11 Questions You Must Ask Before You Write

Before considering writing a grant proposal, several crucial steps need to take place. These all drive a proactive approach to ensure you are eligible, qualified, and ready to design your project. Most importantly, create a timeline for implementation of each of the following steps:

Is your idea part of a strategic plan?

If you are writing a programmatic grant it should be a team effort. The strategic assessment of what needs to be funded, who will implement the grant, and how it all fits into the mission of the organization is what will ground your proposal. For researchers, consider what you have accomplished before, what your preliminary data signify, and how qualified you are to conduct the work. In other words, be certain that you have given serious thought to the undertaking of the proposal.

Have you read the Request for Proposal (RFP)?

Before you move on to any other part of the process, read the RFP from start to finish. Obvious issues – such as eligibility or due dates – can be recognized right away; you may even decide that your idea doesn’t align with the grant program and move on to a better match.

What do your colleagues say?

Your experienced colleagues will provide you with sound advice on whether your idea is feasible. Budget size, technical challenges, and review panel hurdles are just three of the areas in which their expertise will be helpful.

Is the Program Officer enthusiastic or encouraging?

Once you have read the RFP and talked to your colleagues, you can talk about your project or research with the Program Officer. He or she will answer questions and give you an indication of whether your idea is a good fit for the program.

Does your organization have the right infrastructure?

The lack of infrastructure has been the downfall of many proposals, particularly those involving research. You must determine ahead of time whether your organization can handle the work before you spend the time writing a proposal.

Is your team qualified?

Suppose your organization is suited for the project – now you must consider the human capital. Your team should be well-qualified and experienced enough to take on the effort for your project or research, including technical support and research assistants.

Why is your project or research needed?

This may be the most important question to ask before writing. If you cannot provide a good answer, this will echo throughout your proposal. Do your homework; review and understand the literature or complete preliminary questionnaires. Better yet, use a planning or seed grant to assess the need for your project or research. These steps will reassure the reviewers that your work is important and must take place.

What is the significance of your project or research?

Once you determined that your project needs to happen, consider the impact that it will have and the changes that will take place for the population you are serving. Think about what key outcomes could become models for others in the same field as you.

What is the heart of your proposal?

Planning and designing your proposal depends on four or five sentences: the heart of your proposal. Your goal, three measurable objectives, and – if you are writing a research proposal – your hypothesis are what define your path. If you can easily write these sentences, you are ready to submit. If not, wait until the next solicitation or competition. Once you develop these statements, you are ready to proceed.

What are the serious challenges involved?

Any potential difficulties should be mulled over before writing a proposal. If several major problems arise, you may want to consider a different approach or even another topic.

How will you budget your proposal?

All the resources at your disposal – and those you lack – should be considered when answering this question. Talking to your institution’s financial office will likely shed light what budget items should be included or excluded. In essence, you need to submit a reasonable budget that is consistent with the narrative, and avoids raising concerns in any way.

Working with a good idea, understanding your path, avoiding obstacles, and organization are vital to your decision to submit or wait. Once you answer all of the above questions, and are confident in the success of your project, you are ready to begin writing.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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