When we talk to nonprofit staff, one commonly recurring question is “How can we do better at grant funding?” We’ve decided to leverage our history and experience in the sector to gather materials for a series of articles on this topic. Our in-depth conversations with foundation and corporate program officers and a wider survey of their peers form the basis of the series. The first article in this series focused on the value of your relationship with your program officer. In this article, we go a little deeper on what program officers we talked to say about the ways applicants shoot themselves in the foot.
Three Cringe-Worthy Errors
Writing a proposal for grant funding is an investment. Before you picked up your lucky pen and jumped in, we assume you will have looked deeply enough into the RFP to understand what the grant costs you if you win it—to write it, to deliver on it, to report it out—and understand what it costs the organization to have you go through the effort but not secure any/enough funding. You’ve laid aside long shot proposals, and accepted that the odds of getting a rejection letter are higher than you’d like. But what then?
We’ve asked program officers from around the country to say more about why proposals go unfunded, beyond the reality that requests exceeded funds available. Three cringe-worthy responses came to the fore:
1. The proposal writer didn't follow instructions
Mystified program officers shake their heads on this one—“It’s on the website! They just had to read it!” Consistently, 20 to 25 percent of the program officers we speak with say this is a reason for immediate outright rejection.
Research!!!! Who are we, what is our mission and vision, who's on the board, who are the jurors; follow the guidelines, be clear & on time.- Donna McNeil, Executive Director, Ellis-Beauregard Foundation
Kara has a lifetime of success in patron engagement and fundraising in North America, and spent two years recently at Birmingham Royal Ballet building systems for engagement.