According to experienced grant writers and users of Proposal Pack, the only real differences in applying for U.S. government grants and those from private foundations or corporations are the number of forms and sections required. Federal grant funding proposals mandate specific forms, and are typically composed of:
Agency-specific forms are indicated in each grant application. Read the instructions you are given to determine exactly which forms, worksheets and other information you need to put in your proposal.
Typical grant funding proposals reflect specific criteria and include point systems based on these criteria. For example, an application would be judged on:
You will select the Proposal Pack templates to use in creating your proposal response as follows:
1. First, familiarize yourself with the contents of the Proposal Pack. There are thousands of templates available. Open the desktop organizer for your installed Proposal Pack and read the descriptions of all the available templates.
2. Read the government grant application instructions. The instructions are typically provided by the agency and are usually downloaded from an agency web site such as http://www.grants.gov.
3. Read the example mappings of Proposal Pack templates to other government grants provided in the next section of this manual. You will learn how to match them based on similar descriptions.
4. Create a Table of Contents based on the government grant application guide you were given.
5. Select an appropriate collection of Proposal Pack templates to match your Table of Contents. Which templates you select will depend on a number of factors, such as which federal forms are required, what information the RFP is requesting or requiring you to include, how large the project is, if it is a multi-year project, if you are writing the proposal as a partnership, how many certifications are required, etc. The more complex and costly the grant, the longer the proposal will generally be and the more templates will be required.
6. If you are given government agency-supplied worksheets and forms, you can use the Proposal Pack templates "Worksheet" and "Supplied Form" as placeholders when you assemble your Proposal Pack templates. Replace the contents of the Proposal Pack templates with the government-supplied documents.
7. If there is no match between a Proposal Pack template and the required grant information, you can copy the "Blank Template" template and add a matching page header. Alternatively, you can copy a similar Proposal Pack template and alter the page header to match the required Table of Contents items.
8. If you are responding to an RFP that requires the proposal be printed and bound with marked tab dividers, use the "Tab" template for the blank tab divider pages.
9. After you've selected your templates, assemble them in the order of your Table of Contents. If you are using the Proposal Pack Wizard, you can create a custom FileList#.ini file including all of the Table of Contents sections and files. The Wizard will then assemble all of the proposal pages into a single document for you. There are Proposal Pack Wizard FileList11.ini file listings supplied with Proposal Pack for all of the sample government grant proposals. Look at the Sample Proposal Collection and find the sample government grants. Each of the sample government grants has the actual FileList11.ini file that was used to create the sample included. This can be found by either clicking the link in the numbered steps of the organizer page for that sample, or by browsing to the folder for that sample on your hard drive. You can edit the FileList11.ini file using any text editor.
10. In order to use the custom FileList11.ini files you will have to turn on a couple custom features in the Wizard. In the Preferences -> Project Settings -> Configure Document Selection Screen you will have to check the box that says "Enable 'Everything' Proposal Size". Then in the "Tab on Screen" drop down list you will have to make sure the "Auto Recommendations" tab is set to "Always Display". You will have to have either "All 12 Proposal Types" or "Custom 1" selected from the Proposal Type drop down as well.
11. After you have assembled your template into a single document, fill in the blanks with the proposal content and finish editing your proposal. Because government RFPs vary so much, you will have to customize the stock Proposal Pack templates to match specific RFP requirements.
12. Use the Grant Development Checklist template as a guide for developing the proposal.
Examples for a variety of agencies are included in the next section. Review the examples to get a better idea of how to map RFP requirements to a specific set of Proposal Pack templates.
There are tens of thousands of new government grants issued every year; there are thousands of templates included in Proposal Pack. You will have to read the RFP application instructions to determine what information is being requested. Then, familiarize yourself with the Proposal Pack templates to get an idea of what is included in Proposal Pack. Next you will pick Proposal Pack templates to match the requested information, assemble the selected Proposal Pack templates in the order appropriate for the specific RFP you are responding to, then re-title the Proposal Pack page headers and Table of Contents as needed. Finally, you will fill in the blanks of the assembled proposal with the content requested by the government grant agency.Proposal Pack Primer for Writing Government Grants
The winning government grant proposal is carefully planned, organized according to funder requirements, concisely written and ready for the scrutiny of government agency reviewers. Applicants should be well versed in the program criteria published in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Contact should be made with the person(s) listed by the agency responsible for information about the funding area. Check with the funding agency both online and directly about deadlines, any changes, basic requirements, application forms and procedures.
