Grant Writing for Newbies, Pt. 5: How to Cite Your Grant Application’s (Many) Sources

In the dozens of grant solicitations I’ve read and responded to, I have never seen the following sentence:

“Cite all sources in MLA/APA/Chicago/AP style.”

Although I’ve never seen an RFA that requests a particular citation style, I have seen many which explicitly state that you must cite all of your sources.

You may ask yourself: “But what if a particular RFA doesn’t say that I have to cite my sources? Is it time to go bananas, throwing all citations to the wind as I roll—carefree—along the highway of zero accountability??”


No, even if the RFA doesn’t tell you to cite your sources, you must absolutely cite every single piece of information in the grant that is not coming directly from your nonprofit.

You may ask yourself: “OK, but the RFA doesn’t tell me what citation style to use! What do I do? I need guidelines!”


I felt exactly the same way at first. I just wanted the application instructions to give me clear guidance, such as: “Explain the need in the community. Cite all sources in APA style with a reference list attached.”

Recently, however, I’ve come to see the lack of clear direction for the citation style as, well, slightly liberating. If I’m writing a 1,000-character needs statement, I can (and should) choose to truncate my citations to save valuable space for all of the narrative I’m going to cram in. I’m not going to include a full APA citation with its long, tedious Digital Object Identifier (DOI). (If you don’t know what a DOI is, just know that it isn’t important for grants.)

Here’s what to do:

audience-auditorium-business-758976.jpgConsider your audience. If you’re writing an application to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), use loose APA style for your citations. The reviewers will be familiar with this style as it is widely used in the fields of human services, psychology, and social work.

When I have control over the format of the grant narrative, such as in a Word Document that will ultimately be converted to a PDF, I use footnotes (taking care to abbreviate as much as possible).

Footnote Examples:

  1. Census Bureau. 2012-16 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
  2. Felitti, V.J., et al. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse & household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. Amer. Journ. Prev. Med., 14(4): 245-58.


When I don’t have control over the format, such as in a web form that just lets me copy/paste the final narrative in, I use modified in-text citations. The important thing to remember about these in-text citations is that there will be no Works Cited/References List page. Therefore, you need to include just enough information in the in-text citation to tell the reader where you got the information.

In-Text Examples:

  • Text text text (2012-16 American Community Survey [ACS]). Text text text (2012-16 ACS).
  • Text text (Felitti et al., “Relationship of childhood abuse & household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults”). Text text (Felitti et al.)


Any other ideas for grant citation goodness?


One Word Your Nonprofit Might Be Misspelling

I can’t even begin to list the grant proposals in which I’ve seen some variation of the following sentence:

Continue reading “One Word Your Nonprofit Might Be Misspelling”

I’m a #Griffin. What Are You?

I love Nonprofit AF (formerly Nonprofit with Balls). Whether you work at a nonprofit or not, you should take this quiz to find out if you are a Griffin, Dragon, Phoenix, or Pegacorn: go do it now!

I see quite a bit of myself in the Griffin description:

Griffins are diligent, careful, logical, and accurate. They take time to do their work, so it is usually high quality. They are detail-oriented, often picking up stuff that other people miss. They love processes, data, and well-reasoned arguments. They bring grounding and balance to any team, encouraging everyone to pay attention to boring technical crap like objectives and timelines and data. They are not sure this description of them is accurate; they need more time to think about it first.” —Nonprofit AF

I have been called detail-oriented many times, and I often wonder how people can overlook small things. Does the character limit include spaces or not? I need to know.

These quizzes are fun because everyone wants to know more about themselves. I remember reading that it’s easy to see versions of yourself in generic descriptions like those for Zodiac signs and aura colors, but they don’t really tell you much. I can’t help it; personality quizzes are my guilty pleasure.