COVID-19 Federal Assistance e311


Federal Funding Streams, Fund Planning & Allocation

Funding Source

American Rescue Plan Act, CARES Act, CSLFRF, FEMA, HUD, Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act

What are common pitfalls in grant writing and planning? How can a municipality avoid those pitfalls and make grant applications more competitive?

Enhancing the competitive advantage of a grant application begins in the preparation and planning process. Below are some common pitfalls of the grant planning process and suggested solutions to develop a strong grant application, but municipalities should carefully consider their own needs and approaches to obtaining grants.

Lack of Investment in Opportunity Identification and Tracking

Problem: The lack of investment in opportunity identification and tracking can limit the amount of funding that can be applied for and awarded throughout the year. This can also affect the likelihood of finding a grant suitable for your organization.

Solution: Regularly tracking grant opportunities can increase the potential for funding. Consider allocating internal resources to search for grants across various sources, including agency websites and public interest groups. To help identify grant opportunities and meaningful program outcomes from grant applications, municipalities should examine the awarding agency’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (“NOFO”) or contact the funding agency for project guidance and direction regarding acceptable and anticipated outcomes. It is also important to recognize which funding opportunities fit your organization’s mission and needs to maximize the potential of award.

Lack of Measurable Goals Within an Application

Problem: Setting goals that are immeasurable or unsupported by data can limit the application’s credibility.

Solution: Explain that the plan and goals outlined in the application are achievable, sustainable, and impactful. Use data points and graphics where appropriate to support your organization’s capacity. This will demonstrate a previous record of success and may designate your organization or municipality as lower risk.

Since many grant applications include a scoring rubric or scoring considerations to help applicants develop program outcome measures, municipalities should use the rubric to determine how likely a proposed project or program is to be funded. Self-scoring also allows applicants to reflect and make adjustments to programs, outcomes, or other project-related components.

Further, municipalities may refer to the funders’ websites to access specific award requirements and archives of past awards, applications, and project abstracts. Municipalities can also connect with past award recipients for advice and to better understand program outcome measures and lessons learned.

Lastly, municipalities should carefully review the funders’ compliance and reporting requirements to ensure all of the necessary criteria are met. In addition, municipalities may benefit from conducting research on comparable grant-funded programs and reviewing the applicable outcomes and other data measurement tools related to those programs. 

Using Complicated Grant Writing Language

Problem: Using complex language and industry jargon in the application can detract from the application.

Solution: Present information concisely for a successful application. When writing a grant application, it is helpful to write in the present tense and mirror the funder’s language where possible (i.e., when describing the project or the project’s budget). This can indicate your organization’s alignment with the funder’s priorities.

Lack of Attention to Detail

Problem: Not applying attention to detail in drafting an application can cause an applicant to miss deadlines and neglect critical application requirements.

Solution: Closely read the NOFO to identify key deadlines and requirements, including preferred method of delivery. Proofread all components of the application for grammar and spelling. In addition, confirm that the budget figures provided are correctly reflected wherever they appear in the application. To ensure the application is received on time, applicants should submit a few days before the deadline to allow time to resolve any technical difficulties.

Failing to Reflect on the Process

Problem: Failing to evaluate your organization’s strengths and weaknesses following the grant planning and writing process can result in a lack of future improvement.

Solution: Carefully and honestly evaluate internal capacity to develop and deliver complete, competitive, and timely applications. Throughout the process, if your organization notices that gaps exist in the process, seek assistance in addressing these gaps so that you are better prepared for future application cycles.  

Last Updated: January 31, 2023