Having knowledge of common mistakes made in the grant writing process can help grant writers better prepare for grant submissions. Seven missteps are identified to avoid missed funding opportunities and enhance the capacity to write appropriate grant proposals that will benefit the school.

Allowing intimidation to override grant benefits

When a grant opportunity presents itself, thoroughly read the requirements which first can appear intimidating. First thoughts might focus on a lack of time or knowledge to write a compelling grant proposal. Grant writing can seem complicated—that’s true. Breaking the task into chunks will help reduce the initial anxiety as will the following tips for advance preparation. The potential benefits of winning a grant are worth the effort.

Delaying the writing the grant proposal

Start early. There are certain proposal components that can be written in advance and then apply the content toward the selected grant proposal, making essential tweaks where warranted. Be aware that certain grants have a small window between when they are made public and when grant proposals are due. Commit the time because there are many steps to the grant writing process. Remember to complete a final review to avoid glaring missteps, such as spelling errors, grammar mistakes, or incomplete content. Allow time to ask if enhancements or additions can be made.

Writing for the wrong grant

Do the homework upfront. Research the grant’s Request for Proposal (RFP) to make sure the grant application is a match for what you are seeking. Read thoroughly to determine the requirements of the type of grant that caught your attention. Some websites advertise available grants and share minimal information which can be misleading. Always read deeper than the information provided in the call for proposals in order to gather specific details and requirements. If the school does not meet the eligibility requirements, it is the wrong grant.

Omitting or providing incomplete contact information

Within the grant proposal, be specific, avoiding vague wording. Rather than say ‘a teacher’ is responsible for overseeing or implementing an activity, name the teacher, identify the position, and provide accurate contact information. This indicates a thorough thought process. Many times, the grant writer is different from the person who is implementing the grant or program. Don’t overlook the contact name for the grant proposal.

Failing to check for math errors

Make sure all numbers are reported accurately and all necessary expenditures are included in the grant proposal. Seeing mathematical errors might indicate to the grant reviewers that limited attention was given to the proposal. Be attentive to wherever numbers occur in the proposal. It is highly recommended to review the budget to ensure no errors exist in computations and exact costs are included that correspond to all line items for materials, people, or other expenditures associated with implementing a successful grant. One word of caution: if you include an expenditure such as 20 laptops along with specific costs in your budget yet fail to mention technology elsewhere in the proposal, this causes undue attention. Whatever is in the budget should be justified earlier in the proposal’s narrative. Checking and rechecking numbers are action steps that all grant applicants must take that contribute to a well-developed proposal.

Skipping required information

Delve deep into the grant application making note of or highlighting the required information for each section. Reading beyond each section’s heading and checking for specifics is imperative. Often, grant writers think they have fully completed each section but fail to confirm the inclusion of all requested information. Reviewers should not have to dig through a proposal to find information. Being attentive to detail can make a difference in who is awarded the grant and who is not.

Overlooking basic directions

Grant application directions must be carefully read and followed. The directions may stipulate many things, including margins, font, font size, or page allowances. The grant source may require online submission. Deadlines are always given so confirm and submit the application by the required method, time, and date. Not demonstrating adherence to all the directions in the application can be observed by the reviewers as red flags. Following the grant specifications can make the writing process move smoothly and eliminate inaccurate observations of a grant applicant.

Missteps occur all the time in grant writing. Be aware that mistakes in grant writing can make the difference in being awarded a grant or being rejected.

Co-Authored by Sandra Love, Ed.D. and Marian Rainwater

Educator Resources Managing Editor, Sandra Love, Ed.D., develops practical resources for teachers and principals to help them impact students and build thinking-centered learning environments. A recipient of the National Distinguished Principal Award, Dr. Love spent 37 years in public education both as a teacher and principal, where she gained experience at the elementary, middle school, and higher education levels. She has authored numerous articles and develops educational resources on critical thinking and instructional strategies.

Until her recent retirement from Mentoring Minds, Marian Rainwater led the team of math writers in developing research-based materials that make a positive difference in the lives of teachers and their students. Over the course of a 29-year career in public education, Marian impacted students at the classroom level as a teacher and at the district level as the director of K-12 curriculum and instruction.