The do’s and don’ts of grants

main2.jpgApplying for grants can seem like a scary clown living under your bed. You don’t entirely understand how you were put in this situation, it can feel like there’s no one there to help you and there’s a lot of mystery to all of the logic involved. I hope to offer you some advice on how to navigate this process if you’re new to applications and if nothing else, hopefully some of this might get rid of Mr. Pennywise who’s below the mattress.


The first step of course, is to find out what grants are out there. What are the grants that your organization has applied for or received in the past? What grants have similar organizations received? This will help you create an organizational grant calendar so you can figure out funding cycles.

  • DO web searches of to find grant calendars that provide a condensed list of available grants.
  • DO NOT go out into the street and shout, “Give me the grants!”
  • DO reach out to peers, grant groups, or post an open ask for ideas on social media.
  • DO NOT hack into the Minnesota Council on Foundations mainframe to find upcoming opportunities.
  • DO look at foundation websites to find grant schedules and what’s offered.
  • DO NOT go to a bank to ask for a grant. 


Now that you’ve found a grant, it’s important to do some research about it. Doing this work ahead of time will help you when you get to writing the grand and generally make the whole process easier. It’s a chance for you to map out your work schedule, figure out what the strength and weaknesses of your application might be, and know what to expect.

  • DO reach out to program officers and ask them questions about what they’re looking for.
  • DO NOT stalk program officers. They don’t like it when you meet them at their car in the parking lot.
  • DO read successful applications to see the voice a winning application uses and what they do well.
  • DO NOT find a successful grant application and then copy/paste from it.
  • DO go to informational meetings where you can learn from the funders and hear what questions others might have.
  • DO NOT consult your cat. Mr. Mittens has never written a grant and can’t help.


It’s important to give yourself plenty of time in order to prepare the draft of your grant. You’ll likely go through several drafts, so it’s important to give yourself enough time for revisions. It’s also important to start early when gathering support materials for your grant in case you rely on others for materials.

  • DO solicit feedback from someone else. Fresh eyes will tell you how a reviewer might interpret it.
  • DO NOT wait until 4:59pm on the due date to hit spell check. You will not make the character count.
  • DO get more supporting documents than you require so you can be selective.
  • DO NOT use jargon or acronyms because IMHO YMMV w/ NIH, MCN, RWJF, & AHA. WYSINAWYG.

Follow Up

After submitting a grant, don’t forget to follow up with the granter to find out details of how your grant was received. They should be able to provide you with feedback that will help your writing in the future.

  • DO attend any public reviews so that you can hear the committee's feedback.
  • DO NOT try and bribe the program officer. A scented soap basket won’t work.
  • DO call the program officer after the decision is made. They may be able to tell you what was liked or disliked about it.
  • DO NOT ask the clown under your bed for follow up help. HE IS EVIL.

I hope that these tips help you whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned grant writer. They should apply to grants both big and small. It’s helpful to apply to as many as you can and don’t get discouraged if you don’t get one, there’s always another around the corner.

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