Jitasa Nonprofit Blog

Avoiding Grant Rejection - Part 1

Part 1 of a 2 part series.

The Devil’s in the Details

Few could debate the fact that writing a grant is strenuous and time consuming. Which is why receiving a letter rejecting your proposal can be so disheartening. It’s important to understand why grants get rejected prior to beginning your grant proposal. This two part blog series will provide you with a broad understanding of the common mistakes that result in grant rejection, and various tips to avoid them.

In today’s case, the devil is in the details. Below you’ll find a list of common reasons that grant proposals are rejected, and how to avoid them. We’ve also included outbound links to articles that discuss these errors in more detail.

You avoided detailed research

Research is tedious and time consuming. However, grantmakers don’t have time to care or understand that you didn’t follow pertinent requirements. So delve into the complexities of the grant you are applying for, and take the time to research the grant requirements in depth. Requirements, regulations and specifications are going to be different for each grant maker, so don’t assume that one grant is similar to another. Be positive that you have read, understood and followed these specifications accurately.

In an article by The Nonprofit Times, Robert Cardozo advises those seeking grants to “Pay attention to details. Success in getting grants depends on more than having good ideas. Your organization must demonstrate its credibility and capacity to carry out the initiative.”

You didn’t follow the directions correctly

This follows the same reasoning as avoiding detailed research. In order to provide an accurate and complete grant proposal, you must thoroughly read its directions.  Be sure that you understand them fully, before you begin writing. In her detailed analysis of the grant making system, titled “On the Money,” Nancy Burd states “The oft-used, tongue-in-cheek phrase, ‘If you’ve seen one foundation, you’ve seen one foundation,’ points to a major management challenge facing many nonprofit organizations today. Nonprofits — and many grantmakers themselves — often lament the varying and sometimes onerous requirements that organizations must follow in applying for and reporting on grants.” While she is correct, until we see a complete system revamp, you must ensure that all aspects of the grant are met.

Assess your ability to follow directions by taking this test created by Nerdtests.com.

There were errors in your financial figures

A misrepresentation of your financial data or the proposed budget of your organization is a key reason for grant rejection. Errors in your mathematical calculations, padded numbers (additional, unrelated expenses), and unrealistic budget configurations only aid in your rejection. That’s why it is important that your financial data and proposed budget are correct and realistic. Enough emphasis cannot be placed on double and triple checking all figures and documentation.  

In her article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Marilyn Dickey delves into common reasons for rejection with the source itself, grantmakers. When asked about financial inaccuracies, two separate grantmakers responded. Grantmaker Mr. Littlefield said, “When program staff without strong finance background[s] do the [financial grant] work, details often get missed. Review the budget to be sure line items are appropriate and reflect the real costs.” While Ms. Reynolds stated, “It's not enough for the math to be right, it also needs to be realistic.”

Renata Poe Massie, Content Writer, Jitasa

Part two of this blog series will discuss common writing format errors that lead to grant rejection. It will also provide tips and outbound links to improving your writing, and learning how to effectively proofread. Look for “Writing worth Reading” on October 3rd.

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


Burd, Nancy. “On the Money.” Philanthropynw.org. Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, 2009. Web. September, 17th 2013.

Dickey, Marilyn. “Grant makers reveal the most common reasons grant proposals get rejected.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy. April 2003. Web. September, 17th 2013.

Directions Test. http://www.eslmania.com/teacher/clssroom_materials/ESL_Exercises/Directions%20Exercise.pdf

The NonProfit Times. “5 steps to approaching grantmakers.” Thenonprofittimes.com. May 2013. Web. September, 17th 2013.

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