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This post is one of a series that explores reasons why grant proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons that relate to proposal development (writing and budgeting) and delivery (publishing). These reasons for funding outcomes are among those that are most amenable to a grant seeker’s influence or control.

Other posts in the series have explored other reasons for a proposal’s success or failure that have fallen along a continuum that is less and more within a grant seeker’s control or influence:

  • Choice of opportunities
  • Applicant attributes
  • Context and competition
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal content

 

A grant proposal may succeed or fail for any combination of reasons. Some reasons reflect aspects of the proposal as an act of writing and budgeting. Other reasons reflect aspects of the proposal as an act of publishing. These reasons are largely within the control of a grant seeker.

 

Development

Some reasons a grant proposal may fail to win funding pertain to the development of that proposal:

  • Its tone is too formal or too informal
  • Its narrative is too long or too brief
  • Its narrative includes too many extraneous details
  • Its narrative omits key details
  • Its narrative fails to convey organizational competence and/or staff expertise
  • It fails to convey the significance of a problem and/or its solution
  • Its grammar or punctuation is deficient
  • Its text has too many spelling errors
  • Its budget has too many arithmetical errors
  • Its contents are internally inconsistent (e.g., budget and activities)
  • Its content requires too much effort to read (e.g., no headings)
  • It uses too much technical jargon
  • It uses technical terms incorrectly
  • It uses too many acronyms
  • It does not explain what its acronyms mean
  • It omits required information

 

Delivery

Other reasons a grant proposal may fail to win funding pertain to the delivery of a proposal:

  • It uses incorrect application forms
  • It fails to provide all information required on application forms
  • It uses an incorrect document format
  • Its font type or size, margin size, or text-spacing ignore instructions
  • It uses an incorrect file format (e.g., .doc or .pdf)
  • It lacks required print or electronic signatures
  • It omits required attachments or appendices
  • It includes inappropriate attachments or appendices
  • It omits a required letter of transmittal or cover letter
  • Parts or all of it lacks page numbers
  • Its parts or sections are out of a required sequence
  • Required sections or pages are missing
  • It is uploaded far too close to an online application deadline
  • Its contents after uploading are incomplete

 

This is the last post in this series.

This post is one of a series that explores reasons why proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons that relate to proposal content (or lack of it). Content is among those reasons for funding outcomes that are most amenable to a grant seeker’s control or influence.

Other posts in the series explore other reasons for a proposal’s success or failure that will fall along a continuum that is less and more within a grant seeker’s control or influence:

  • Choice of opportunities
  • Applicant attributes
  • Context and competition
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal development and delivery

 

A grant proposal may succeed or fail for any combination of reasons. Some reasons reflect the proposal’s qualities as an instrument of exposition and persuasion; these reasons are largely within the control or influence of a grant seeker.

 

Content

A grant proposal may fail to win funding for reasons related to its content if:

  • It does not clearly fit a funder’s interests or priorities
  • It does not clearly reflect the funder’s interests or priorities
  • It lacks a well-defined goal
  • It does not link its goal to a funder’s goal
  • It lacks measurable objectives
  • Its expected outputs and outcomes are unclear
  • Its objectives are not attainable in the time available
  • Its work plan is not feasible in the time available
  • It fails to demonstrate a clear and compelling need
  • It presents inadequate data to make its case
  • It provides obsolete or incomplete data to support need
  • Its activities do not follow a logical sequence
  • Its timeline for activities or deliverables is unclear
  • It does not identify persons responsible for key activities
  • Its personnel appear to lack skills necessary for their roles
  • Time commitments of key personnel are insufficient
  • It fails to convey organizational capacity and accomplishments
  • It fails to base its strategies on proven approaches
  • It offers no plan to monitor progress or to adjust strategies
  • Its research rationale or literature review is out of date
  • Its evaluation design fails to measure attainment of objectives
  • Its identified evaluation instruments are inappropriate
  • Its budget is unreasonable (too high)
  • Its budget is inadequate (too low)
  • Its budget is not justified or explained
  • Its budget includes explicitly disallowed cost items
  • Its budget does not reflect the funder’s priorities

 

The next post in this series will explore the development and delivery of an applicant’s grant proposal as potential reasons for its funding outcome.

 

This post is one of a series that explores reasons why grant proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons that relate to an applicant’s state of readiness to apply for a competitively awarded grant – or to manage one if it were awarded. These reasons are among those at least partially amenable to a grant seeker’s control or influence.

Other posts in the series explore reasons for a proposal’s success or failure that will fall along a continuum that is less and more within a grant seeker’s control or influence:

  • Choice of opportunities
  • Applicant attributes
  • Context and competition
  • Proposal content
  • Proposal development and delivery

 

A grant proposal succeeds or fails for any combination of reasons. Some reasons reflect aspects of the applicant’s leadership. Other reasons reflect aspects of the applicant’s resources. Still other reasons reflect aspects of the applicant’s procedures.

