5 Things Not to Say in Grant Applications

Instead of talking about what to say in your grant applications, we thought what if instead we focus on what NOT to say in a grant application?

After years as a Program Officer for a statewide public foundation, a Foundation & Grants Coordinator, and now nearly 10 years in business providing grant writing services to our clients, it was actually difficult to keep it to a list of five!

Here are the 5 things you should NOT say or use in grant applications:

1. “We are not sure how we will continue the program after your grant funding ends.”

You might not be sure which of the pending proposals will combine together to support the program in the upcoming fiscal year, but you DO have a plan for who you are asking for support from and when. You should share that plan for how you

2. “We hope to be able to…”

It doesn’t matter how that sentence ends. You don’t just hope to do anything in a grant funded world. You will do something. You will create impact. You will increase knowledge. You will change behaviors. You DON’T simply hope. Your organization to is good at what you do to simply hope.

3. “We need your funding to continue to operate…”

Other variations include “we need your funding to survive the government funding cut,” or “we need your funding in order to continue to provide services.” Not only is this a weak position to present to a potential grant maker, it also focuses on your organization’s needs instead of your clients’ needs.

4. Buzz words, phrases, or industry jargon

Including buzz words or industry jaron in your proposal makes it more difficult for the reviewer to understand. Select impactful language that the rest of your narrative supports. Words to avoid include:

  • Innovative
  • Cutting-edge
  • Game-changer
  • Unique (unless you are talking about the unique number of outputs in a logic model)
  • Collborative effort (without proof in the narrative to back up use of word)
  • Cooperative (see above)
  • Acronymns

5. Overly ambitious outcome statements 

For example, avoid making statements like “we will eliminate childhood hunger in Town XYZ.” A grant reviewer will question the validity of the rest of your proposal with such ambitious statements. Focus instead on a realistic goal and outcome such as “we will increase the number of children receiving summer meals by xx%, increase food pantry utilization for children by xx% and implement a job training and pairing program for adults with children being served by the hot meal program.”

What other things do you have that are “no-no” items for including in the text of your grant application or the story you are creating for a grant application? Share them with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.

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About The Author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is an experienced and highly respected grant professional who provides grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC in 2006 and has secured millions of dollars in competitive grant funds for clients from the federal, state and local governments, and private foundations.