Inconsistencies in a grant proposal are evidence of a faulty planning process, rushed writing, or carelessness. “Inconsistencies can cause the reviewer to wonder if you know what you’re doing,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor of The Grantsmanship Center, in Los Angeles, Calif. Pay particular attention to the following five elements. They’re where problems are most likely to occur.
- Statistics: Be sure you’ve got the data right, and track how they’re shown throughout the proposal to be sure one element doesn’t contradict another.
- Budget numbers: It’s common to make last minute budget adjustments. But if you forget to correct the summary section or alter the narrative to reflect the changes, the reader will have serious questions. Dollar amounts — the requested grant, the total project cost, matching contributions, the organizational budget — must be consistent throughout.
- The program plan: When numerous people help with program planning and drafting the proposal, inconsistencies can show up in the final document. It’s not uncommon to see several titles used for the same staff position, promised quantities of service that vary between paragraphs, or methods that don’t relate directly to program outcomes.
- Placement of information: When information that should be in one section shows up in another, the clarity of the proposal suffers. “Be sure each section sticks to its assigned task,” said Thompson. “Don’t let your discussion of the problem wander into a description of the proposed program, for example.”
- Writing style: A shift in writing style won’t raise the same sorts of questions as more egregious inconsistencies. Still, a uniform style makes the proposal easier to read and more professional. “You can use either first person or third person well,” says Thompson, “but don’t vacillate. Pick one and stick with it. And sticking consistently with an active voice makes the narrative more powerful.”
Sometimes funders will ask you to resolve inconsistencies, but more often they’ll just reject the funding request.