9 Reasons Grant Applications Are Rejected - and How to Fix Them [Grant Writing Basics Series] | Teresa Huff | Skillshare

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9 Reasons Grant Applications Are Rejected - and How to Fix Them [Grant Writing Basics Series]

teacher avatar Teresa Huff, Equipping you to change the world

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Problem 1: Geographical Spread

    • 3. Problem 2: Money Ran Out

    • 4. Problem 3: Outside the Scope

    • 5. Problem 4: Poor Design

    • 6. Problem 5: High Risk, Low Capacity

    • 7. Problem 6: Persuade Me

    • 8. Problem 7: Coordinate Efforts

    • 9. Problem 8: Shotgun Approach

    • 10. Problem 9: Changing Trends

    • 11. BONUS LESSON: Past Awards Search

    • 12. Conclusion: Course Project & Next Steps

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About This Class

Join expert grant writer Teresa Huff to learn how to improve the chances of success for your grant applications - and walk away with tips you can customize to your school, nonprofit, or grant writing business immediately.


Are you struggling with rejection - of your grant applications, that is? Do you feel like you’re working your tail off and getting nowhere?

Let’s talk about some common reasons that grant applications are rejected, and learn what you should do instead.



As a professional grant writer since 2005, I’ve made plenty of my own mistakes and still managed to bring in several million dollars of funding for schools and nonprofits. Now I’m here to help you avoid those mistakes and fast track your way to success.

In this course you’ll learn:

  • Common reasons grants are rejected
  • Solutions to combat each of those mistakes

Then by the time we get to the Course Project, you’ll have a list of tips that will help you clean up your act and write more effective applications. So if you feel strongly about helping your cause, start here.


This course is for:

  • Staff, volunteers, or board members of a school or non-profit
  • Those who want to learn grant writing as a career or side gig
  • Those who have tried writing a grant or two unsuccessfully and are ready to learn the foundational basics for getting started
  • Someone who’s been writing grants for a while but needs a little help stepping up their game

Beginners are welcome to sit in on the course, but if you've never written a grant before, you'll benefit from my other courses to learn how to get started as a grant writer.

I use a combination of my Master’s Degree in Education, grant writing skills, and years of experience to develop top-quality training that will give you a competitive advantage.

In my courses, you'll get bonus materials like worksheets and practice scenarios to see how well you're learning to apply what we cover. My series is geared toward practical skills and concepts to help you build your grant writing toolbox.


Ready to propel your grant writing skills? I know you can do it. I can’t wait to hear about your cause and see how you’re influencing your community through grant funding.


  • Download the Course Workbook and go through the class videos
  • Complete the Course Project
  • Leave a Review
  • Follow my channel to learn more about grant writing
  • Change your world!

Let’s get started – together we can do great things to change the world!

Ready for a grant mentor who gets it? Learn more at teresahuff.com.

I’d love to hear your story. Email me today at info@teresahuff.com.

Meet Your Teacher

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Teresa Huff

Equipping you to change the world


Grant writing is a great way to have a big influence on a cause you care about – IF you know how. That’s where I come in.

How do you get started? Where do you find grants? How do you write a grant? Or if you’re like me when I first started out, what does a grant even look like? I’ll let you in on the secrets one at a time as we unpack the mysteries of grant writing for schools and non-profits.

Take advantage of my 20+ years of combined experience as a grant writer, special ed teacher, and development consultant to propel your own grant writing skills. I harness this with my Master's in Education to make practical courses that will equip you to change the world.

You'll walk away from each of my courses with a set of bonus tools and action step... See full profile

