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Sooner or later, nearly everyone who competes for grants has compiled his or her own list of what works and what doesn’t. This post is the third in a series about what works (do) and what does not work (do not do) in writing competitive grant proposals. It covers Capacity-Building Plans, Evaluation Plans, and Budgets and Cost-Effectiveness.


In writing a Capacity-Building Plan:


  1. Indicate an intention to continue key aspects of a program or project after a grant ends.
  2. Identify key program elements likely to be continued after a grant ends.
  3. Describe practical steps to be taken to identify key elements for continuation.
  4. Present a timeline for absorbing the costs of key elements before a grant ends.
  5. Discuss how program monitoring and evaluation will help to identify key elements.



  1. Try to postpone thinking about building capacity until after a grant ends.
  2. Overstate previous experiences or outcomes in building capacity.
  3. Confuse building capacity during a grant with sustainability after it ends.
  4. Neglect the role of leveraging applicant and partners’ resources in building capacity.
  5. Ignore the meaning each specific funder attaches to the concept of capacity.


In writing an Evaluation Plan:


  1. Present performance criteria for each objective to be evaluated.
  2. Align evaluation methods with every specific proposed objective.
  3. Describe a process for selecting an Evaluator.
  4. Identify an Evaluator by name and affiliation whenever possible.
  5. Include a timeline for key evaluation activities.
  6. Describe how you will use interim findings to make midcourse adjustments.



  1. Postpone creating an evaluation plan until after a grant award.
  2. Fail to describe the roles, responsibilities, and qualifications of an Evaluator.
  3. Rely exclusively on measures yet to be developed.
  4. Ignore the technical psychometric merits of proposed evaluation instruments.
  5. Omit the process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting performance data.
  6. Suggest that evaluation reports are a waste of time and scarce funds.


In writing Budget and Cost-Effectiveness:


  1. Align all budget items with the Work Plan.
  2. Be explicit about all assumptions used in calculating costs.
  3. Provide specific rates and amounts for all line items.
  4. Calculate costs per participant or avoided costs or similar measures of cost-effectiveness.
  5. Explain any unusual or questionable cost items.



  1. Propose disallowed or illegal uses of grant funds.
  2. Be arbitrary about rates for mileage, per diem, lodging, salaries, or fringe benefits.
  3. Expect to be able to introduce entirely new budget items after a grant award occurs.
  4. Omit related costs to be paid for using other funding sources.
  5. Pad the budget with unnecessary or irrelevant line items or cost figures.


The last post in this series will cover Other Websites that discuss what works and doesn’t work in competing for grants.


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