Grant Writing Myths
By: Catherine Ann Velasco
Here’s a Top Ten List on Common Misconceptions about Grant Writing – thanks to some input from the Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Myth 10: Everyone can apply for a grant.
Fact: A grant can be a great way to fund a promising project that otherwise might never get off the ground. To receive a grant, you have to be eligible. For most federal, corporate and foundation grants – that means you must be: A nonprofit, a college or university, or a government agency. And, in some instances, you have to be in a certain state or region and have similar goals.
Myth 9: If we get this grant, it will take care of all of our project costs.
Fact: Grants often provide only a portion of the funds needed for a given project, and may require matching funds. Granting agencies want assurance that funded projects have the potential to become self-sufficient once they are off the ground, and that they will be sustainable when the grant period is over. (Sustainable means you will promise not to bug the foundation for money next year. One grant writer quipped that he would write that his agency would raise additional funds by sending kids door-to- door, selling macaroni art!)
Myth 8: It’s easy to get free money! All you have to do is fill out special forms and/or type up a “standard” proposal. Copy and paste, baby!
Fact: Applying for a grant requires a serious time-commitment to fully understand a grant’s requirements, and your organization’s capacity, structure, and resources essential to fulfill the purpose of the grant. Much of the preparatory work that leads to putting together a grant proposal can also be very time-consuming, reading hundreds of pages on the history of agencies and their funding history. Often, the work that precedes proposal writing takes up more time than the actual writing. Writing an average grant proposal may take 20 hours, but federal grants take much longer!
Myth 7: Most grant proposals get approved, if they are done right. SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!
Fact: Actually, one can submit a well-designed grant proposal and still not get funded. Shed the tears now! Grants are given on a competitive basis. This means that the applications that are scored highest by a review committee are funded. Unfortunately, there is only so much money to go around. An organization may send out dozens of proposals before one is actually funded. Even when a grant is received in one year, there is no guarantee that it will be funded again the next year. That is why funding agencies warn organizations not to depend on grants alone for their financial survival. Start making that macaroni art!
Myth 6: Once a grant proposal is approved, the process is over; it does not come with terms and conditions/responsibilities. (You wish).
Fact: Most grants require that organizations submit carefully-prepared, detailed progress reports on the programs that were funded. An organization is charged with managing a promise – to use the money according to the plan presented in the approved application. In many instances, independent audits and site visits are required. Accountability is the key! Failure to demonstrate progress may result in discontinuation of the award. This is bad!!!
Myth 5: One only needs to write a few grant proposals to get the money.
Fact: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because there is no Magic Eight Ball to tell you whether you will get the grant or not. It is folly to think that you only have to submit a few grant proposals. It may take a large number of submitted applications before one gets the grant money needed. The rule of thumb is that you’ll get one grant for every five you submit!
Myth 4: The tough economic climate has caused foundations to cut way back on funding, so what’s the point?
Fact: Investing in a grants program is like investing in the stock market. Just keep it up through thick or thin. Eventually, it pays off. Remember too, that it may be a year or two before any grants start coming through in any case. Some foundations only meet once a year to make funding decisions. Anticipate the lag time.
Myth 3: Grants aren’t like other fundraising … it’s a different animal altogether.
Fact: Grant writing is just like other types of fundraising. It is all about relationships. It is crucial that you build relationships with funders, just as you do with individual donors. If your grant is rejected, find out why, and if there is anything you can do better or different.
Myth: 2: Speling doesn’t mater and math don’t mattr.
Fact: Grants need to look professional and that includes spelling. If the numbers don’t add up in the proposed budget, it shows that you don’t know how to handle money. The grant will get thrown in the slush pile.
Myth 1: Whether or not we receive a grant depends on how good our grant writer is.
Fact: Raising grant money is a team effort, including clinicians, doctors, physical therapists, nurses, program managers and anyone else involved in the program that needs funds. Grant writers do not work in a vacuum. Staff, leadership, and even volunteers must be dedicated to the grant writing process as it often requires pulling necessary documents, providing timelines, budgets, and objectives, fact-checking and feedback. Grants are awarded based on many attributes – 99% of which are an organization’s – not the grant writer’s.