4 Simple Best Practices for Federal Grants Applications

Your nonprofit has found the perfect federal grant for one of your projects or programs. And you have started on working on gathering all the information you need to complete the application.

4 Simple Best Practices for Federal Grant Applications

As you start filling out the application, be sure to follow these 4 simple best practices.

  1. Fill in the documents in accordance with the instructions provided. When working in the grant application package (what downloads from grants.gov), as you scroll over each box, it to provide instructions.
  2. Identify your nonprofit in the project title – Example: XYZ Nonprofit’s after school program
  3. If your nonprofit has more 2 or more employees, assign two different people as the Project Director and the Primary Contact. This will help ensure nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
  4. Do not commit these 7 common mistakes.

These best practices won’t ensure that your application is funded. There is nothing that can ensure that. But these practices will help your application stay in the running to be funded.

Your turn: What would you add to this list? What are your best practices when completing a federal grant application? 

9 Social Media Resources for Nonprofits

If there is one thing most nonprofits agree on, it is that social media takes considerable time to master. Do you find yourself in this boat?

9 Social Media Resources for Nonprofits

I have been studying and experimenting with social media for several years now. I find it very interesting, but I know most people do not want to spend the amount of time I have in exploration of social media. So in this post, I will share some tools and resources that I use in social media management. I hope you also will find them helpful.

Social Media Tools for Nonprofits:

  • Canva - an online app and now an iPad app designed to empower the world to design. Canva is free to use and if you use a picture it is only $1.00. In this application, anyone can create graphic designs and edit photos. This tool has many social media templates. Canva also just launched a free design school called Design Essentials. Design Essentials guides you through 30 tutorials that will help you create designs you are proud to share.
  • Picmonkey – another online app to create graphic designs, edit photos, and create collages. Picmonkey has free and paid plans and is easy to use. Like Canva, anyone can create graphic designs and edit photos.
  • Buffer – My social media management lives and dies by Buffer. Buffer helps you manage multiple social media accounts at once. You can quickly schedule content from anywhere on the web, collaborate with team members, and analyze rich statistics on how your posts perform. There are free, personal, and business plans to use this application. You can use it online, Chrome extension, desktop, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
  • Buffer Blog – One of the main topics of the Buffer Blog is social media. It is always filled with great content. I read it every day.
  • Feedly – This is how I keep up with blogs. Feedly is an application for web browsers and mobile devices that compiles news feeds the user wants to read into one application. The user can also share content right from the application. I use Feedly daily.
  • Grow Your Social Media Following with These 10 Different Kinds of Posts [Podcast] - Do you get stuck sometimes what you should post? This podcast from Michael Hyatt is for you. He lists 10 different kinds of posts. It is a handy list to keep ready for when you are creating social media content.
  • iPhoto & Photo Stream - I use iPhoto & iPhone Photo Streams for social media all the time. This article gives 5 ways to use them in nonprofits.
  • Platform Get Noticed in a Noisy World: A Step-By-Step Guide for Anyone with Something to Say or Sell - This book by Michael Hyatt is an excellent read for anyone building their platform.
  • Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits – This book by Heather Mansfield at Nonprofit Tech for Good is a must read for every nonprofit. Read my review here.

I use all the resources listed here. All of them have helped me greatly in social media management.

What resources would you add to this list? 

7 Common Grant Writing Mistakes (that will probably cost you the funding)

You have researched what constitutes a grant. Your nonprofit is grant-ready. You have researched potential grant makers.

And now it is time to put the a grant application together. It can be a little scary. There are plenty of items and much information to include. It can be overwhelming. So how do you know what to focus on?

7 Common Grant Writing Mistakes (that could cost you funding)

Here is a clue: Most Grant makers have regulations you must follow. Use their guidelines as a guide to what the grant application should focus on.

And do not commit these 7 common grant writing mistakes. They could cost you the funding.

  • Excessive budget items/cost – Grant makers do not look too kindly on applications with excessive budgets. They want to do the most good with their money.
  • Padded budget – Do not ask for more money then the nonprofit needs for the proposed project/program. Generally grant makers require you to spend all the money or give the extra funds back. Nonprofits cannot use the extra money on other projects/program.
  • Budget items and proposal not lining up – This is fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
  • Miscalculations – These can be forgivable if it is just once or twice, but do not count on that. If the proposal is full of miscalculations, it shows the grant maker the nonprofit does not care enough to double-check the work.
  • Sections missing – Not all grant applications have the same sections (check out this article for the type of information grant makers seek), but most grant makers give you guidelines or an application to follow.
  • Not following the same order provided by the Grant maker – Again follow the guidelines provided by the Grant Maker
  • Proposal not consistent – An inconsistent proposal shows a Grant Maker the nonprofit does not have a clear plan for their funding.

