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Common mistakes to avoid when writing a grant proposal

March 14, 2023

Danielle Wallis
Marketing Manager

So, you are passionate about turning your innovative idea into a full-blown venture or have your mind set on pursuing valuable research? A grant could be the answer to bringing your goals to fruition. However, there is one huge bottleneck to this plan – securing the funding. Grant proposal writing is truly an art of its own accord, and striking the perfect winning balance is difficult to achieve.

Writing a detailed, creative and persuasive grant proposal is no easy feat. When written properly, it gives a reasoned and substantiated view of your purpose and quantifiable outcomes, whilst offering a robust and deliverable work plan. Developing a grant proposal that stands out from the rest is more a work of creativity than just writing any other business proposal. The winning formula is therefore very difficult to achieve and equally difficult to teach. However, there are some steps you can take to set forward on the right path. Before you start typing straight away, make sure you avoid the following common mistakes:

1.Vague project descriptions

Grant proposals need to be clear and concise. One very common mistake is failing to define the objective and project goals clearly. Overly using technical jargon, convoluted sentences and complex phrases make it hard for the reviewer to understand the project. However, it is of equal importance to portray the technical aspects of your projects, showcase your approach and qualify your innovation over the state-of-the-art. Striking this balance is often precarious but is achievable.

Meanwhile, clarity is key while writing a grant. Be specific about the goals, objectives and expected outcomes of your project. Ideally, you will set quantifiable and measurable outcomes. Furthermore, set a context by explaining its relevance to you or the broader community. Addressing the gaps and providing a breakdown of how the project helps bridge them adds value. Simplified messaging, coupled with in-depth technical descriptions and clear communication prepares the road to success.

2.Unrealistic budgets

Poorly designed budgets can be a deal-breaker in a grant proposal. The reviewers want to assess your understanding of the project costs and how you allocate funds effectively. Make sure you give them a realistic view with a detailed budget plan that outlines every expense associated with the project. Give a clear demonstration of how you will spend the funds requested.

From personnel to equipment, supplies, travel and administrative expenses, identify all project expenses, lay down rational estimates, take into account the current market conditions and be transparent with your budget presentation. Also, if your project is highly innovative your budget can include Intellectual Property costs. 

It is important to remain realistic in your estimations, evaluators don’t like to see any unreasoned costs included and will closely examine your project’s cost and value for money. 

3.Failing to follow submission guidelines

Grant applications are infamous for their specific requirements and guidelines. It is crucial to follow the instructions to the T. Failing to follow the submission guidelines might push your application directly to the pile of rejections, without even going through a fair review.

Before you hit submit, make sure you take your time to read the guidelines carefully, prepare a checklist of the required components of the proposal, such as budget, description, recommendation, and cover letters, and ensure the correct document format. Pay close attention to the deadlines so that you don’t miss any.

4.Lack of alignment with the funder's priorities

Funders such as Innovate UK have specific goals, priorities and areas of interest that they want to address through their funding. They align with only those projects that meet their funding goals. Lack of alignment with the funder’s vision is a common reason why proposals get rejected.

Therefore, before you submit your proposal, ensure that it directly achieves some of the strategic objectives outlined in the grant description. Customize your proposal accordingly, highlighting the aspects of the project relevant to them. Portray your measurable goals clearly from the beginning of the proposal to grab the funder’s trust and attention.

5.Poor writing and presentation

Weak proposal narrative, poor writing style, and incorrect formatting are common mistakes in why grant proposals get rejected. An engaging narrative that effectively communicates the project value with a structured and logical flow stays with the reader.

Showcase your project impact with a compelling story. Use visual aids to add life to the narrative. Present sufficient data to support your purpose and illustrate key concepts. Provide examples wherever possible and use the correct font size, margins and spacing to present a neat document.

In conclusion, the key to writing a good grant proposal is to be diligent, focused and persistent. By avoiding common mistakes like lack of clarity, unrealistic budgeting, and failure to meet the funder’s priorities, you can increase your chances of getting grant approvals. Carefully plan your proposal while adhering to the submission guidelines and stay true to your project vision to bring your project to life.

March 14, 2023
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