You may think that since you have a college degree -- or two, or three -- that you should be able to fill out a grant application properly. For the most part, I agree. They are not usually that tricky if you can read well and follow directions carefully. It's not really the application itself that trips most people up. It's their approach to the application.
Let me give you an example: If you are applying for a competitive grant, your grant application is sent to a group of grant readers. There is usually a pile of grant money on one side of the table and a pile of applications on the other. These grant readers read and score sections of each application. The scores are added up and the applications with the highest scores get the grant money for which they applied until the pile of money is depleted. If your score is not high enough, you don't get any grant money.
[content block] Each part of the application has a number of points assigned to it. Let's say a particular grant has total of 100 points, and one of the sections is worth 10 points. You decide, however, that this one section doesn't really apply to your school. You simply don't fill out that section or put a big N/A (not applicable) on the form. In all likelihood, you just lost 10 points. Let's also say that the winning grants all had scores of 91 or above. Even if the rest of your application was perfect, you just put yourself completely out of the running by not filling out all sections of the application.
If you come to a part of a grant application that you don't understand or you think doesn't apply to your school, call or email the contact person and ask questions. Never leave it blank or put that it's not applicable unless someone from the granting agency specifically tells you to do so. Even then make sure to document exactly what you were told and who it was that gave you the information.
That's not the only mistake grant seekers can make...
Most state and federal applications are very formal and competitive. Read the directions carefully, follow them exactly. If you have questions, call the contact person.
Many foundations use shorter, simpler applications. Sometimes they are online and can be downloaded and filled out on your computer. You still need to follow the directions carefully and fill in all the information they request.
If a foundation requires a letter be written rather than a formal application, I recommend you include the same information in the letter that you would have included in an application, just in letter form.
Finally, don't get fancy or cute. Fill out grant applications in a straightforward manner. Don't try to sound like you're smarter than you are. Be human. Lay out your needs and how the grant money will help you solve the problem you're addressing, and how it will help your students and your teachers.
Above all, read and follow directions carefully in a grant application. It costs you nothing and can make all the difference in the amount of grant money you eventually receive.
Article by Don Peek
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