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5 Reasons Why You Should NOT “Make Something Up” For Grant Proposals

Has there ever been a time when you or someone at your nonprofit wanted to “make something up” for a grant proposal? Maybe your nonprofit’s work didn’t align with a funder's priorities, and you were told to add a little extra “oomph” that could increase your chances of winning a grant.

I’ve been there, and let me tell you…it was not easy for me to be brave, push back, and turn the moment into a teachable one… especially back in the day when I was a newbie in the grant writing industry who was afraid to speak up.

The temptation to embellish details or, worse, concoct elements of a grant proposal to align more closely with a funder's priorities is not uncommon. The temptation to add just a little more "oomph" to a proposal can be compelling, particularly in highly competitive funding environments. However, as someone steeped in over a decade of experience in the field, I've learned the invaluable lesson of resisting such temptations, emphasizing the paramount importance of ethical grantsmanship.

As a grant professional, it is crucial to understand the impact of false claims and information in proposals. While the temptation to exaggerate or misrepresent information may seem like a shortcut to securing funding, the consequences of such actions can be severe. Here’s why:

  1. Submitting false information in a grant proposal is unethical (check out the GPA Code of Ethics) and goes against the core values of what we stand for equitable philanthropy and community-centric fundraising. Why? Because it undermines the trust that donors and the public have placed in these organizations.

  2. Relationships matter. Our relationships with funding partners and other stakeholders should be built on mutual trust and transparency. When this is established, it is easier to have hard, yet open and honest conversations about your nonprofit and your funding needs without fear of negative consequences. 

  3. Grant proposals that get awarded turn into contractual agreements. Any time you submit a grant proposal, you are certifying that all information provided is true to the best of your knowledge. Some funders will even require that you sign off on a disclosure statement before you hit submit. If you wouldn’t falsify the information you’d put into a contract, you should apply this level of integrity to your grant proposals and reporting.

  4. You will have to report on what you stated in the grant proposal. Here’s some advice that I share with my clients time and time again: only propose what you have the ability and capacity to do (or you will in the future as a result of the funding). Now, there’s no need to panic if you tell the truth and simply don’t meet your objectives– just have an honest conversation with the funder. 

  5. Last but certainly not least, there may be legal ramifications. Yep, you read that right. Nonprofits can face serious legal consequences when they provide false or inaccurate information while applying for grants. This can include fines, loss of funding, and even legal action taken against the organization and its leadership. Additionally, it damages the trust between the nonprofit and the grant-making organization, potentially harming future opportunities for funding.

It is essential to prioritize transparency, accuracy, and ethical behavior to ensure the long-term sustainability and impact of the organizations we serve.

Let integrity be your guide.

P.S. If you need help with crafting compelling and factual grant proposals, feel free to connect with us.

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