Tips for the Application Process:

 Make letters of inquiry brief (no more than 2 pages) but informative – stress the need for the project, your organization’s ability to carry it out, and the benefits which will accrue from it.
 Respond promptly if a foundation requests a full proposal based on a letter of inquiry.
 Check the web site of a funding agency thoroughly before e-mailing or telephoning so as to avoid asking questions which are clearly answered on the web site.
 Ensure that you have the latest version of the application and regulations.
 Check the math in the budget – although this is obvious, many applicants make mathematical errors.
 Pay attention to those agencies which require that a Letter of Intent be filed prior to a full application. In nearly all cases, there is a specific deadline for submitting this letter.
 Pay careful attention to the rating and ranking criteria when crafting a proposal. Incorporate the application language into the narrative.
 Be concise but thorough in the narrative.
 If there is a specific page maximum, be sure that you come as close to that as possible without exceeding it. You can rest assured that the other applicants will provide as much information as possible.
 Give a descriptive narrative with specific examples.
 Be crystal clear in your writing. Do not “beat around the bush”.
 Be complete and thorough in the narrative – do not leave the reviewer wondering what you mean. Answer the questions completely.
 Use good grammar and correct punctuation and spelling.
 Re-read the application at least twice.
 Give proper attribution for all information derived from others and cite sources for statistical data
 Answer the funding agency’s requests for additional information completely, cheerfully, and on time.
 Send letters of support with the application itself unless the guidelines state otherwise. However, some U.S. Representatives and Senators will only send support letters directly to the funding agency.
 If there is any doubt whatsoever about whether an application will reach the office of the funding agency on time, send it overnight or two-day guaranteed delivery.
 Send the application directly to the person named in the solicitation, with the correct number of copies.
 Check to see that the application arrived on time.
 Start on-line applications early so that you can get your questions answered before the deadline.
 Keep the user name and password for on-line applications in a handy place where they will not be lost.
 Do your best to stave off performance anxiety as the due date for the application arrives – this will impair your ability to do the best job possible.
 Do your best to be available for site visits when the funding agency wants to come. Only change the date if there is an emergency.

Reasons for Rejection of an Application

There are many and various reasons for rejection of an application.  Some of these are as follows:


  • The grant proposal is poorly written.
  • The project is a poor fit with the need and will not do much to alleviate that need.
  • The proposed activities are not clearly thought out and do not seem feasible.
  • The competition from other applications is overwhelming.
  • The application is good and the need is great, but other projects will serve even needier populations.
  • The funding agency does not have confidence that the applicant has the capacity to successfully carry out the project.
  • The applicant has had problems in administering other grants.

Part of the problem is getting to the real root of the rejection.  This can sometimes be difficult.

A debriefing is a discussion with the funding agency as to why the application was not funded.  Many governmental agencies will be happy to discuss the reasons for rejection.  However, I would urge the grant writer to listen to the debriefings with a bit of caution.  Feedback is sometimes given by staff members who were not actually reviewers and were not charged with the responsibility of assigning points to the application.  When this is the case, something can sometimes get lost in the translation.

Overall, however, it is an excellent idea to request a debriefing.  This information can be invaluable in developing the proposal for a re-submittal or for a submittal to a different agency.  This is especially true for beginning grant writers.  As one gains more and more experience, it will be easy to see the weaknesses in your proposal even prior to submittal.  I would definitely recommend that a proposal still be re-submitted even though there are minor flaws in it.  Sometimes these can be worked out with the funding agency.  Sometimes they are so insignificant as not to matter.  It is important to take to heart the information received in a debriefing and attempt to remedy the problems identified.

Grant Administration- How Hard is This Going to Be?


The grantee should be prepared for many varying requirements in grant administration.  I feel that it would be helpful to give a few examples showing the difference in the required paperwork for various granting agencies.  All funding agencies will request documentation that the funds were spent appropriately and for the purposes specified in the grant application.  This is the very least that one can expect in terms of documentation. 


Probably the simplest grants to administer are those from private foundations.  The application forms can be very simple, sometimes involving no more than two pages.  Sometimes, no grant agreement is required.  The grantee is still obligated to use the funds for the purpose for which they were intended. I am not aware of any foundation or government agencies which would simply send the money and not require some accountability.


Some foundations require several progress reports.  It is also possible that special conditions may be attached to the grant in order to meet the specific preferences of the board members.  These can vary widely.  It may be that the foundation requires the grantee to only utilize American labor and products, or limits funding to certain geographic areas, or wishes to remain anonymous.


Most governmental entities will require the following once the grant is approved:


  • environmental review (this is sometimes done prior to approval)
  • execution of the grant agreement
  • documentation of banking information in order to expedite the processing of payments
  • written progress reports at varying intervals — these could be either quarterly, semi-annually, or annually
  • execution of grant closeout documents


Training vs. Experience

My purpose in writing Getting Your Share of the Pie-The Complete Guide to Finding Grants was to disseminate a complete “how to” guide to the grant world.  The reference component of the book gives the reader additional resources to consult as their grant writing career proceeds.  This will ensure that the serious student is given the tools to keep up with the most current information in the field.  I began with the very most basic element of receiving a grant-identifying the true need-and concluded with steps to be taken if the grant application is not approved.  In the pages in between, I advised the reader on how to develop a fundable project, find the most promising grant sources, develop a strategy for which sources to approach, and write a successful proposal.

However, as in my own experience, time spent on the job is critically important.  There are, as in any other profession, various nuances and subtleties which show themselves as one actually begins to work.  No book can cover all of those situations.  We all know how various judgment points are different at different parts of one’s career.  The seasoned veteran will obviously think of the proper questions to ask and look behind the scenes to see what is not obvious, whereas a novice might tend to take the situation at face value.

One example of how experience is just as important as knowledge is my policy of looking for “deal breakers” in the very beginning of an assignment.  I examine the project closely and consult the funding agency if there is any doubt as to project eligibility.  This may sound like common sense, but the novice has a tendency to want to think that the project is fundable under a particular program regardless of any issues which may be a potential problem.  He may not want to think that this potential source, which may have been very hard to find, may not be the right choice.  I highly recommend that the grant writer minutely examine the program guidelines at least twice in order to ensure that the project is eligible for funding.

Another very obvious skill which the aspiring grant writer can only pick up with experience is making contacts within the various funding agencies.  In my case, this has been carefully developed over the years. I am proud to say that the funding agencies I work with know me as an individual who lives up to her promises, meets deadlines without exception, and understands the restrictions under which that agency is working.  I would advise the novice grant writer to deal with funding agencies with the utmost honesty.  One of the worst things anyone can do is leave the impression that you are trying to “pull the wool over their eyes”. Most of the agencies can pick this up in a heartbeat. Needless to say, this leaves a very bad impression of the grant writer which can linger for years.