Feedback on 2016 Grants Proposals

It is our hope that by providing you with these observations, you will be able to use them to assist in any future proposal writing undertaken by your organization. As in previous years, the overall request for funding far exceeded the amount of resources that was available for grants, so many worthy proposals were not able to be funded. The following points were noted among this year’s unfunded proposals:


  • Program goals were not consistent with the United Way NCA 2016-17 strategic funding priorities.
  • Program descriptions were unclear and did not provide adequate information to determine what the program does and how the program goals will create change in the community.
  • Some program descriptions were unclear and thereby difficult to evaluate. There should be no assumptions that a particular program is known or widely understood.
  • No clear strategy was articulated to explain how the program will be sustained after the United Way NCA grant cycle has concluded. Organizations provide very general comments about their intent to fundraise versus providing examples of innovative ideas for sustainability or furnishing details on their development plans.


  • Proposals that included the entire organization budget and not the program’s budget made it difficult to analyze the program’s revenue and expenditures, separately from the organizational funding.
  • No budget narrative comments are given to provide context or explanation of program budget detail.
  • Proposals were not clear on how the funding would be spent. Items listed were vague such as personnel, materials, etc., and often the optional space provided for additional budget comments and narrative was not utilized effectively, thus omitting valuable opportunities for details.
  • Organization projected budgetary deficits without any narrative stating why or how the program will be sustained despite the anticipated deficit.
  • In instances where personnel costs may outweigh other program expenses, proposals lacked adequate comments to explain why this may be necessary for the program.
  • Budget seems to provide for services not described in program overview.
  • Budget includes several expenses for items outside of the strategic priority area that funds are being requested for (e.g., a lot of expenses related to workforce development while the grant application is for a basic needs or healthy living program).


  • Proposal was not clearly focused on the impact of the funding in the region where funding is being requested.
  • It was unclear that the population served would be low to moderate income people. In many cases it was implied but not actually stated, which caused questions on best use of funding.
  • Statement of Need section focuses on the need in a particular region and provides data to support that assertion, however, the funding application is being proposed for an entirely different region and the application lacks the accompanying data to support the request.
  • Proposal does not clearly articulate how United Way NCA funding will help to increase the program’s capacity. If the purpose to sustain the service delivery levels at current levels, it is not clearly stated.
  • Proposals did not clearly explain regional distinction. Proposal needed to clearly demonstrate what about this program distinguishes it from the other similar programs in the area.
  • More collaboration with other agencies or partners is needed. Program appears to be redundant or duplicated in other agencies.


  • Output measures did not match the numbers given in the targeted population section.
  • Provided minimal information about one’s approach to outcomes measurement.
  • Metrics are not tied to the program’s goals. Proposal does not address how the program helps the population achieve goals (e.g. how does this program help participants achieve self-sufficiency).
  • Proposals contained goals that were not easily measured and did not appear obtainable. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic. (e.g., A goal of “improving health and well-being” would be unacceptable without specific of how this will be measured and quantified).
  • Goals focus on participation or completion rather than measurable outcomes.
  • Proposals listed program activities in the outputs section but missed the opportunity to provide valuable details about program objectives.

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