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Top 10 Grant Untruths

Not-so-helpful advice in grant writing

By Jeremy T. Miner  

Grant advice comes in both kinds: good and bad. The following top 10 list includes not-so-helpful advice grant seekers have received from colleagues and consultants before submitting their proposals.  

  1. Headshot of Jeremy T. Miner

    Jeremy T. Minor

    Use the words “goals,” “objectives,” “aims,” “activities,” “outcomes,” and “outputs” interchangeably. Reviewers are savvy—they’ll figure out what you mean.
  1. When the sponsor’s page limits are too restrictive, just shrink the type size of your proposal narrative to nine point. Reviewers will appreciate the extra details you are able to squeeze in. 
  1. When the program officer calls you to ask about an aspect of your project, take your time in returning their call. You don’t want to seem desperate for funding or approval.
  1. It’s ok to pay for alcoholic drinks on your grant budget. Just call them “motivation tools.” 
  1. For training, outreach, and service delivery proposals, there is no need to get input from the target population with whom you intend to work. You are the expert. You know what’s best for them. 
  1. Feel free to ignore the sponsor’s guidance, “You may include up to three letters of commitment.” Instead, gather as many letters of support as you possibly can. Reviewers will be wowed by the same form letter of support reproduced on dozens of different agency letterheads.
  1. Listing your grant writer among the “key project personnel” allows you carte blanche authorization to pay them for any work done prior to the start of the grant.
  1. If you have a proposal that was already developed for a different sponsor, you can submit it verbatim to more sponsors without making any accommodations for differing guidelines. Sponsors will admire your efficiency and perseverance. 
  1. Don’t consider collaboration possibilities. You can never trust anyone but yourself.
  1. Due dates are more flexible than you think. If the proposal is due on a Friday, you can still submit it on the following Tuesday; just be sure to call the program officer and explain that your vice president was not available to sign the cover page earlier—they’ll understand. 

While these untruths may be great fodder for Pinocchio, they are grant writing tips that you should avoid. Fortunately, good grant writing advice is available to you at these upcoming workshops for beginning and advanced grant seekers. Join us and learn the secrets of persuasive proposal writing that you can use immediately to improve your odds for funding success! 

BONUS UNTRUTH—If you receive a rejection letter from the sponsor, assume that it is a mistake. Immediately call the program officer and indignantly explain that a mix up has occurred; your ideas, after all, are too brilliant to not be funded!