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This post is one of a series that explores reasons why grant proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons that relate to proposal development (writing and budgeting) and delivery (publishing). These reasons for funding outcomes are among those that are most amenable to a grant seeker’s influence or control.

Other posts in the series have explored other reasons for a proposal’s success or failure that have fallen along a continuum that is less and more within a grant seeker’s control or influence:

  • Choice of opportunities
  • Applicant attributes
  • Context and competition
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal content


A grant proposal may succeed or fail for any combination of reasons. Some reasons reflect aspects of the proposal as an act of writing and budgeting. Other reasons reflect aspects of the proposal as an act of publishing. These reasons are largely within the control of a grant seeker.



Some reasons a grant proposal may fail to win funding pertain to the development of that proposal:

  • Its tone is too formal or too informal
  • Its narrative is too long or too brief
  • Its narrative includes too many extraneous details
  • Its narrative omits key details
  • Its narrative fails to convey organizational competence and/or staff expertise
  • It fails to convey the significance of a problem and/or its solution
  • Its grammar or punctuation is deficient
  • Its text has too many spelling errors
  • Its budget has too many arithmetical errors
  • Its contents are internally inconsistent (e.g., budget and activities)
  • Its content requires too much effort to read (e.g., no headings)
  • It uses too much technical jargon
  • It uses technical terms incorrectly
  • It uses too many acronyms
  • It does not explain what its acronyms mean
  • It omits required information



Other reasons a grant proposal may fail to win funding pertain to the delivery of a proposal:

  • It uses incorrect application forms
  • It fails to provide all information required on application forms
  • It uses an incorrect document format
  • Its font type or size, margin size, or text-spacing ignore instructions
  • It uses an incorrect file format (e.g., .doc or .pdf)
  • It lacks required print or electronic signatures
  • It omits required attachments or appendices
  • It includes inappropriate attachments or appendices
  • It omits a required letter of transmittal or cover letter
  • Parts or all of it lacks page numbers
  • Its parts or sections are out of a required sequence
  • Required sections or pages are missing
  • It is uploaded far too close to an online application deadline
  • Its contents after uploading are incomplete


This is the last post in this series.


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