Grants play a key role in the fundraising plans of higher education and nonprofit organizations alike. Unfortunately, in either industry, there’s no magic recipe for guaranteed success in grant writing.
University Grant Writing Challenges
For higher education, the biggest issues are that universities are not set up to design and develop grant-funded programs. These programs often require heavy community and agency interactions: attendance at planning meetings, agency workshops, and other important collaboration events. Faculty members often don’t have time to travel to or attend these types of meetings. They have little ability to nurture the necessary connections needed to design compelling and FUNDABLE programs.
Someone (and probably not your professors) must be able to help connect the activities of your university to the goals of the funding agency. The critical piece of this is program design and development – once programs are designed appropriately and the connections are made, it can be relatively easy to get funding.
Nonprofit Grant Writing Challenges
The biggest issue for nonprofits has to do with their ability to support their programmatic approach and prove that it is viable. Nonprofits often don’t know how to measure their own success, i.e., how to implement a program evaluation strategy and measure its effectiveness. This is what they are selling to the funding agency, and they must be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of their services, both in the past and going forward, which is NFPs’ Achilles heel.
What NOT to do
After years of firsthand experimentation, service on grant panels, and experience as a program officer, I have developed an understanding of what not to do when crafting a grant proposal. Here is a brief list of things to avoid in your grant writing process.
• Failing to clearly state objectives, goals, and hypotheses because you assume panelists will infer them from your methods
• Neglecting to make predictions
• Not formulating any experiments to test predictions
• Not bothering to discuss what conclusions may result if your experiments or data don’t turn out as expected
• Failing to share statistical tests or sample sizes
• Making the feasibility of second and third objectives depend entirely on a single result from the first objective
• Falling short of the maximum allotted space and yet not covering seemingly important details
Style and Formatting Mistakes
• Avoiding subheadings so you can have pages with nothing but long blocks of text
• Placing graphs on different pages from the legends that explain their meanings
• Relying on differing colors alone to distinguish one line from another in graphs
• Stuffing as many boxes, arrows, panels, drawings, graphs, and illustrations as possible into a proposal
• Shrinking labels down into minuscule boxes so that they are virtually unreadable
• Assuming that are self-explanatory and do not require captions
• Replacing simple, straightforward words like “use” with “utilize”, or just generally hoping that unnecessary polysyllabic words can strengthen a weak argument
• Citing as much literature as possible, even when a citation may make statements that are mostly irrelevant to or in conflict with your view on the topic
• Or, not citing any literature at all, especially any recent papers that could demonstrate your understanding of the topic
Each year, corporate grants and foundations give out more than $50 billion dollars. If your organization isn’t taking the time to apply, or if you’re making several of the common mistakes listed above, you’re missing out on your piece of the pie.
Organization-Wide Change with The Change Leader
The Change Leader works with higher education institutions and nonprofits to create and implement organization-wide initiatives, build the next generation of leaders, and improve the working culture. We provide A-Z services, including grant writing support, to help organizations like yours execute within their niche and remain successful. For more information, visit our homepage today.