Tips For Preparing A Competitive Funding Proposal
It is no small challenge to both design a good project and write a competitive grant proposal. It involves building a team, developing a work plan, creating a budget, and on top of all that, then “selling” your project to potential funders. Here are some tips that can help you to prepare a competitive grant application:
- Be over prepared. Read the grant announcement carefully. Twice is even better. Occasionally, applicants can miss important information in the Request for Proposals (RFP) or Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) that may disqualify them. Make a checklist of all the required components.
- Keep your tribal priorities front and center but reach out to partners outside your community who might provide useful resources or expertise. This might include other tribes, university researchers, local governments, school districts, non-profits, public health agencies and others whose work might align with the goals of your project.
- Ask questions. If the funding agency holds a webinar about the grant, it’s a good idea to participate and learn about important details. You can also call the grant contact listed for the funding agency and ask them if they will share examples of successful proposals.
- Be clear and to the point in your writing. A plainly written and well-organized proposal will increase your chance of funding.
- Define success. Spend some time with your team thinking through how you will measure the success of your project. How many homes or families will you reach? How many people will you inform? What percent reduction in a population exposed? When an agency asks for “Outputs” and “Outcomes”, it will show if you have prepared thoughtful answers to these questions.
- Be succinct. You have a limited word count for your responses—don’t waste space repeating yourself. If a response to one question relates to an answer you already gave, you can reference the previous answer without repeating it. Then, use the rest of your response to elaborate on it, or include new information.
- Applicants can get bogged down in the details and forget to give a clear, high-level explanation of what they do. You may want to use 1-2 sentences at the beginning of your “Project Activities” section to give a short summary of your work. You should always include some narrative explanation, but you can also use bullets and lists to organize your answers. Sometimes, it’s clearer to list your activities, participant details, goals, or outcomes. It also tends to use fewer words.
- Get a fresh set of eyes to review your draft. When you’re close to a project, some things will seem obvious to you that aren’t clear to others. So, when you’ve completed a draft of your application, show it to a friend or colleague who doesn’t know much about your project. A second reader can help flag places in your responses where information is missing or unclear.