Grant writing is a special type of writing. Even if you’re already good at other types of writing, whether it’s academic, creative, or for entertainment, there are still a few things to keep in mind when you’re writing a government grant proposal. These are the top five mistakes made by otherwise good writers who are inexperienced with writing government grant proposals. Contributing to this list were ideas from grant writer Veronica Robbins.
The first item you already know if you’ve read some of my other articles, and that’s to follow the instructions exactly. When we have something to say and want to communicate it to the reader it’s easy to get carried away and end up providing different information than was requested. Be sure that you’re answering what was asked and do a final review before submitting, that you’ve done precisely what was requested.
The next mistake a novice government grant writer might make is to be too long-winded and include too much detail. Your goal is to tell your story, but tell it concisely. Including overly long explanations and tedious details might seem like thoroughness to you, but to the government grant reviewer, it may be boring or confusing. It takes some practice, but the sweet spot to aim for is enough explanation to be clear, but not so much that the main points are lost.
For this next item, first a little quick review of government grant proposal components. Your proposal should show that a need exists, how you can make the situation better, and what it will take for you to accomplish it. That means that you have a needs statement, a plan, and a budget. Now, here’s the important part. They must interconnect and all make sense, both independently and together. Your plan isn’t meaningful if it’s not clear what it is that’s getting remedied; a needs statement without a good plan to fix it is really just problem without a solution. The proposed budget has to mirror what you say in the rest of the proposal. If you ask for too little in your budget, then the reviewer will conclude that you can’t get the job done. Too much, and you may seem like an opportunist. Some government grant writers will add some goodies into the budget, but forget to explain or justify it elsewhere in the document.
The next common pitfall is to assume that the government grant reviewer is familiar with you or already knows the subject matter that you’re discussing in your proposal. If the reviewer has a big pile of grant proposals to review and yours contains unfamiliar acronyms and industry jargon, do you think that the reviewer will take the time to look up what you’re talking about, or just go on to the next one? Be sure to explain or spell out anything that isn’t commonly known.
Finally, once you’ve followed all the previous recommendations in writing your proposal, be sure to proofread it thoroughly. What you’re looking for is overall clarity and coherence, plus any spelling or grammar mistakes. The best way is to have someone else who is knowledgeable read it and offer feedback. If you don’t have anyone to ask, then a second-best option is to set your government grant proposal aside for a day or two, then re-read yourself. With the way our brains work, if we stare at something long enough, we can no longer spot errors, at least not until we take a long break from it. No matter how good a writer or editor you are, this still holds true, so don’t underestimate its importance.
You can become a very proficient government grant writer, especially now that you know what the common mistakes are to avoid. This will give you a good running start on developing your skill and getting the government grants you want.