We recommend that individuals without previous grant proposal writing experience attend a grantsmanship workshop. These workshops increase your understanding of the crucial information required, offer the opportunity to discuss with other applicants and agency representatives your questions concerning the grant(s) in question, and direct your attention to additional readings or resources helpful to completing the process.
Growing Ideas for a Proposal means that the applicant investigates his/her locality, region, and state to ascertain if the idea has been previously considered. It is important to involve local, county, and state government officials, agency heads, and public/private agencies that may have grants or contracts for similar work. This up-front review may uncover previous work in the area and/or a need to upgrade the concept through your proposal. The key is not to duplicate work and to give the impression that your proposal is significantly different and worthy of pursuit of federal dollars.
Use Federal Guidelines to Establish Credibility for Application by using the CFDA guidelines prior to the application:
Step 1: Go online and browse the CFDA using one of the indexes provided or a keyword search to locate the assistance programs that match your needs as an applicant.
Step 2: Determine the best approach for your application by reviewing:
Step 3: Check the application deadline.
Step 4: Identify the Information Contacts associated with the program description you select and capture the addresses and telephone numbers you need to obtain additional information from the funding agency.
Step 5: Contact the Agency to find out:
Step 6: Develop and write your proposal and apply to the funding agency for assistance.
Source: General Services Administration, Office of Chief Acquisition Officer, Regulatory and Federal Assistance Division, CFDA: Applying for Federal Assistance, Washington, D.C.Establish Community Support
A key to success with federal grant funding agencies is to provide documentation of community support for your project. After you have developed a proposal summary, find individuals or groups representing business, academic, professional, faith-based, or lay organizations willing to support your proposal in writing. By socializing your proposal idea early in the process, you will not only identify legitimate partners and supporters, but also help to refine the concepts of your approach. The quality and diversity of support is crucial in the various stages of the grant review process. Capturing a large number of support letters can be very persuasive to grantor agencies. Examples of support are: letters from local government agencies, public officials, area corporate sponsors, academic organizations offering targeted descriptions of commitment and project sanction. Letters of support are often required by Federal agencies. This may take a long period of time to develop such endorsements, as the proposal may often reflect serving a need for a building, services, or staffing. Generating support for a complex project often has to be negotiated among a number of partners.
Types of Community Support for Your Proposal
Successful tactics to garner such support include: Community Conferences, Decision Forums, and Discussions to support the proposal, collect data for the proposal, and develop strategies to create proposal support among large numbers of community groups.Selecting the Funding Resource
Study the Objectives and Uses and Use Restrictions sections of the CFDA program description to determine if there is a match to your proposal idea. Check related programs and resources. The fundamental element is that both the applicant and the granting agency should have the same needs, interests and intentions if the proposal is to be accepted for funding.
Assemble appropriate documents; e.g., agreements, by-laws, tax exemption status certificates, articles of incorporation, etc.
Form a Critique Team, usually neutral third party colleagues, to review your drafts for match to agency mission, clarity, rationale, and continuity. Use the team's constructive criticism prior to submission to the Federal agency.
Organize and collect required signatures from institutions aligned for the proposal and make sure that they appear in the appropriate sections of the documentation.
Organize at least two readers to review the proposal for spelling, neatness, packaging of proposal according to agency requirements, uniform presentation, etc.
Determine whether you will use online or print delivery. Online delivery requires pre-registration with Federal Government at http://www.grants.gov. Also, make the arrangements to ensure delivery according to the funding agency requirements.
