How Not To Annoy Your Funder

Grant applications are a time-consuming process for applicants, but they can be equally time consuming for funders. Just as applicants may be overwhelmed by instructions, guidelines, requests, Letters of Intent, and multiple copies of paperwork, the person reviewing applications is confronted with the same workload. We complied some items that rank high on funders’ lists of frustrations.

Don’t Ask Redundant Questions. Asking questions that can easily be answered by reading the guidelines is one of the most annoying things for funders. The guidelines are there for a reason and one of those reasons is to answer most of your questions about the grant-making and application process. Asking redundant questions shows that you have not paid attention to the guidelines and could earn you a quick rejection.

Don’t Ignore the Foundation’s Mission. Applying to a large number of grants and ignoring the foundation’s mission and goals may aggravate the program officers tasked with reviewing applications. Funders are able to tell right away if you’re trying to force your program to fit into their guidelines, which brings us to the next point of avoiding the same application for all grants.

Don’t Use the Same Application for Multiple Grants. You might think that funders and reviewers are unable to tell whether you are using a template and swapping out certain words or phrases, but remember that these people have a lot of experience reviewing applications and proposals. They really can tell if you’re using the same application you’ve used for other grants.

Don’t Ignore Instructions. Guidelines not only answer questions, but they also provide instructions on how to apply, which format to use, and which additional information to submit (however, we do acknowledge that there are some exceptions where there is no guidance on how to apply or the foundation simply states there is no standard application format). Even ignoring the seemingly insignificant requests can annoy funders, such as not stapling papers together, not adhering to a specific word or page count, or failing to name files a certain way.

Don’t Skip Any 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.

Don’t Use Buzzwords and Jargon. Funders read through a large number of proposals during 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. On the other hand, if reviewers are not experts in your field, they may not be familiar with the terminology and could misunderstand what you are trying to communicate.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Apply. It may be possible to submit a proposal up until the deadline listed, but it’s not always wise. Technical glitches could derail your plans and force you to contact the funder at the last minute.


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