By Guest Blogger Matt Connor

Organizations struggle trying to make themselves stand out from the rest of the proposals that foundations and other funding sources go through – and many times fall prey to a number of pitfalls that end up making them just stick out like a sore thumb. My experience as both a grant writer and a grant maker can hopefully help you navigate your way to making your grant proposal outstanding.

Is the grant for a program or the organization?

As mentioned above, grant writers have either a leg up or a crutch to lean on with the amount of organizational language they choose to use. Use too little, and you’re creating a lot of work for yourself. Use too much, and you alienate the funder with information that may not be relevant. Organizations want to be able to leverage their mission and point to the success they have had in the past, but need to balance that with a focus on programmatic details that the funder needs to see.

Yes, your after-school program, your outreach program and your job training program are excellent resources with dramatic outcomes you should be extremely proud of. But if this application is for a daycare program, you need to spend more time fleshing out the particulars of that program, and less time highlighting what won’t be funded with this. Yes, those other programs can really supplement the proposed one – and even be the tipping point for making it a huge success. But make sure you don’t neglect the main story here.

Grant makers vary on what they’re looking to fund. Many individual grants are very broad, and can fund even regular operational expenses – but usually do not. If a particular RFP is funding a program, then the grant maker is going to look for information on that program specifically. With the City, we asked for letters of support from the community for that program. When we would get letters that supported the organization in general, we would have to reject that letter, and the organization wouldn’t get credit. Every time an organization would lose points on an application, they’d lose potential dollars – don’t make that mistake.

Things that stick out: Incorrect attachments, organization-only language

Things that stand out: Applicable success stories, properly leveraged resources

Matt Connor has worked with housing organizations in Indiana for the last five years, focusing on grant writing and grant making. He is currently looking for great organizations that could use a leg up in their fundraising department, and can be reached at or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Get more advice from Matt by reading part 1 of his blog series on grant writing!

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