To be frank, certain mistakes can spell certain doom for a grant submission and result in a “desk reject.” This term means a grant contained many errors and was not a serious contender for funding. To avoid this fate, read on and use these tips!
Starting too soon
This is a common mistake, but easily avoidable. It is rare for nonprofits to find much success in securing grants as soon as they are incorporated. GrantSpace encourages new nonprofits to first secure funding from board members, donors, and local community leaders, if possible. Once a nonprofit shows it is sustainable and has community backing, grantmakers are more likely to support it.
If your organization’s not ready for grant writing at this time, I can still help! I offer blogging and content development services to influence prospective and current donors.
Too much focus on why, not how
RFPs often ask nonprofits to define the problem they wish to solve. For example, many kids in your neighborhood do not attend college. Your organization wants to increase their access to educational opportunities. Being aware of your community’s problems indicates you have undertaken research. However, you must demonstrate how your organization will improve conditions. Otherwise, your request will not be funded.
No unique selling point (USP).
This mistake occurs when nonprofits lack a for-profit business mindset. To follow up on my previous point, you have to offer more than a generic solution to a problem. Your program must stand out from the competition to gain funding.
Let’s continue with the example of an education-based nonprofit. A non-profit may “sell” their brand by recruiting former students from schools they serve as volunteers. They could also partner with a nearby university for program evaluation. These actions show strong community engagement.
Regular assessment and market analysis are keys to avoiding this mistake.
Lack of quantitative data
Without some quantitative data, how will you show your organization’s positive community impact?
Relying only on anecdotes and “feel good” stories is a major mistake. Grantmakers want tangible numbers that show positive change.
Failing to follow up
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see both nonprofits and municipalities make.
Trust me, I know–it’s a bummer when your request isn’t funded.
But the best thing to do is to ask why it didn’t.
Some program reps may just say, “It was a competitive year.”
But others will offer you a review, going over strengths and weaknesses of the application. This positions you in a better place for the next funding round. Grantmakers often remember what organizations made the extra effort, too.
Remember that each of these mistakes is entirely avoidable.
Following the guidelines I’ve proposed doesn’t guarantee funding, but they can certainly help you avoid the dreaded “desk reject.”