Not Following Application Guidelines

I see this mistake as often as I see spelling errors. When proposals are turned in without the requested documentation, it makes me wonder, “Did they even review the guidelines?” Some funding sources will provide a checklist or a set of guidelines for you to follow.  To make sure you are submitting everything you need, print out the guidelines or checklist and use this as a guide while putting together your grant proposal. Also, have at least two other colleagues review your final proposal before submitting it to make sure everything is there. If you are submitting the proposal electronically, you will want to double- and triple-check it before hitting send.

The preparation that goes into a grant proposal utilizes precious staff time and resources, so avoiding these three easy mistakes to fix will make sure your efforts count.

Kristal Johnson is a certified grant writer and program evaluator who specializes in helping non-profits achieve success and build communities. She works collaboratively with non-profits in the areas of prospect research, development writing, and program evaluation. Kristal enjoys helping non-profits discover new opportunities to support program development.

Kristal has worked with educational institutions, community service organizations, and child welfare agencies. She is a member of the Grants Professionals Association and a Grant Peer Reviewer with the United Way of Greater Houston. Learn more about Kristal at http://kgrantwriter.com.


For more on grant writing, check out How to Make Your Grant Proposal Stand Out From the Pack with Betsy Baker

Want more grant writing help? Watch the webinar: How to Make Your Grant Proposal Stand Out From the Pack with Betsy Baker.