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What NOT to Include in Your Grant Application

Relationships are important in all aspects of fundraising, including those with your grant funders. Ideally, you will make the effort to build a relationship with the potential foundation funder before you submit a grant application. But if you haven’t, then your grant application is your only chance to make a good first impression.

I’ve written a lot about what to include in your grants applications and tips on grant hacks, but this time, I’m going to recommend what not to include in your grant proposal or application.

Errors, typos, and jargon

Your English teacher’s voice should be ringing in your head. Do not depend on autocorrect. Always proofread your grant and attachments for typos, grammar, syntax, and my favorite, homophones. Always have someone else read it. Does it pass the mother test? If your mother read your proposal, would it make sense to her?

Our organization is on life support.

Yes, I’ve seen this example, and this is a damaging argument. Funders typically receive far more applications than available funding. Grant reviewers are looking for ways to screen out applications and this one will definitely tag your application for a denial. Remember, your application and supporting documents must tell the same, positive story. You want to show that your organization is a good investment and has good financial standing.

We need to pay off old debt.

Funders are not lines of credit. They want to invest in your future work, not your past expenses. This is demonstrating poor financial management for the nonprofit and doesn’t make a strong case for support to help your organization provide future mission-centric programs.

Old narratives and data

Did you just copy and paste from last year’s grant application? Foundation grant reviewers will notice. Be sure to update your information and numbers. Mistakes like this show you and your organization are not paying attention to details and will question the viability of your organization. Are your program numbers consistent throughout the application? Does the data in the grant narrative match your financials and other attachments?

Nonprofit organizations exist to provide benefit to the public. Private and family foundations have the right to choose the nonprofit organizations they wish to fund. Do not make it easy for them to decline to fund your service to the community. If writing is not your strength, then hire someone who can or contract with a consultant. Foundation support should be part of your diversified fundraising efforts.

Good luck!


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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