I recently spent an entire afternoon assembling a home gym and treadmill for my wife. I must admit that after opening the two enormous boxes containing what seemed like 5 million pieces, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the task that lay ahead. As I’m certain any man would, I had confidently told my wife, “No biggie, dear. I’ll have this thing up and running in no time.” This was, of course, the first of many miscalculations I made that day. Hours later, the Gym Master 9000 was nearly complete, and I was feeling extremely gratified in my accomplishment until … You see there was this extra part, a rather large one at that. This part was an enigma; it didn’t seem to fit anywhere.

I was beginning to lose my cool when my wife commented, “Perhaps if you had followed the directions, you would know where this piece belongs.” A preposterous idea, I thought to myself, knowing full well that she was probably right. I waited until she left the room, then quickly recovered the directions from where I had filed them (the trash). I’m not too proud to admit I messed up. The Gym Master 9000 absolutely, positively would not function without this piece in its proper place. 

By now, you’ve most likely asked yourself, What does this have to do with grants? I’ll get to the point. There are occasions in life when following the directions is optional; your decision to go at it alone is made with the understanding that there are associated risks. As with the Gym Master 9000, failing to follow a grant’s guidance and directions can, and often will, prove fatal. The most common reason grant applications are denied prior to being reviewed is simply failing to complete the application as directed. 

Long before you’re ready to complete your grant application, a significant amount of time should be dedicated to fully researching the grant’s guidance documentation and application directions. Take advantage of program-sponsored tutorials and workshops. They’ll provide applicants with invaluable information about program eligibility requirements, eligible activities, deadlines and other tips.

Your odds of grant success are greatly increased when you accept the fact that a properly researched and well-written application will require a great deal of effort. There’s simply no replacement for your blood, sweat and tears, with the exception of outsourcing your grant to a professional grant writer. Although there’s absolutely no shame in hiring a pro, the knowledge and experience gained by doing it yourself is worth the extra effort. 

And if your perfectly prepared application doesn’t result in funding, don’t give up. Among the many traits that make up a successful grant writer, persistence is perhaps one of the most important. Like Abraham Lincoln once said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you do not try.”