Grantwriting Do's and Don'ts

In August, I was fortunate to be asked to review proposals for one of the recent federal mentoring grant requests. I found out on a Wednesday that Becky Cooper, our Executive Director, couldn't make it, so after confirming on Thursday, getting my tickets on Friday, and arriving Saturday night, I was in Washington, D.C., ready for six days of reading, thinking, and writing!

This was my first experience as a reviewer for any grant process and I feel very fortunate to have been asked to attend. My overall impression is that as difficult as it seems on the grant-writer side, it is equally as complicated on the grant-creator and grant-reviewer sides. I approached the work with few expectations, though found the time involved in reviewing eight 90-page proposals a lot of work. Assessing each proposal also was complex for me, as I have specific knowledge of mentoring programming that wasn't applicable for reviewing and assessing the proposals. For example, a proposal that assures the federal government 200 mentors would be recruited, screened, trained and matched within six weeks is probably unrealistic (this is an exaggeration, not from an actual proposal - but not by much), but that kind of timeline and outcome was not a consideration for any of the criteria.

From this experience, here's my quick list of Dos and Don'ts when it comes to responding to any RFPs:

  • Address all the criteria requested
  • Carefully read criteria requested
  • Make a case for your program or project
  • Show how experienced and qualified your staff really is
  • Explain in simple terms how your program or project fits the criteria
  • Follow guidelines for formatting
  • Use local statistics as much as possible
  • Include extraneous information - save your space for what's needed!
  • Misinterpret criteria requested - see above
  • Assume the reviewers know your community or agency
  • Plan to hire your family members with this funding
  • Try to make your program or project fit if it really doesn't
  • Abuse the guidelines for formatting - irritated reviewers who can't read 6-point font on the budget sheets are not what you want!
  • Try to allude to national statistics to make the case for your community
I walked away with a more thorough understanding of the federal grants process and a deep appreciation for great grant writers! Be sure to give your grant writer an extra smile or piece of chocolate for all of the hard work involved in his or her job. And good luck with your proposal writing!


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