Annoyed grant reviewer

10 Things That Annoy Funders (And How to Avoid Them)

The grant application process can be long and tedious for both the applicant and the funder. Just as applicants face indistinct guidelines, requests for seemingly endless numbers of signatures and copies of paperwork, and unreasonable character counts, funders face their own unique set of challenges and annoyances. Here are 10 things that annoy funders and how you can avoid them.


1. Asking questions that could’ve been answered by reading the website. Asking questions that have already been answered can come off as lazy or hasty. Only contact the foundation to ask questions after you’ve thoroughly read their website and guidelines.


2. Applying to a grant that’s not a good fit for your program. Throwing as many darts at the board and hoping one will stick is not the best strategy for applying for grants. Funders will be able to tell right away if you’re trying to force your program to fit into their guidelines. Take the time to thoroughly research funding opportunities and apply to ones that truly fit with your goals and objectives.


3. Not contacting the program officer when requested. Some foundations request that you contact a program officer prior to applying. This is usually a short conversation that’s meant to save everyone time by determining whether or not your program might be a good fit for the grant. If your proposal doesn’t fit the guidelines or needs tweaking, that’s valuable information to know before investing time in writing an application.


4. Not following instructions. As with the previous point, most instructions are given in order to save both you and the foundation time. Even ignoring the seemingly insignificant requests—not to staple papers together, to adhere to a specific word or page count, or to name files a certain way—can annoy a funder. You don’t want your proposal thrown out for something as silly as sending too many copies of your application.


5. Not answering all of the questions. If a foundation asks specific questions on the application, it’s safe to assume that they are essential to their funding decision. You’re doing yourself a disservice by leaving out necessary information.


6. Denying that you have any weaknesses. It may feel counterintuitive to let a funder glimpse your limitations and faults. However, attempting to paint your organization as infallible only comes across as false. Every organization has its weaknesses. If you’re going to have a long and mutually beneficial relationship, it’s important for both parties to know what weaknesses may need to be addressed from the beginning.


7. Acting entitled. It’s important to remember that funding is never guaranteed. Even if you’ve been working with a foundation for years, they’re not obligated to continue funding future proposals. Staying humble and continuing to strive to excellence is the best way to ensure future funding.


8. Using buzzwords or jargon. Funders read through numerous proposals every funding cycle. They can spot buzzwords and fluff, and they’re not impressed by it. Jargon may only serve to confuse and frustrate funders. Likewise, funders are not necessarily experts in your field, and may not be familiar with the terminology.


9. Getting defensive. If a foundation offers constructive criticism, it should be accepted with grace. Getting defensive or argumentative will only damage your relationship with the funder. The same applies if a proposal is rejected. There may be a chance to reapply or apply for a different opportunity with the same funder in the future. Don’t needlessly burn bridges.


10. Waiting until the last minute to apply. It may be possible to submit a proposal up until the last minute, but it’s not always wise. Technical glitches could derail your plans and force you to contact the funder at the last minute.


Now that we’ve discussed what funders find annoying, we want to hear what annoys you as an applicant. Leave us a comment with your biggest grant writing pet peeves.


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