Grants for Small Business Guidebook
Top mistakes to avoid when writing grant applications

There are multiple considerations when writing grant applications. We have created a list of mistakes to avoid during the this process.


You have narrowed down which grants that best suit your business needs, great! Now, you are ready to start the application writing process. Check out the top mistakes we found when going through this process below and how to avoid them for your next grant application.

  1. Looking for grants only when you need them

Grants may only be top of mind when you need them, but it’s important to plan ahead. For example, if you want until you absolutely need a hiring grant, you put your company at risk if you don’t get it. Applying for grants when you don’t need them ensures your business’s finances are protected, regardless of the outcome. 

  1. Making your project fit a specific grant

Grants have specific things that they are, and are not, allowed to fund. These limitations can conflict with project ideas and can lead to complications post-approval. It’s important not to force your project ideas into fitting the program’s mandate. Rather, read the Applicant Guide and visualize how your small business can leverage the approved activities. 

  1. Not reading the reporting requirements 

It’s exciting to get grant approval! Before you rush into spending your funds, it’s critical to read the reporting requirements. There are stipulations around the disbursement method and timing that are important to understand. If you don’t read the reporting requirements, you could miss details that could derail your project. For instance; you’re nearing the end of your year-long project and you submit your claim to receive your funds. The program comes back and requests all invoices and proof of payment be submitted along with the claim. Now, you have to come through a year’s worth of expenses and financial statements because you weren’t aware of this requirement. The Applicant Guide and your Funding Agreement are the best resources to find out what your responsibilities are. If you’re in doubt, you can also reach out to the program to ensure you fully understand what’s required of you. 

  1. Not providing accurate reporting details

There are many things to consider in the post-approval phase. Regardless of the grant type (be it hiring, training, or market expansion), it’s important to provide accurate reporting details. If you miss a pay stub or proof of payment, the program will need to reach out to you to get the required documents. It’s best to avoid this so you maintain a good reputation with the program. 

  1. Submitting an incomplete application

One of the most common mistakes in applying for grants is missing documentation. It could be as simple as forgetting to include a business license, or not using the appropriate naming conventions for your documents. The Applicant Guide will have everything you need to know to submit a complete application. 

  1. Not involving stakeholders

In larger grant applications, there are often questions about the indirect impact of the project. The program is looking for the less obvious outcomes that the project will garner, especially the effects on the surrounding communities. Involving stakeholders from communities that could be affected by your project is an excellent way to enhance your application. The most common way to do this is to provide letters of support written by each stakeholder that stipulates how your project could benefit them. 

  1. Waiting until the last day to apply

Many programs operate in intakes, meaning they have specific windows throughout the year in which they accept applications. It’s important not to wait until the end of the intake to apply, for multiple reasons: 

  • The program may operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you wait until the end to apply, you’ll be toward the end of the line. 
  • The grant could run out of funding by the end of the intake, leaving you with a proposal and nowhere to send it. 
  • The program could close early if there are lots of applicants. 
  • You could come across administrative or technological challenges in the submission process. If you wait until the last day to submit, you don’t have any time to figure it out. 
  1. Forgetting about your submitted application

Some grants have a long adjudication process. It’s important not to forget about your submissions, particularly if the project starts before you receive your approval. A good way to keep track of this is to set reminders so you don’t forget about your submission. This way, if the adjudication goes longer than expected, you can reach out to the program to get the status of your submission. 

  1. Neglecting your desired outcomes

Receiving an approval letter is exciting! It can also be overwhelming to manage. As if there aren’t enough things to keep track of, a good practice is to keep your outcomes in mind. In most grant applications, you’re required to indicate the potential impact of your project. This also means that you’ll be required to report on them at the end of your project term. If you forget about your outcomes, your project could look very different than anticipated. 

  1. Not saving your application draft

This is a simple step that could save you a lot of time in the long run. Keeping a copy of your submission ensures that you have a reference once your project starts. This will be useful for reporting and submitting claims as you’ll be able to see exactly what you submitted funding for, and what was approved. Even when your project is finished, if you intend to submit for another project, having a copy of your approved application will be an excellent example of a good proposal. 

Next Chapter – What happens after I apply for a grant?

The time it takes to receive a decision can vary depending on the program. However, there’s some key information to be aware of during this period to prepare you for any outcome. 

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