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Ready to Write? 5 Tips to Prepare for Grants

by Resource Associates @ grantwriters.net

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As you are preparing to submit a grant proposal and hoping to get funded, what do you need to do next to increase your chances of an award? Requirements vary widely from project to project, and it’s essential to make sure you are prepared to have the best chance of success. Before diving in, always read the entire RFP or RFA (Request for Proposal or Application), and make sure you understand and meet all requirements for Eligibility, Competitiveness, Levels of Need, Capability, and Technical Merit.

1) Confirm eligibility. 

First, make sure your organization meets the grant application’s absolute priorities. Absolute priorities are nonnegotiable requirements. If you are applying for a Department of Education grant, for example, you will likely need to be (or be partnered with) a Local Education Agency. These required statuses and partnerships are common for State and Federal grants, so make sure you are either directly eligible or have a partnership in support of your efforts.

Absolute priorities often require you to structure the program you’re proposing to cover specific topics or offer services either in a certain way or to a specific population. Missing any of these priorities or failing to demonstrate in your writing how you meet and exceed these requirements, often results in immediate rejection. Make sure you do this very early on in the project so if the grant opportunity is a great fit, but the deadline is only a few weeks away, you can still apply.

2) Determine competitiveness.

How is the funder going to score your application, and what can you do to get the best score? How well you address the scored criteria makes an application competitive. Independent reviewers read and rate each proposal using a rubric for their scores, and your score is usually the average of multiple independent reviewers. These criteria differ widely from grant to grant, depending on each competitor’s funder and the program focus.

In Department of Education grants, for example, these criteria might be how many students you propose to serve or the Free and Reduced Lunch Eligibility rate for the population you are proposing to serve. Fully understanding each application and your approach to these priorities will be critical. Letters of support from partners addressing where and how services will be provided are often required. Writing a clear and concise proposal addressing all of the priorities can make (or break) your chances of an award.

3) Levels of need.

Almost all program grants are focused on providing services or support to communities in need. Who are those people, and what is their level of need? Educational grants could highlight disparities in the graduation rates, attendance, or poverty rates of the entire district or school population. To understand the level of need fully, you need to understand the purpose of the grant and demonstrate why the population in the community you’re proposing to serve is deserving of this help. If your community does not have a high level of need, you may want to propose to serve a neighboring community with higher levels of need or consider a different funding opportunity.

4) Capability.

Funders want their grants to serve the populations in greatest need. So they want the awards to go to the organizations demonstrating the best capability to make the most impact with the funds. If your organization has experience with this type of program, you may want to share the measurable results from previous projects, services, or grant programs you’ve provided in the past. This could include evaluation results from a previous grant where you demonstrated effectiveness or supported an effort through a partnership. If you do not have any experience in the specific type of service, you may benefit by bringing in partners who show the capability to run the program and make the most positive impact on the population.

5) Technical merit.

Technical merit includes the grant application guidelines of how it should be written. It also can determine how much work it will be to write the application. Some application submissions are restricted to 10 pages double-spaced, while others are 80 pages single-spaced. Font size, line spacing, margin size, inclusions of graphs/visuals, and introductions are all factors determining how much space you have to make your argument. Some funders will disqualify an application entirely if you go over any limits.

Being properly prepared can be the single largest factor in your success. Even if you are not successful on your initial attempt, ALWAYS reach out to the funder and request the reviewers’ notes (if they are not automatically provided). You put the work in and deserve to know exactly what the funder liked and didn’t like about your application. If you just missed the funding threshold, it might not take much to rewrite and resubmit an application to pick up a few points you missed.

If you have a specific project you would like to discuss or have any questions about any stage of the grant application process, reach out to one of our grantwriters.net grant experts today. We’d be happy to help.

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