Common Pitfalls & Mistakes

Grant writing is plagued with pitfalls and mistakes and lead to rejection of your proposal. There are far fewer funding agencies and funds than there are agencies requesting grants. Here are some of the more common errors:

Missing the Deadlines

Missing a submission deadline almost always leads to immediate rejection. The funding agencies have more proposals than they can review as it is. A late submission only adds to more complications for them. Therefore, risking the potential deadline for submission is something we must work diligently to prevent.

Misspelling and Grammar

We all do it. Programs like Microsoft Word has Spell Check to keep us from doing it, but it still happens. We must work to prevent misspellings and grammatical issues. How would you feel if someone handed you a report with all kinds of misspellings and grammatical errors that make it hard to read? You would do like most funding agencies do and start scanning it and rejecting it. If you do not have the time to make sure your work looks proper and is written properly, then they do not have time to read and consider your proposal.


In the past, grants were more plentiful than they are now, and we had a unique ability to ask for the new shiny “widget” just because it was new and shiny. Those days are long gone. In the grant world today, we must provide some type of justification as to why do we need their money. Failing to provide a justification can lead to rejection, because the funding agency does not see a purpose for them providing you the grant money. A justification may be as simple as number of volunteers dwindling and funds are needed to begin a recruitment and retention program. Statistics could be used to further develop such a justification.

Fluff and Attachments

These funding agencies have limited time to read through the proposals that they receive. Adding a lot of fluff just because you wish to “wow” a funding agency is never a good idea. We must make sure that our proposals meet what the funding agency asks for and provides relevant information. However, describing why your fire trucks are not red is most likely not going to be pertinent to the proposal and will decrease your chances of being successful.

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