5 Common Pitfalls for New Grant Seekers

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For new federal grant seekers, getting started can be an intimidating process. It is important to take steps to avoid these common pitfalls to set your LEA up for success. Below are the 5 most common pitfalls experienced by new grant seekers with proven strategies listed to mitigate them.

1. Having a great idea, but not aligning it with the goals and objectives of the grant.

Avoid this by:

  • Thoroughly reviewing the grant’s notice of funding to understand the requirements, expectations, and goals of the grantmaking agency.
  • Utilizing the agency’s resources, such as program officers, webinars, and publicly available information on previously awarded grantees to gauge if your idea is appropriate.
  • Framing your idea in terms of what the agency is looking to fund, NOT what you want funded.

2. Not planning ahead of time

Avoid this by:

  • Signing up for Greenlights Grant Initiative emails, notifications, agency listservs, peer networks, or other databases that are helpful for forecasting and sharing upcoming grant opportunities. You want to be proactive with grants, not reactive, and understanding when opportunities will be released is a good first step.
  • Ensuring your organization has both an active and login, as there can be a wait time with processing registrations. These accounts are key for applying for any federal grant opportunity.
  • Creating a concept paper that lays out the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the idea you will be proposing for a grant. This is something that can be created prior to an opportunity’s release and will be helpful in determining who the project team and potential partners may need to be early on.
  • Creating a timeline and assigning roles based on the needs of the project. Grant projects often require data gathering, partnership outreach, budget/financial consultation, and other aspects that may need multiple parties’ involvement. Setting internal deadlines and coordinating efforts early on tends to be an effective way to keep the proposal development process moving forward. 

3. Waiting too long to establish a connection with the necessary partners.

Avoid this by: 

  • Reaching out prior to an opportunity’s release to gauge potential partner interest in joining or supporting your application. Depending on the type of partner a grant may require, (i.e., municipality, community-based organization, etc.) there may be layers of bureaucracy and negotiations that need to be sorted through to ensure that your application will receive a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Letter of Commitment.

4. Not having a secondary pair of eyes to review the proposal.

Avoid this by:

  • Soliciting feedback from colleagues prior to submitting a grant application. It is always helpful to receive feedback from colleagues to catch any last-minute typos, errors, statements lacking clarity, missing attachments, or formatting issues. As federal grant applications will typically lay out the review criteria with the notice of funding, it is recommended that all persons involved in the grant keep the criteria close and use it as a rubric to ensure all points are met before hitting submit. 

5. Submitting too close to the deadline.

Avoid this by:

  • Building into your timeline a target submission date that is at least a day or two before the agency’s submission date. Federal grant submission portals are not perfect and technical glitches can occur. Agencies will rarely grant extensions due to tech failures.