Basic Components of Federal Government Grant Proposals
Often called the Project Abstract, Abstract, Summary or Executive Summary, this appears at the beginning of the proposal and is usually two or three paragraphs in length. It provides a brief summary of the key points of the proposal, including project objectives, what's new and different, critical activities to the success of the project, and how you plan to support a local need. If you are awarded the grant, the Summary is usually placed in publicity pieces, annual reports, or on web sites about the project.Introduction of the Organization (Company History)
Applicants provide data about the organization from all sources. Most proposals require descriptions of the applicant's organization, key staff members, board members, etc. Many Proposal Pack templates are related to information about your organization. Key descriptors can include:
The Problem Statement or Needs Assessment is a major part of the proposal, offering a statement of the problem or the reason for the project. It includes well-documented facts/statistics, shows logical progression, provides comparative data, and is concise. Many Proposal Pack templates can be used to describe various types of information included in or related to the Needs Assessment. The Problem Statement/Needs Assessment:
You should contact local, regional or state government agencies to identify tools and techniques to measure and assess problems. Local colleges and universities offer courses to help you plan and evaluate these techniques. However, we advise you to focus on using data that is qualitative and quantitative.Project Objectives (Goals and Objectives): Describe Goals and the Desired Outcomes
Every funder wants to see the key steps to accomplish your project. No matter what you call them - mission, goals, objectives, activities, action items, or tasks - they are the key components of your project and show how the work will flow and which activities will be used to target success. In Federal agency grant submissions, the focus is on explaining the specific activities in the proposal. Additionally, applicants must identify the objectives as they relate to the goals of the proposal, and the methods that will be used to reach those objectives. Your checklist for goals and objectives should include:
Funders want to know how the project is expected to work and solve the stated problem. Applicants are advised to think about the following types of activities in preparing this section of the proposal:
Describe the activities or tasks that you anticipate for the project and include the staff, materials, and resources required to carry out the project (inputs).
Most agencies want a visual description of the organization and the systems used to move the project forward. These provide the reviewer with a clear understanding of how the parts interrelate, when people are needed, and what they are expected to do. This description will also point out the kinds of facilities, transportation, and support services required (throughputs).
Describe what will be achieved through the combination of the activities and the interrelationship among the parts of the project (outputs). Federal agencies expect proposals to "plan for measurable results." Therefore, the project staff is expected to provide evidence of program performance - often through examination of stated objectives and on-site visits by the Federal grantor agency or through grant reviews that involve peer review teams.
Prepare a diagram of the program design. A clear diagram or flow chart of how everything operates will describe the project better than detailed descriptions. If you cannot map project inputs, how the inputs are acted on and the resulting outputs, you probably cannot describe your project in a way that the reviewer can understand it.
Provide a narrative that justifies the actions taken. Grantors are looking for the most economic, effective, and efficient ways to solve problems. How the proposal explains the expenses associated with the performance of the project is a key element in the negotiation with the Federal staff. Everything has to be justified in writing in the proposal. Using a tool such as PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) is an effective way to match time and money and demonstrate efficiency when justifying costs in proposals.
Identify and highlight the innovative features of the proposal by showing how distinctive they are from other proposals under review.
Build the Appendices to provide additional details that support the narrative with data, references, and information presented in a more in-depth manner. Examples are: time lines, schedules of activities, legal documents, personnel resumes, letters of support, and endorsements.Project Evaluation: Product and Process Examination
Most Federal agencies require some form of program or project evaluation from its grantees. The requirements differ by type of project; however, the standard deliverables include a (1) product evaluation and a (2) process evaluation. The product evaluation focuses on the results that can be attributed to the project. The process evaluation focuses on how the project was conducted in terms of the effectiveness of various parts of the program and consistency in terms of the stated project methods or design plan.
Federal agencies often conduct evaluations with their internal staff, based on the requirements of the proposed project. Applicants are expected to state the amount of time required to evaluate the project, state how feedback will be provided to the agency, and include a schedule for review and comment. Federal guidelines often refer to two key reasons why applicants should submit good evaluation designs at the start of the project:
Develop a plan for continuation or sustainability beyond the grant period. This requires the identification of other available resources needed to implement the grant. You should discuss this with allies to determine how the program can be maintained and how future funding would be acquired for the activity to continue. Think about how you would account for other needed expenditures related to the project, such as equipment.Proposal Budget: Planning and Delivering a Credible Budget
The Federal assistance program funding levels change every year. You should review online documentation of projected future funding levels through the CFDA website. Check the Financial Information section of the CFDA program description.
This exercise can help you anticipate the income level from the grants you are applying for and then consider your budget requirements. According to the Federal agency narratives on budget, a well-prepared budget justifies all expenses and is consistent with the proposal narrative. There are several areas that Federal reviewers check for consistency in proposals:
You should become familiar with the Federal government-wide circular requirements. The CFDA identifies in the program description section information required by the agencies, and directs you to the appropriate circulars applicable to the program for which you are applying.