 

Leadership

A proposal may not win a grant if an applicant’s leadership:

  • Lacks firm commitment to pursuing a particular grant opportunity
  • Wavers, procrastinates, equivocates, or acts indecisively before a grant deadline
  • Decides to apply for a grant too close to its application deadline
  • Lacks a pre-existing proposal submission approval process
  • Demands too much lead time or requires too many steps to approve submitting a proposal
  • Decides not to submit a proposal–or decides to submit one–but does so only at the eleventh hour

 

Resources

A proposal may fail for reasons related to an applicant’s access to resources if:

  • Available data do not substantiate need
  • Appropriately qualified key personnel cannot be identified or described
  • Appropriate partnering agencies are unavailable for a required partnership
  • One or more required partners withdraw from a proposal near its deadline
  • Partnering agencies cannot agree to terms on a memorandum of understanding
  • Qualifications of available and identified personnel are inadequate
  • Applicant is unable to adopt a required evaluation design (e.g., an experimental design)
  • Assets are insufficient to commit any to matching funds or to provide cost sharing

 

Procedures

A proposal may fail for reasons reflecting procedural readiness if the applicant:

  • Has fiscal management practices and products that are not audit-ready
  • Lacks formal human subjects research policies and procedures
  • Lacks formal confidentiality and privacy policies and procedures
  • Fails to submit a required letter of intent or a required pre-proposal
  • Fails to submit a memorandum of understanding endorsed by all partners
  • Does not secure authorized signatures are unavailable before a proposal submission deadline

 

The next post in this series will explore the contents of an applicant’s grant proposal as potential reasons for its funding outcome.

One of the best ways to learn about writing competitive grant proposals is to participate in technical reviews for Federal grant-making agencies.

 

This post explores opportunities — as of October 2012 — to serve as an expert reviewer for Federal grant-making agencies. An earlier post explored serving as a grant reviewer (also called a peer reviewer or an expert panelist) in terms of required qualifications, logistics, and compensation, as well as the potential benefits of reviewing to the reviewer.

 

Review Opportunities:

Procedures for applying to become a reviewer differ among the agencies. Every grant-making agency requires the reviewer to have specialized subject area expertise pertinent to the specific grant program to be reviewed. Other reviewer qualifications commonly relate to citizenship, geography, gender, race/ethnicity, and similar demographic factors, as well as access to certain technologies, willingness to travel (if required), and availability throughout the review process.

 

All opportunities listed here are for Federal grant-making agencies in the United States of America. The list is intended to be illustrative, rather than exhaustive.

 

US Department of Agriculture (USDA):

 

US Department of Education (USDE):

 

US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS):

 

US Department of Justice (DOJ):

 

US Department of Labor (USDOL):

 

Other US Federal Agencies:

One of the best ways (in the United States of America) to learn about writing competitive grant proposals is to participate in technical reviews for Federal grant-making agencies. Federal agencies select and invite grant reviewers for specific grant programs, based upon the reviewers’ knowledge, education and experience. They select members of grant review panels to reflect diversity of race/ethnicity, gender, experience, expertise, and geography.

 

This post explores serving as a grant reviewer (also called peer reviewers or expert panelists) in terms of qualifications, logistics, compensation, and the potential benefits of reviewing to the reviewer. A later post will explore current opportunities – as of October 2012 – to review Federal grant programs.

 

Qualifications:

Reviewers use their expertise to evaluate applications objectively and score them against published evaluation criteria. Prospective reviewers must be willing and able: to provide written and oral evaluative comments based on professional knowledge measured against such criteria – not personal opinion; to listen attentively to the input of other panelists; to engage in discussions of their ratings and the rationales for them; to negotiate and bridge differences; and to work with other panelists to synthesize evaluative comments. Prospective reviewers also must be able to exercise their highest level of personal and ethical standards to review proprietary information; to respect and maintain confidentiality and impartiality; and to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest. Expertise in the subject area to be reviewed is indispensable.

 

Logistics:

Grant reviews for Federal grant programs commonly last from 3 to 5 days, but may also require further time commitments beyond the actual review period. On-site reviews often take place in hotels or other facilities the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As alternatives, some grant reviews may occur through off-site teleconferences, or they may occur through off-site field reader reviews (where reviewers independently review proposals from wherever they are based, do not need to travel, and do not discuss the proposals as a group).

 

Compensation:

When on-site review and/or on-site training of reviewers are parts of the process, the Federal grant-making agencies will make all of the logistical arrangements for their grant reviewers. They will pay for travel expenses (e.g., airfare, ground transportation), and other allowable costs. At the conclusion of the review process, each reviewer may receive an honorarium, which may be based either on a per day rate or a per proposal rate.

 

Benefits:

Grant reviewers gain many skills and accrue other benefits through their experiences on review panels. Among such benefits are:

  • Acquiring first-hand knowledge of the grant-making and peer review process
  • Learning about common problems with proposals
  • Discovering strategies to write strong proposals
  • Networking with professional colleagues
  • Meeting program officers who manage programs related to the reviewers’ interests
  • Exercising professional judgment and expertise

 

A later post will explore current opportunities to review proposals for Federal grant-making agencies.

 

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