In this blog, however, I’d like to give you some guidelines on what not to do if you want to win grant money. If you make these mistakes, you may spend a lot of time filling out a lot of applications and never receive a dime of grant money.
The biggest mistake I see people make is that they ask for grant money for the wrong reasons. This mistake can come in several forms:
1) You ask for money to go into your general budget without specifying any particular program or use for the money. I don’t know of a single grantor that will give you money just to increase your general fund.
2) You ask for money for purposes that are almost never funded by grantors: a band trip, a trip to a foreign country, construction of a new athletic facility, etc. You can apply for these types of things repeatedly. Almost nobody will fund them unless it happens to be a well-funded local entity with a special interest in the program (think kids or grandkids).
3) You ask for money to keep or create a position which you will just happen to be filling yourself. You might get a grant to fund a position like this, but it’s a real long shot.
The second largest mistake I see when people apply for grants is simply not properly matching the grant to the grantor. If a grantor only funds science programs, don’t send them an application for a reading program that has nothing to do with science. They’re not going to fund it. They won’t even read the application. I’ve seen people fill out a foundation application and then mail it to a hundred different foundations just hoping they’ll get lucky. They won’t. The application would have to be too generic, and almost all of the applications won’t fit into the guidelines of the grantors. This is one of the main reasons you should use a grant database. Match your grant needs very closely to a few grantors, and then apply only for those grants that closely match your needs.
Finally, the next biggest mistake that I see people make when applying for grants is that they don’t fill out every section of the applications they use. When you skip parts of an application, you almost immediately disqualify your application on a point basis. Competitive grants are almost always scored by grant readers using a certain amount of points for each section. If you don’t complete a section, you are essentially taking yourself out of the competition.
I’ve seen grants that were given only to those who scored 95 or better on the application. If you left a section blank that was worth 10 points, you automatically removed yourself from the competition. When completing an application, you must complete every section, and I suggest you complete each section as if it were the only one on the application. That’s the only way you’ll be truly competitive.
I don’t usually approach grant writing from a negative angle, but you at least need to know the biggest mistakes people make when they apply for grants. Make sure you have a good, educational purpose for the grant money you seek. Make sure you match your needs very closely with the purpose of the grantor. Finally, make sure you fill out every section of your grant application.
If you don’t make any of these big mistakes, you have a much better chance of winning the grant money you need.