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1. Introduction: are you struggling with rejection of your grant applications? That is, Do you feel like you're working your tail off in getting nowhere? Let's talk about some common reasons. The grand applications are rejected and learn what you can do. Instead, I'm Teresa Huff, and I'm a professional grant writer in development consultant. People make it sound like it should be so easy to just write a grant. Get some funding. But if you've been in the Grant world for more than five minutes, you know that's not the case. As a professional grant writer. Since 2005 I've made plenty of my own mistakes and still managed to bring in several $1,000,000 for schools and nonprofits. Now I'm here to help you avoid those mistakes and fast track your way to grant writing success. In this course, you'll learn common reasons. Grants are rejected and solutions to combat each of those mistakes. Then, by the time we get to the course project, you'll have a list of tips that will help you clean up your act and right mawr effective grant applications. So if you feel strongly about helping your cause, start here this courses for Grant writers with some experience, this will be helpful whether you're on staff or if you're a freelance grant writer. If you're wanting to learn grant writing, but you don't work with an organization just yet, that's no problem. Be sure to follow my channels so you don't miss upcoming Graham writing courses. I have a master's in education and before Grant writing, I was a special ed teacher, so you'll find extras in my courses like principles and challenge questions to apply what we're learning. Your next steps are to download the bonus materials and go through the class, complete the course project, leave a review and change your world. Invest a few minutes in yourself today so you can then go and change your world. I'm excited to be a part of your grant writing journey. Let's roll 2. Problem 1: Geographical Spread: one reason grants can be rejected is because of the geographical spread. What the world does that mean? Sometimes the funders geographical boundaries are clearly defined. You must be an X, Y and Z county, or you must be within 50 miles of their corporate offices. That's pretty simple. Other times it's not so clear where they make it sound like you might be within the range. But in reality you don't stand a chance. They might see anyone within the metro area of this city when, really, what does that mean? And if you're in our out in a little bit rural town, just that still Countess Metro. Should you try? One way to gather clues about this is to look at past awards. Where were they located? Did they give awards concentrated within one specific area where there, any out liars that given indication that they might be open toe funding in your location. For example, my library has a foundation search resource that I can use to look up different foundations . It gives an interactive map like this one for each foundation. Sometimes the larger funders will have this on their website as well, or something similar that you can look up and it shows the amount for each state that spread, how many recipients and you can get a good feel for where their funding. If it's a state where they didn't find anything, you probably don't have very good odds. But if it's high, then you might dig into that more and see if there are specific metro areas counties what the restrictions are for that. The solution to this is to first review the funder guidelines. Carefully look at the past awards and locations of those awards last. If you're still in doubt, call the funder and talk to them about your situation and see if they recommend that you apply. Most funders are happy to help their happy to answer questions, and they would rather you ask, then wonder and then waste their time with applications that don't qualify 3. Problem 2: Money Ran Out: this one's not so much of a mistake as it is just a bummer. Sometimes the money runs out, and that's why you don't get funded. There's always a limited amount of money, and usually there are a lot more requests than there is money to give out. I've written grants before where they had $3 million to award and they got over $6 million in requests. There have been other times where they had 500 applicants, and they only funded 50 of those applications. Sometimes the odds are very good, and the money just from doubt. There may be wonderful causes. You may be exactly what they're looking for. They just don't have enough money to go around. And that's the reality of non profit funding sometimes. So for a solution, there are a few things you can do to try and get yourself higher on the list next time for the funding first. If you do not get the award, you can nicely check in with the funder and request a copy of the reviewers comments. These may or may not always be available that if they are, they're like gold. You can take those and use them to revise and improve your application for the next round. Just make sure that you read the guidelines carefully when they come out, because they could change some of the questions. You don't want to just assume that you can cut and paste, revise a couple things and you're going to go. Always read through the new guidelines. Then, once you have those reviewers notes, you can use that to try and score higher next time and then reapply, especially if you were close to the cut off. You can ask how many were awarded. How was your score in comparison? Keep it very nice. Very respectful that it's okay to follow up and ask those things, and as long as they know that you want that constructive feedback so that you can improve. 