Navigating the single audit and grants management during these times is challenging for grant professionals. For governments, however, simply putting together a strong application for funding can be the most challenging part, especially those in grants administration for the first time.
While there is an abundance of direct funding opportunities in the wake of COVID-19, how do you put together a standout application with more public-sector entities vying for competitive funding opportunities?
Below are some best practices to write a successful government grant proposal.
Align Your Project with the Awarding Agency’s Purpose
Too often, grant proposals miss the mark because they miss the requirements and goals spelled out in an awarding agency’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).
To ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s critical that you carefully review eligibility requirements, estimated program funding, and cost-sharing or match requirements to check if the grant is even a viable opportunity for your agency.
Many governments are digitizing the process of searching and tracking grant opportunities, which is saving time and effort. Reading over a NOFO can take an average of at least 2 hours. Having a curated search tailored to your agency’s needs can save you much time and hassle, so you can quickly weed out opportunities that aren’t relevant while ensuring you spell out your agency’s goals as well as speak to those of the awarding agency.
Make Your Proposal Easy to Read
A well-formatted proposal should include all of the following:
- Introduction: Two to three sentences that summarize your agency’s goals and why your agency should be selected for a grant award.
- Organization description: A summary of your agency, any previous grants you have won and the work your agency does.
- A statement of need: This is essentially the “problem statement” of the grant proposal. You’ll need to explain who will benefit and how the funds will be implemented.
- Project narrative (methodology): A clear description of the methods that will be used to accomplish your project objectives.
- Goals and objectives: These are details of desired outcomes of your project and how success will be measured so the awarding agency can better picture how funds will be put to use.
- Personnel/resources: Provide a summary of how many will be working on the project and their roles as well as tools that will be required (i.e., technology, equipment or facilities).
- Timeline: When do you expect to start the project and when is the expected end date? Go into as much detail as possible for each phase of the project (i.e., how many weeks or months before next phase).
- Budget Summary: This should be a breakdown of anticipated costs to complete the project (justifying your ask for the amount of funding). Provide full justification for all expenses.
- Reporting: The awarding agency may already spell out some of these requirements but you will want to be proactive in your own summary. How will the performance and success of the grant be measured? How will the reports be delivered (i.e., virtual vs. paper)? What steps will your agency take to ensure compliance and transparency?
Double Down on Your Methodology
Having a clear description of your methods in your grant proposal that shows how you will accomplish your project objectives will make your application much more competitive. Developing a methodology is not only helpful for the awarding agency but also allows you to address how you expect to use awarded funds.
The bulk of your methodology – as part of the proposal narrative – should contain detailed descriptions of what project activities will be conducted and how they will be carried out. For example, if your agency is applying for community development grants to provide more emergency hospitals for COVID-19 patients, the methodology should detail how you plan to acquire shelter facilities, offer services and reach out to those in need of the facilities.
You will also want to demonstrate external approval to support the viability of the project, i.e., studies related to feasibility, market analyses, site control and data collection. Additionally, you need to demonstrate the resources that you have available to achieve your project objectives such as personnel and how they will be selected.
Demonstrate How You Will Measure Results
This goes hand in hand with developing your methodology but demonstrating previous performance on grant projects as well as how you plan to measure success on an award application will go a long way. Data visualization dashboards can come in handy for synthesizing this data and presenting it to awarding agencies.
You’ll want to show measurable indicators like:
- Number of active grants
- Total grant portfolio
- Spending health
- Task and files health
- Performance health
- Overall health
Many grants management solutions also help you score grant performance, so you can demonstrate previous success with grants to strengthen your application.
Writing a grant proposal can be especially daunting if you don’t know where to start. For a successful government grant proposal, research, preparation and doing your due diligence in determining methodology as well as focusing on outcomes will make your application more competitive.
As Chief Customer Officer for eCivis, Merril Oliver leads the company’s key business strategies, product development and growth initiatives. Having served four governors, both Democratic and Republican, Merril served as the Director of the Maryland Governor’s Grants Office, where she revolutionized an enterprise approach to full lifecycle grants management during 2015-2017. Merril is a past president of the National Grants Management Association (NGMA), having served three consecutive terms (2009-2012). During her presidency, Merril launched the industry-recognized standard professional certification of Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS®) and participated on the credentialing exam development team as a Subject Matter Expert (SME).