This post will provide actionable steps you can take to help your organization or agency win grant funding in 2020. However, contrary to what some unscrupulous marketers might say, the federal government does not offer “free money” to individuals to start a business, cover personal expenses or pay off debt. Websites or other publications claiming to offer "free money from the government" are often scams and should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
Yes, there are hundreds of billions of dollars in grant funding available from both state and federal agencies, but the process for uncovering, applying for and winning grants is complicated and time-consuming. On average, only about 3 to 8 percent of all grant funding proposals are awarded. Those are pretty tough odds.
Why Most Grant Proposals Get Rejected?
I have more than a decade of experience leading review teams and serving as a peer reviewer, helping state, federal and private funders determine which grant applicants are deemed worthy enough to win grant funding.
I have also tracked the most common reasons that grant proposals get rejected. They have shifted somewhat over the years but here are three most common ones today:
Not following the directions: The guidance provided for developing grant proposals, budgets and any accompanying documents that must be provided is often confusing and ambiguous. This can make understanding and following the guidance really tough. Not surprisingly, because people often don’t fully understand what information or attachments they should be providing to win grant funding, they often leave out information or attachments the reviewers are looking for in their reviews. As a result, those proposals are rejected.
Not understanding the context: I’ve reviewed countless grant proposals where the writer addressed the question but in the wrong context. Examples of this include providing information about the symptom but not the underlying cause. Not understanding the difference between goals and objectives is another example of this.
The proposal is not aligned to the funder or funding program priorities: I encounter lots of organizations that use a ‘shotgun approach’ in writing grants, which usually means sending out as many proposals as possible, hoping that something sticks and gets funded. This approach results in wasted time developing grant proposals that are not fully aligned to the funder or funding program priorities. Consequently, these proposals are rejected.
As I said before, securing funding through federal grants, or any other type of grant program, is time consuming, requiring a solid grant strategy and following a meticulous process. Your grant proposal will almost certainly be rejected if you fail to plan, don’t understand the proposal development directions, the context or the funder/funding program priorities.
How to Win a Grant - Three Simple Steps
Now that we’ve looked at some of the top reasons that grant proposals get rejected, here three grant tips that can help your organization get a grant:
Be sure you fully understand grant proposal review criteria and follow the directions: Each section of the proposal accounts for a certain number of points. Only those applicants that receive an overall score above a certain threshold (determined by the funder), will be considered for funding. By omitting or overlooking a section of the proposal, or leaving out an attachment, you automatically lose those points. In the highly competitive government grants environment, every point counts.
Understand the context of the proposal review criteria: This can be a tough one, particularly since the directions provided for developing a grant proposal are often ambiguous and confusing. Understanding the context means that before writing anything, you need to identify the specific information the funder is looking for in each section of your grant proposal. Identifying and addressing the root cause of the problem you hope to solve (not just the symptom) is one way of demonstrating that you understand the context of the review criteria. Providing SMART objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-specific) is another example. Successful grant applicants present and prove the need for the project and that the organization and the approaches it is proposing are the best choice to take on these challenges.
Be fully certain that your proposal is fully aligned to the funder and funding program priorities: Read and understand the funder and funding opportunity priorities before spending time developing a proposal. In all the years I’ve been reviewing proposals and leading review teams, not once have I seen a proposal that was not fully within the scope of the priorities get funded. If you can’t demonstrate that your project or program is fully aligned to these priorities, then there is no sense in moving forward. Research the funder carefully before strategies.
Additionally, make sure you submit the grant on or before the deadline, and be sure that it is fully complete, addressing all review criteria and including all attachments as required. Also be certain that your budget request is reasonable and that each line item is directly tied to the activities proposed. All budget line items must be reasonable and necessary to ensure project success.
Where to Learn More and Find Federal Grant Opportunities?
If you want to learn more about federal grants, who is eligible to apply for grants and other useful information, visit USA.gov.
All federal grant opportunities can be found on a Grants.gov, which consolidates notices of funding opportunities into a single, searchable database. Using the Advanced Search function, you can look for grants by keyword, applicant eligibility, funding agency and more.
Unfortunately, no single database for state grants currently exists. That means that grantseekers looking for grant opportunities much search state-by-state, agency-by-agency. But stay tuned on that topic because I’ll have some exciting news soon!
Still Confused About How to Win Grant Funding?
If after reading this you still find the idea of developing a winning grant proposal intimidating, then you can always hire a professional grant writer to take charge of writing the grant. Together, my colleagues and I have collectively won more than $800 million in grant funding for our clients. For one client alone, we have secured more than $50 million in grant funds over the last several years.
Interested in learning more about how my team can help your organization win grant funding in 2020? Contact me today and let’s talk!
Learn more about grant programs or business funding at Rflavin.com