Do you seem a theme with the common mistakes? 
Grant makers want to see that the nonprofit has thought through their project/program. Four of the common mistakes have to do with the budget. Grant makers put a great deal of emphasis on it. They want to know where their money will be going.  The other three common mistakes have to do with guidelines.

If the Grant maker gives you guidelines, they expect you to follow them. Grant writing is not creative writing exercise.

Many grant makers will throw out your application when they notice any of these mistakes. Committing any of the above mentioned mistakes could cost your nonprofit funding for the proposal, so be sure to re-read through the proposal after it has been written.

What have you learned from committing a grant writing mistake?

My Grant WritingToolbox

Welcome to my toolbox. We all have the tools we use for certain tasks. Some of the tools we love. Some we tolerate. Some we just downright loathe. There are several tools which I love to use when writing grant applications.

My Grant Writing Toolbox

Below are the tools I use when writing a grant application. I love each and everyone.

  • MacBook Air – I have said it again and again. I am an Apple Junkie. So I use a MacBook Air now with the Yosemite operating system for all my work.
  • Dropbox - I have Dropbox installed on computer, and use it just like a documents folder. I never have to worry about losing any of my work. I create a folder for each grant maker and keep all the information related to the grant in that folder.
  • Pages – I write every grant application in Pages whether it is an online application or a paper application. I write online applications in Pages so if the site crashes, I do not lose any work. I do have Word also installed on my computer, but my preference is Pages. I think it is much more user-friendly.
  • Preview – I use preview for the applications you can fill in and for opening many of the grant maker’s guidelines and such.
  • Dictionary – I use the native Dictionary app on my MacBook Air all the time to spell words correctly or to look up synonyms.
  • Wunderlist – This is a to-do list app that has a free option. I create a task for each grant application, setting the due date before it is actually due. Then I put any information I need to gather as subtasks. I have Wunderlust on my MacBook Air and on my iPhone so I always know what I need to do.
  • Evernote – Evernote is my digital filing cabinet. I file newspaper articles about the organization, meeting notes, and information in it. Again this app is on both my MacBook Air and my iPhone.
  • iTunes – I use my music or some of the ratio stations I have set up in iTunes to help me focus while I work on grant applications.
  • Mail – I use the native Mail app on the MacBook Air to send and receive all my email.

Other articles that might interest you:

Now, what are your favorite tools to write a grant application? 

What is a Grant?

What Are Grants?

Congratulations! Your nonprofit organization is ready to start thinking about apply for grant money. Grants are a great way to fund projects/programs, receive recognition for the nonprofit, and provide professional growth and personal satisfaction.

For a simple definition, Grants are funding awarded under contract for the performance of a specific activity.

To be a grant, it must contain these components:

  • Contractual – If awarded, the grant is a contractual agreement between the nonprofit and the grant maker. The nonprofit must follow all the rules laid out by the grant maker.
  • Outcomes/Deliverables – The nonprofit agree to produce something as a result of being funded.
  • Timeline – A nonprofit lays out the timeline for the project/program they are seeking funding for. Grant makers generally do not fund open-ended applications.
  • Reporting – There will be reporting when receiving funding from grants. Generally the grant maker will request at least a grant report when all the funds have been used. Also the nonprofit will have to report to the state and federal government the receiving of funds.

While grant writing is a great way to help fund your organization, it is important to keep in mind grant funding is not:

  • Silver Bullet – Grants and writing grant applications is not a silver bullet for nonprofit organizations. Grant Writing should be one part of a fundraising plan.
  • Free Money – Grant money is not free money. Grants take a whole lot of work. The organization must follow all the guidelines set forth by the grant maker. The organization must track and document how they spend the funds. The organization must track the impact the grant money had on the project/program.
  • Guaranteed – Grant makers receive hundreds to thousands of applications every year. It is not guaranteed your organization will be funded. And it is NOT your grant writer’s fault if it is not funded.
  • Easy to develop, write, or administer – Grant applications take much time, concentration, and energy to develop, write, and administer. Be sure the nonprofit is ready to take on such task before starting grant writing.

It can be easy to get discouraged reading all of what a grant is not. The reason I tell you what a grant is not is to prepare you and your nonprofit for the process. Each and every nonprofit must decide if they are ready to pursue the task of grant writing.

For more information on grants and grant writing, read these articles.

How would you describe grants? 

funding the future