4. Problem 3: Outside the Scope: The next mistake I sometimes see is sometimes the application doesn't meet the funders mission, where it's outside the scope of what they want to fund. It's just the wrong fit. For example, maybe they fund programs for homeless teens. You have a job reentry program for homeless adults. That's close, but not close enough. If they're getting plenty of applications that fit within their target audience, they're not going to consider your close enough request. They pre established that they want to serve teens in the community. If you can't help them further that mission, then don't try to force yours on them. It's like trying to force on a shoe that doesn't fit for the solution. Here, read the funders. Guidelines, mission and organizational background. Carefully look at past grants they've awarded. Can your program fit naturally within that scope? Or do you have to stretch your goals out of shape just to try and make it work? Make sure it's a good fit in advance before you start writing 5. Problem 4: Poor Design: Sometimes the application just has a poor design that's hard to hear. Every grant application is our baby, and we don't like thinking of our baby. It's less than perfect, especially when we've worked so hard on it. But let's keep it real. There's always room for improvement. Your program designed may have holes. The funders may perceive that it's not well thought out. Maybe you have a lack of quantifiable outcomes or gaps in how you'll get from Point A to point B. Or it could be that you already do have an amazing program that's running efficiently, but you don't convey that very well. In the application. You left out some key details that would have reassured them of your longevity and your capacity to manage the grant funds. So the solution to this is to step away from your writing for a few minutes and take a higher level view of the project as a whole. What are the main points you're trying to make? Are there any gaps you need to fill in? So it makes more sense to the funders? Remember, they've never seen your program before. You have to assume that they know nothing about you. Nothing about what you're trying to do or the work you're already doing in the community. So you have to explain everything. Then ask yourself, What are the funder schools, and do they align with your program design? 6. Problem 5: High Risk, Low Capacity: your application may be high risk. Low capacity to funders. Here's what I mean by that. Sometimes funders will see your program as a high risk with the low capacity to handle it. Your project may not be sustainable, meaning without grant funds, it wouldn't be able to survive. Thunders want to come alongside what you're doing and help supplement your work. They don't want to be your sole source to put the bill. They're looking for applications that will give the biggest R O I return on investment for their money. If yours seems risky, you don't have the capacity or the staff to handle it where it wouldn't survive without their funding. Then don't be surprised if they pass on your request. The solution here is to show that you are capable of handling the program that could look like several different things. Maybe you pull in your staff or your board members experience and backgrounds and show how they are capable or they've worked with this program before, and they have the capacity to help with this. You address any potential red flags and how you're going to compensate for those instead of sweeping them under the rug pulled them out and say, We know this is an issue. Here's how we're going to handle it. We already have a plan to address that show how you're keeping the program going without their help, but how it can be so much better with their help. You wanted to be a team effort that you can build together. 7. Problem 6: Persuade Me: The next issue I see with grant applications is persuade me. What do I mean by that? If you have gaps and information within your application, the funder will assume to the risk and they'll take off points. Those elements might be there in your program, but if they aren't described in your application, the funder doesn't know that they only know what you present to them. Award decisions are directly related to the degree of the informational index. So to trigger a positive award decision, ah, high informational index is necessary. The solution to this is to help thunders make a positive decision by giving them a high informational index. Keep your request designed, simple, clear and easy to follow. Look for any holes and fill in those gaps. The more you can give them, the more informed they'll be, and the more likely they are to award in your favor. 8. Problem 7: Coordinate Efforts: coordinating efforts. Sometimes applications don't get funded because of complications with other agencies. This could be a couple of things. There could be a lack of collaboration. One agency doesn't know what the other is doing. Maybe there's poor communication or lack of coordination between services. Or it could be a duplication of services with other agencies. That's not the best use of their energy or resource is because it's less efficient. You're all trying to do the same things when if you stepped back and coordinated efforts, you could be a lot more effective and use. The resource is wisely, so the solution to this is to look at other agencies in your community. What services are being offered and consider. Is there any overlap, or are there gaps where services need to be offered? What will be red flags for funders? Try to address the's in advance and work with other agencies to help fill the gaps or back off on duplicating services. 