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The Deadliest Grant Writing Mistakes Made by Christian Ministries and Churches
By: Dr. Jeffrey J. Rodman

Many Christian ministries and churches decide they will give grant writing a shot and see what happens.  Their approach is not planned or deliberate but rather a haphazard approach that does not account for the complexities and specificity of grant development. Grant writing is not hard, but it is very specific.

When beginning a grant development strategy, it is important to plan, invest, and have leadership support.  It is best to have a grant writing consultant help you to at least develop the initial strategy and advise you on how to resource a grant writing office for success.

Here are some major mistakes made by many Christian ministries when starting grant writing, along with a biblical reference of the items importance.

Not Planning and Developing a Grant Writing Strategy Before Getting Started
Most organizations don't plan to fail… they just fail to plan.  Having an organized grant development strategy is critical to the success of your grant writing efforts. If you don't know where you are going, you will never get to where you need to be. 

"The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty."   - Proverbs 21:5

A Lack of Adequate Resources Needed for Successful Grant Development
Grant writing is a long-term investment strategy. If you invest very little, you will get very little in return. Grant writing will certainly take an initial investment of resources or efforts will be anemic and fail. 

"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'" -  Luke 14:28-30

Not Enough Human Resources
Many smaller nonprofits try to develop grants with only volunteer support. While this is possible with dedicated, educated, and committed staff, it is more likely that the effort will suffer from a lack consistency, persistency, and organization. When you can't afford to hire paid staff, it is often cost-effective to work with a grant writing consultant. 

"Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed." - Proverbs 15:22

Not Using the Experience of Others to Your Advantage
There's no need to start your efforts as if you are the first organization ever to implement a grant development strategy. Use the experience of successful grant writers to model your strategy. 

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." - 1 Peter 4:10

Lack of Board Buy In and Financial Support
Your board of directors should be making financial contributions to your organization. Every board member should be giving. No foundation is going to want to invest in your ministry if you can't convince the people closest to your ministry to give.

"Yes, time and talent are important…but "where your money is your heart shall be also." - Luke 12:34

Lack of a Diversified Funding Base
Grant writing is not the answer to your organization funding issues. It is merely a piece of a diversified strategy. Other components should include individual's contributors, major donors, special events, earned income, legacy funding, and other strategies. 

"Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth." - Ecclesiastes 11:2

Poor Documentation of Success
Organizations often suffer from not having adequate records about their successes and results. It is important to grant makers that you track your progress, know what you are doing well, and can prove this success through hard data.

"Test all things; hold fast what is good." - I Thessalonians 5:21

Making Assumptions that Grant Makers Already Know Who You Are and What You Do
Often larger Christian non-profits assume that a grant maker will already know who they are and what they do.  This leads them to providing inadequate information in an inquiry letter of proposal. Many grant makers may only know a small part of who we are…or have third-party information that is grossly distorted. 

"For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow." - Job 8:9

Not Being Specific About What You Are Requesting
I have seen numerous proposals submitted without articulating a specific request for funds to be granted.  If you are requesting the contribution of resources, that needs to be specified.  If you need technical support, you will need to explain what is needed.  If you are asking for money, you need to ask for money. 

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?"  Matthew 7:7-10

Quitting Before You Start to See Results
One of the biggest reasons ministries fail at grant writing is because they quit before they start to see results. If you have not asked twice, then you have not asked yet. Grant writing requires persistency. Generally speaking, any non-profit ministry can develop grant funding support; it is usually more of a "when" question that an "if" question. 

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9

Small mistakes cost big in grant development. Most grant makers are not as forgiving as individual donors and the expectation can be much different. Grant writing requires a consistent, persistent, and organized approach. If you are lacking in any of these areas, you are likely to struggle, flounder, and ultimately fail.  A wise ministry will get their house in order and make sure they are adequately prepared before starting to implement a grant writing strategy.

Dr. Jeffrey J. Rodman is the president and chief executive officer of Here-4-You Consulting and Grant Writing, www.npfunds.com.

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