By Guest Blogger Matt Connor

For many organizations, the task of writing grant proposals falls on the person with the most institutional knowledge, the firmest grasp of both the internal and external forces acting on the organization, and the best communication skills in the office; but also with the person with the least amount of time – the executive director. Often, a number of details slip through the cracks when rushed for time.

What are they asking for here?

Yes, we’re back at the beginning. So what ARE they asking for? A lot of times the grant writer will give up, and answer a question that hasn’t been asked. “I didn’t know how else to highlight this great aspect of our organization/program!” is usually the explanation given. This is, I’m sure you can guess, a terrible idea.

Reading a grant where the writer isn’t answering the questions asked can get very frustrating. Some applications are points-based – and you’re not going to get points on an answer that has nothing to do with the question. And if there aren’t points on the line, you still run the risk of looking like you’re not taking this seriously. Maybe you’re just trying to cram that square application from last month’s submission into this round hole of an RFP. Either way, it comes across as lazy and indifferent, and you want to highlight your successes and your organization’s great capabilities – NOT draw attention to the fact that you were up late the night before the application was due, scrambling for answers.

Things that stick out: Answers to questions not asked, questions not answered at all

Things that stand out: Attention to detail, understanding the funder, understanding the application

It’s a delicate balance between touting your organization, ensuring the funder that a new program is going to be successful, maintaining communication during the writing process, and juggling this all amongst what is likely a dozen or so various proposals. Always keep in mind that the grant maker is going through countless proposals, looking for two things: Things that stand out and things that stick out.  Make your proposal outstanding!

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, part 2, and part 3 of his blog series on grant writing!

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