Top 10 Mistakes Nonprofits Make When Applying for Federal Grants

Whether you are first getting started with federal grants, or you have a few federal grant submissions (and maybe even awards!) under your belt, you may feel the pressure of the highly competitive process. The dollars at stake are huge and so are the impacts on your organization.


As we’ve been designing Grant Writing Boot Camp in collaboration with, I put together a Top 10 list about mistakes we see and hear about with federal grant applications. They aren’t in sequential order the way we might expect on a late-night tv show, as the likelihood of the mistake to impact an organization depends on countless factors.


We hope by sharing this list it helps you avoid these mistakes in your own federal grant seeking efforts!


1: Saving federal grant portal registrations for the last minute.


2: Focusing only on currently open grant opportunities rather than looking at forecasted/anticipated opportunities.


3: Not engaging your collaborative partners early in the proposal design and drafting discussions.


4: Using acronyms throughout your proposal, work plan, and logic model.


5: Not consistently or completely citing your sources whether via narrative citation or footnote.


6:  Not providing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) objectives within your proposal.


7: Making reviewers solve for variables in your budget justification by not providing all the details for your calculations.


8: Having the same team that writes the application serve as the final set of eyes before submission.


9: Asking for letters of commitment with only a few days’ turnaround time.


10: Applying for federal grants without assessing the likelihood of your organization’s competitiveness.


Do you have something you think could be a contender for the Top 10 Mistakes list for federal grants? Or perhaps grant seeking in general? We’d love to hear. Drop us a comment to share something you want to help other organizations avoid as a mistake.


If you’re looking to dig deeper into your understanding of federal grants and how to succeed in this highly competitive process, I hope you’ll join us for Grant Writing Boot Camp. You can find out more about the course here.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *