6 Tips To Avoid Common Grant Application Mistakes

By | March 14, 2014

As grant professionals and fundraisers we are always working to improve our success ratio, write a stronger application, and build better relationships with our funders. While keeping you attention on best practices when completing your grant applications, it is still possible to overlook some small, yet common and easy-to-address mistakes.

I facilitated a panel at the Grant Professional Association’s conference in Baltimore this past November with an experienced group of extremely successful grant professionals who discussed some such mistakes that they had made during their career.  The panel I assembled was a dynamic group of grant professionals with a wide range of experience and expertise that I admire tremendously and appreciate using as a sounding board on formal and informal collaborative projects: Rena Beyer of Grant Specialist USA, Margit Brazda Poirier of Grants 4 Good, Linda Butler of Butler Consulting, Jana Jane Hexter of Grants Champion, Jo Miller of JM Grants, and Heather Stombaugh of Just Write Solutions.  As a result of this engaging panel dialogue, I have outlined a summary of the remedies to key mistakes we identified for you to focus on avoiding in your grant application documents or grant application submission process.

While not a complete list of steps to take to avoid common mistakes, we agreed in our discussion that they were the most important to ensure are addressed during each application:

  1. Always attempt to speak with a potential funder prior to submitting an application.  Phone, email, social medi, funder forums – go to where the funder is/where they are most comfortable communicating.
  2. Always sign applications in blue ink unless clearly instructed not to.
  3. Never wait till the last hour before a postmark to arrive at the post office, Fed Ex, or UPS store in order to submit a package.
  4. Double and triple check the submission address for your application and the name/spelling of whom the application is addressed to.
  5. Ensure your budget columns and rows all add properly and that all figures match the cover sheet and narrative.
  6. When allowable by a federal agency to submit application packets more than once as only the last submission will be reviewed, submit a nearly final application packet well in advance of the deadline to ensure your packet meets the technical specifications.
You may ask how to juggle and balance your attention to the program details within the proposal, your technical grammar editing, and grant team input with managing the potential pitfalls outlined above.  Below are some tools that the panelists and I shared at the conference that we feel will help you achieve that balance and ultimately avoid these all too common mistakes ranging from managing your time to avoid deadline crunches, tools to manage collaborative writing and communication, and checklists for applications.

Time Tracking/Project Management

Document Sharing


Writer’s Tools

Custom Tools from Panelists

There is no sure solution that will guarantee any grant professional will avoid all errors.  The scope of our work is very broad and involves the input of many individuals.  However, by paying close attention to each of these seemingly small items within each application, you will avoid those “Doh!” type mistakes that ultimately cost your organization some grant “dough.”

Do you have some tools that you use either app, software, or custom checklist that you use to ensure that you avoid common errors in your grant applications?  Please share them here in the comment section with the rest of the #fundchat community!

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About Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Diane H. Leonard, GPC is President/Owner of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services which is focused on increasing nonprofit capacity related to grants and has secured over $32 million in grant awards for clients. An approved trainer for the Grant Professionals Association, Diane loves talking about all things #grants, #1000Islands, #Running, and #Coffee!

3 thoughts on “6 Tips To Avoid Common Grant Application Mistakes

  1. Pingback: [Headlines] Using New Tools While Sticking to The Basics |

  2. Jo Miller, GPC

    Looking forward to #Fundchat tomorrow! Love this post and list of resources. Thanks for the mention, too. Diane, you did a wonderful job in pulling the panel together around an uncomfortable topic- making mistakes.

  3. Clay Myers-Bowman

    I must say that the most challenging of your suggestions is contacting the foundation ahead of submission. It has worked for foundations that have staff and/or have an online presence. But I prepare so many proposals for private or family foundations that are managed by a law or accounting firm, I almost never get through to a decision maker. Suggestions?

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