Grant Writing Issues

Although grant applications and procedures are generally self-explanatory, many applicants fail to receive grants simply because they ignore the rules altogether or don’t invest the time and effort to properly and professionally assemble their materials.

Incompatible Match

Although there are numerous grant funding sources available, their common goal is to attract applicants who will develop projects that meet the parameters of a specific interest or social cause endorsed by the funder.  Grant packages are often rejected without review if it’s clearly evident that the applicants are ignorant or indifferent to what those interests or causes are.  For example, a funder that makes grants for senior citizen arts enrichment activities isn’t going to write you a check for your campaign to save lemurs.

Unfocused Concept

If you don’t have a well-defined objective and a detailed breakdown of the steps necessary to achieve it in a timely manner, you might as well be telling prospective funding sources that you want the money “just because.”  Applications are often rejected because the concept is too broad, too narrow, too obscure, or too closely emulates services already being provided within the same community.  If the funder can’t see a substantive and pressing need for a project’s existence, they usually won’t approve the grant.

Insufficient Measurement

When a funder plans to underwrite a new project, it wants a reasonable assurance of its success.  Even though the money isn’t going to be paid back, there still needs to be some sort of validation it was well-spent.  Grant applicants often fall short in this regard by omitting any discussion of a methodology for measuring the results through tools such as surveys, test scores, or comparisons.  For example, an afterschool literacy program is a good idea, but might be rejected if the applicant doesn’t identify how the results will be reflected through reading scores, interviews, or an increased volume of books read.

Unrealistic Expectations

Asking for more money than you really need can be a mistake, especially when the economy is in a belt-tightening mode.  Funders are more likely to reject outright a request for a ridiculously high amount rather than engage in any discussions to whittle it down. Further, if a grant package fails to delineate all of the project’s anticipated expenditures and timelines, and instead proposes a grandiose lump sum and an open-ended calendar for implementation, it may only garner suspicion, not enthusiasm.

Limited Experience

Decision-makers routinely reject grant packages if the applicant seems to lack the required knowledge, skills, and discipline to implement the proposed project.  To that end, a lot of emphasis is often placed on review of bios for key players that will be involved.  Those who have prepared themselves for the upcoming responsibility and put as much care into presenting their credentials as they would for a job resume often have an edge over those who are simply winging it.


Recent grants received by our clients include:

$50,000 for an organization with a mission to develop and grow the reading skills of children in West Dallas ages 3-10 so that they succeed in school, graduate, and leave school prepared to live productive lives - for a program that teaches kids to read

$50,000 (two grants) for a mental health advocacy organization – for general operating expenses

$30,000 for a domestic violence agency - for their emergency shelter services

$26,000 (2 grants) for a school that develops urban youth through transformative education, equipping future leaders to impact their communities - for general operating expenses

$25,000 for an organization that gives youth in the juvenile justice system the skills needed to break the cycle of incarceration and create positive futures - for general operating expenses

Murray Covens, Principal

North Texas Nonprofit Resources