Start your Proposal with Great Application Instructions

Once you decide to apply for a federal grant, you should immediately develop Application Instructions.  While every solid grant effort begins with a great kick-off meeting, every successful kick-off meeting begins with a comprehensive set of Application Instructions.

When  you go on a trip with a group of people, you need to study the same maps, read the same guidebooks, and develop a common itinerary.  Embarking on a proposal effort is very similar to taking a group trip.

Your team needs to have a common understanding of the tasks ahead.  Good Application Instructions will help give everyone a clear, detailed roadmap to confidently take them from the kick-off meeting to the delivery of the proposal.

Before the kick-off meeting, provide team members with a copy of the grant guidelines and other relevant documents along with your Application Instructions.  This should be a three- to four-page document that contains the following:

  • Notes and Conventions.  This is a bulleted list that includes information about (1) the proposal’s due date and how it will be submitted; (2) basic information about the number of anticipated awards, the amount of money available, and the maximum size of a grant; and (3) basic information about the format and layout of the grant narrative – font style, size, justification, size of margins, etc.
  • Application.  This should be a table in three columns.  The column on the left should list every section of the entire application from the cover sheet through the appendices.  The narrative should be outlined according to the grant guidelines.  The middle column should be titled “Person(s) Responsible” and left blank.  And the third column should list the dates when each of these application sections are due to the Project Manager.
  • Evaluation Factors.  List the evaluation factors, discuss how the application will be scored, and explain what should be emphasized in the proposal narrative as a result.
  • Schedule.  Create a two-column table.  The left column should show major dates starting with the kick-off meeting and ending with the delivery of the application.  The right column should list important activities keyed to these dates, such as “Complete the first draft of the budget.”

Now your proposal team is ready for a productive kick-off meeting where everyone leaves with a shared understanding of how your proposal will be conceptualized, developed, and delivered.

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