9. Problem 8: Shotgun Approach: the shotgun approach. This convey be a disaster. The devil's in the details. That's true of lots of things, but especially with grant writing. Trying to throw together grant application at the last minute is always a bad idea. It's too easy to make mistakes and miss things if you try and cut and paste to send in multiple applications. Whether that's several agencies applying for one grant or several grants from one agency, the stakes are bound to happen. Slow down and be careful about keeping them straight. I've seen this happen with grant writers who have multiple clients, and they're trying to juggle all those different applications for the same grant funder on behalf of multiple clients that can get tricky and mistakes are bound happen. You're under the same deadline for all those different programs, and it's really easy to get things mixed up. The other issue is if you are one organization and you're trying to apply for multiple grants very quickly, right in a row, and you're just cutting and pasting information into different applications that does not work mistakes. We're gonna happen. You're gonna plug in the wrong name somewhere. Something's going to go wrong, so be careful. The solution to this is to give yourself thymus much as possible and always, always check your work. Even if you're on a tight deadline like some of these grants can be. Always take time to review the guidelines one more time before you hit Submit and it's always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes or more review everything before you send it off. 10. Problem 9: Changing Trends: changing trends in the grant world. Just like clothing or interior design. Grant trends change to maybe not quite as fast, but it's definitely noticeable. The economy can affect grant trends, less money, more need more evidence based practice requirements can cause a shift in trends and funding . Or maybe research is incredible. So funders shift away from certain types of projects. Government administration changes can affect the trends of grant funding as well. Programs can shift. Things go in a different direction, more towards health or literacy or different types of funding, depending on the administration that steps in. The solution to this is to stay on top of the trends. Don't count on any one thing for your long term source of funding. Be ready to adjust as the research changes or the funding trends shift. Keep an eye on the landscape so that you can stay on top of things and advise your clients or your organization as things are changing 11. BONUS LESSON: Past Awards Search: several times throughout this course I've mentioned look at the funders past awards to see what types of things they're looking for or their geographical area that they typically fund. That's a great tip, but you may be thinking, Okay, how do I do that? Well, I'll show you a couple of ways that you can dig into this. First of all, you can go to the Funders website, and if it's there, that would be the easiest. A lot of times they love to post their past awards and showcase what they've been doing in the community, so you might have to dig around a little bit. It could be on a PdF, or they could just be listed on a Web page or press release style. It can vary, but that would be the first place I would check. And that would be the simplest. If it's there, you might be able to look back at the last few years and kind of see what the trends have been. If that's not available, there's another place you can go. It's the foundation center's Web site, and you just go to the 9 90 finder for the Foundation Center this will pull up a search box that you can type in and, let's say Best Buy in it lists several different organizations that fall under the best by name. It also lists them by year, and it tells how much they have in assets. Different information here. So I'm just going to scroll down a couple years. I know this one in particular lists. Um, first, you'll have to look through a lot of tax forms here. And keep in mind that each foundation might look just a little bit different because this one is larger, so they've attached it as a separate page. But sometimes it will be on one of the actual tax forms here as well. So here it looks like they've listed all their donations as of 2015. So you can kind of go through and evaluate what types of organizations looks like some schools, theaters, boys and girls clubs, and you can see the amounts of each one and the different types of things that they've funded. So you don't want to spend a ton of time evaluating and over analysing, but you can kind of get a glance as to whether or not, your organization would stand a chance based on your mission. The types of awards they funded, the amount you're asking for end your location so just kind of use that as a guideline. If you can't find it on their website or in local press releases, or maybe a library resource or something than this convey, be one of your other secret weapons to do a little deeper digging. 12. Conclusion: Course Project & Next Steps: there we have it by now. You should have a good handle on how to avoid common ground writing states. You can now form your grant requests in a more effective way. Let's run through those key solutions one more time. Review the thunder guidelines to make sure you're within the geographical area, requests the reviewers notes, and use that to improve your application. Next time, view the funders Mission, an organization to make sure that your program fits naturally. Within that scope, look at past grants they awarded. Be sure it's a good fit in advance before you start right. Make sure that your program designed aligns well with the Funders. Gold's show that you are a low risk, high capacity capable of handling this proposed programme. Give funders a high informational index. Keep your designs simple, clear and easy to follow. Make sure that you're coordinating efforts between other services in the community. Address any run flags in advance. Give yourself plenty of time so you don't have to take the shot gun approach and always check over your work. Stay on top of the trends and grant writing. Don't count on any one thing for your source. of funding for your course project Share a common Graham writing mistake you've encountered , whether it's with your own writing or someone else's until how it could be improved. Your next steps are to refute your notes from the course, complete the course project and share it in the community. Follow me on skill share, leave a quick review and go make an impact. If you need more support with your grant writing career, go to Theresa dot com. Thanks for watching. Now go change your world.