In the spirit of some great blogging I just read over at Grant Writing Confidential, which I JUST found this morning, I’m finally going to publish this list. It’s been in draft form for some time, but out of respect for my colleagues in the grant community, most of whom are exceptional, I’ve been holding off. But Jake had me cracking up this morning, and I couldn’t wait any longer…

10. Not submitting the grant in the right format. No, seriously, when the app says “double-spaced, double-sided pages”, it matters. Don’t learn to read directions the hard way. Format FAIL.

9. Requesting a total amount not commensurate with the funder’s stated amounts, much less your previous request/funding, or previous trends for your NPs type of relationship (new, ongoing, sustaining). Mathmatics FAIL.

8. Working on a commission basis, for a percentage of the grant. Go here. Ethics FAIL.

7. We understand that the problem ISN’T that you don’t understand the answers… it’s that you don’t want to hear them. No, really, we understand. The board tightened up the definitions of the funding categories this year, and even though you qualified last year, you don’t this year, and you’re frustrated. Stop asking if you qualify. You don’t. You know you don’t. It says you don’t, and you’ve been told three times now. Hearing FAIL.

6. Attaching a $10 to the back of the application. If you’re going to get your organization blacklisted from this particular Foundation FOR LIFE, the least you could have done was have some class about it. Seriously, Hamilton? That’s all I’m going to say. Bribery FAIL (see #8 if you have further questions).

5. Starting your grant 2 days before it’s due. That’s inviting Murphy to move into your copy machine, into the building water heater, and into your car’s alternator. We can’t believe you finished in time, and if you GET the grant, you should be ashamed of yourself for all of the cutting/pasting you did (though we respect your efficiency). You know me who you are. Procrastinator FAIL.

4. Planning to submit your grant through on the day it’s due. Just like the previous FAIL, you’re asking for trouble. Isaac warned you about this a year ago. Trusting [Government] Technology FAIL.

NumberFour3. Writing everything from scratch. What, are you crazy? You applied for this grant last year! And even worse, your program director has copies of each of the grants that received funding last year! You started 3 weeks ago, and totally reinvented the wheel. Your agency can’t afford your methods! Take an efficiency lesson from the writer in #5, and think about ROI, Dr. Who. Time Lord FAIL.

2. The funding opportunity is a round hole. What your agency does is a square peg [you see where this is going]. But, your Executive Director says, we could do that. And besides, donations are down, so we need to chase whatever funding we can! So while the team designs a whole new program, you are completing a grant application in a short time-frame. Do you really think that the foundation is going to see your mission statement on, note that it doesn’t match what you said on the app (because you “updated” it on-the-fly), and look the other way? Not really a grant writer’s fail, but the buck did at least cross your desk on the way through the office. Mission Creep FAIL.

1. Missing the deadline. It was in the original Funding Announcement, the Invitation to Bid, and on page one of the application. Yes, there was a tornado in the next county. No, parking was not readily available for convenient hand delivery. One word… Deadline FAIL.

As I fail at more discover more of these, I’ll update the list. Continuous improvement!

Be free (of FAILS!),


Zach says that his real estate guy is telling him that since they put a contract on their house before April 15, they will get the tax payment money this year – they just have to amend their return.