Jitasa Nonprofit Blog

Avoiding Grant Rejection Part 2

Part 2 of a 2 part series. (Read Part 1)

Writing Worth Reading

In part one of this blog series, we discussed how a lack of investigative details could lead to a grant proposal’s rejection. Today, the emphasis will be placed on targeting your reader, to help achieve grant proposal success.

The edict “you never get a second chance at a first impression” is as true in writing and reading as it is while face to face. That means that you have one chance to wow the grantmaker reading your proposal. Here are some common writing errors that affect a grantmaker’s decision, and some tips to help you achieve a writing wow factor:

Your writing was riddled with errors

This is a broad rejection reason that can be achieved in many different ways. However, writing is an area that can be improved easily. Be concise, specific, and detailed. You should also have your work edited for grammar, syntax and punctuation errors. A second set of eyes will catch things that you’ve missed. If a second set of eyes isn’t available, try reading your document backwards. Doing so will catch errors that your brain automatically overlooks.  

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides an amazingly detailed article on proofreading and editing your documents. The article also provides a test in the form of errors throughout the piece. Find it here.

Your writing was deficient

Deficient is a broad term when it comes to writing. When your audience uses it, they generally mean that your writing was missing a key factor that influenced their response. If you’ve rallied yourself against the previous error by being concise, specific and detailed, that is already a step in the right direction. You should also focus your writing. Showing your audience what you intend to do, and how you intend to do it is much better than telling them. It always provides the reader with a more engaging experience.

For example: the sentence “we intend to use our grant funds to help the community,” tells the reader what you intend to do. However, it is so vague and generalized that it really won’t inspire someone to fund your project.

Whereas: the sentence “Abc foundation will use received grant funds to employ the homeless. We will engage the community to donate glass products intended for recycling by offering sponsored discounts. We will then use these donated materials to create works of art that can then be sold at local fairs and events.” Structuring sentences like this will show your reader how you intend to do something, and leave them little question as to your intentions.

Dennis Jerz provides a great resource for crafting detailed, showing sentences. Find “Show, Don’t Tell” here.

You assumed your audience was familiar with your topic and knew what you were talking about

You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and start speaking to them about a problem, or ask them for a donation with no background information. Consider your grant proposal to be a similar situation. The process of familiarizing your audience can be partly accomplished by the previous tip on showing your reader your intentions. However, writing for an audience is a detailed process. You need to ensure that you have a clear problem statement that summarizes the intention of your proposal.  Best Essay Services offers a detailed description of the problem statement.

In addition to a problem statement, you need to provide comprehensive data and information that support your claims. You also need to be confident that:

  • Your ideas are organized and explained in detail. If you are worried about this detail, have a person unfamiliar with your project review your work. If they understand it easily, you’ve succeeded.
  • Your word choice is functional and varied to keep the reader interested. If your vocabulary or memory are lacking, thesaurus.com is an excellent resource.
  • Your voice is interesting and consistent. The voice of your piece is the persona you are portraying to the reader, and will greatly affect the reader’s experience.  Quick and dirty tips  offers an elaborate article on honing your voice.

Education Northwest provides a simplified article that defines ideas, organization and voice.

Your proposal was missing documentation

Even if you’ve excelled with the preceding tips, if you forget documentation that verifies your data or statements, your proposal could be rejected. Be sure that all supporting documentation is present and complete. A simple step to ensure this would be to attach everything you feel is required and send yourself an electronic version. Look at it the next day, when your brain is refreshed and you will notice any missing documentation. Then send it to the receiving party.

As discussed in part 1 of this series, also ensure that all mathematical figures have been double and triple checked for accuracy.

Renata Poe Massie, Content Writer, Jitasa

Overwhelmed?  Jitasa can help with grant proposal financial support.  Learn more.


Education Northwest. “6+1 Trait Definitions.” Web. September 27, 2013.

Jerz, Dennis G. “Show, Don’t [Just} Tell.” Jerz.setonhill.edu. posted 08 May, 2000. Web. September 27, 2013.

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Editing and Proofreading” Writingcenter.unc.edu. Web. September 27, 2013.

Wildhaber, Julie. “Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing.” Quickanddirtytips.com. posted July 1, 2010. Web. September 27, 2013.

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