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Myth: It’s just too hard to win a grant.

Reality: It’s easier if one’s reach doesn’t exceed one’s grasp.


This post is part of a series on Myths in Grant Seeking.


Many potential grant seekers share a perception that it’s almost impossible to win a grant because grant makers impose too many obstacles in the paths of grant seekers. This is the Myth of Needless Complexity. One variant occurs as: ‘The process of writing a successful grant proposal is too difficult.’ A second variant appears as: ‘The selection criteria for grant proposals are too numerous and too complex.’


Both variants have elements of truth. Some grant programs are in fact quite complex; however, their levels of complexity often necessarily reflect the amounts of funding at stake, the nature and magnitude of the problems to be solved, and/or the scopes of work and desired impacts involved. Due to their complexity, some proposals may test an applicant’s mettle at times.


An applicant should forego grant options that are beyond its grasp. Some options will exceed an organization’s capacity to address all of the program selection criteria or to deliver desired results on time and within budget; however, not every grant option presents numerous or complex criteria. Some options are elegant both in their simplicity and in their limited scopes.


Less complex proposals tend to be those that seek smaller amounts of funding and those that are sent to smaller private foundations or smaller corporate foundations. More complex proposals tend to be those that seek larger amounts of funding and those that are sent to government agencies, to larger private foundations, or to larger corporate foundations. Proposals for multiyear funding tend to be more complex than those for single year funding. Proposals that involve multi-agency partnerships tend to be more complex than those that involve single agencies.


The complexity of some funding programs, and consequently of some grant proposals, poses real challenges to the commitment, persistence, and ingenuity of grant seekers. If a proposal’s level of complexity is beyond an applicant’s current organizational capacity, it should consider pursuing other grant options or eschewing grants altogether as a source of funding.


A high degree of complexity is intrinsic to some competitive grant programs. Those who rail against it often also rail against having to compete for grants in the first place.


The next post in this series on Myths in Grant Seeking will address the Myth of Automaticity.


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