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Certain project planning tools should be part of every competitive grant proposal writer’s repertoire. Among such tools are: Red Team reviews, SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis, RASCI charts, Gantt charts, meta-analysis, and logic models. This post discusses Red Team reviews.

 

Definition of Red Team Reviews

 

Red Teams review a proposal before it is submitted, at the time when it is almost entirely developed. Every reviewer on the Red Team ideally adopts the critical/skeptical external viewpoint of the funders’ subsequent reviewers, not merely the internal viewpoint of an organization’s proposal writers and/or its executive leadership. The Red Team rates and comments upon pre-submittal proposals in terms of five attributes: coherence, completeness, consistency, compliance, and correctness.

 

  • Coherence includes aspects such as: clarity of writing, avoidance of technical jargon, and selection of verb tenses and voice
  • Completeness includes aspects such as: responsiveness to all review criteria, and appropriateness of responses to funder’s program priorities
  • Consistency includes aspects such as: uniformity of format, uniformity of terminology, and uniformity of writing style
  • Compliance includes aspects such as: conformity to proposal solicitation, conformity to laws and regulations, and conformity to the sequence of review criteria
  • Correctness includes aspects such as: absence of grammatical errors, absence of quantitative errors, and first-use elaboration of acronyms

 

Steps in a Red Team Review Process

 

Select a review team whose participants will have differing backgrounds and roles in the organization and will bring differing perspectives to the review. On the team, take steps to ensure representation of appropriate technical subject matter expertise (e.g., evaluation, budget, program design, human resources) and internal organizational leadership.

 

Orient the team. Provide all parts of the proposal with its attachments, which are needed to complete the review. Commit at least 2-4 hours to the review process. Adopt the program’s selection criteria rating scale and point allocations as the team’s criteria. Assign ID codes to each reviewer in case post-review questions arise. Collect, compile, and review the team’s ratings and comments. If possible, reconvene the Red Team reviewers for a debriefing.

 

The end products of a Red Team review should include the rating and scoring of a draft proposal against program selection criteria as well as the reviewers’ comments/rationales for their ratings and their ultimate recommendations for funding.

 

If time before a proposal deadline permits, subsequent internal, pre-submittal proposal reviews may focus on the budget (green team), the quality of the finished proposal, (gold team), and a final compliance check (white team).

 

Advantages and Limitations of Red Team Reviews

 

Among the advantages of a Red Team review in writing a grant proposal are:

  1. Finding flaws and strengths in narratives and budgets
  2. Suggesting deletions, explanations, elaborations, and/or additions to a proposal
  3. Finding inadequate references to relevant research literature and/or its findings
  4. Finding calculation errors in narratives and budgets
  5. Identifying missing budget items
  6. Identifying phantom budget items or superfluous or unjustified budget items

 

Among the limitations of a Red Team review in writing a grant proposal are:

  1. Insufficient time may be allocated to doing a thorough review
  2. Key reviewers may be unavailable when they are needed
  3. Key reviewers may not regard the review as a high-priority use of their time
  4. Key reviewers may not commit enough time to the review

 

Subsequent posts will discuss other project development tools such as Gantt charts, RASCI charts, SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis, meta-analysis, and logic models.

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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 the context and circumstances surrounding grant-seeking opportunities at a given point in history. Other posts in the series explore reasons for a proposal’s success or failure that fall along a continuum that is less and more within a grant seeker’s control or influence:

  • Choice of opportunities
  • Applicant attributes
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal content
  • Proposal development and delivery

 

A grant proposal succeeds or fails for any combination of reasons. Some of reasons reflect the context of a specific grant opportunity and the nature and extent of the competition for funding.

 

Context

A grant proposal may fail to win funding due to its context if:

  • Economic conditions have eroded values of assets usable for making grants
  • Government appropriations for a grant program are far less than anticipated
  • A funder suspends, rescinds, or discontinues a grant program before its funding decision deadline
  • A funder has recently dissolved or merged with another entity
  • A funder’s grant-making priorities have changed
  • A funder’s leadership composition or decision-making style has changed
  • Partnering agencies fail to furnish letters or other timely required evidence of partnership
  • Size of the applicant pool favors other more-experienced applicants
  • A funder’s policies or priorities favor other less-experienced applicants
  • A funder desires to fund proposals from certain specific applicants over others
  • A funder desires to fund proposals from certain types of applicants over others

 

Competition

A proposal may fail to win funding due to its competitive situation if:

  • A funder has attracted far more requests than it expected
  • A funder lacks assets to fund all otherwise worthy requests
  • A funder plans to award very few grants in a given program
  • Competitors have shaped the enabling legislation or subsequent regulations
  • Competitors’ grant requests exhaust available funds faster than expected
  • Competitors have presented more compelling ideas or plans of action
  • Competitors plan to invest far more resources in what they propose to do
  • Competitors propose to use a funder’s resources far more efficiently
  • Competitors have cultivated relationships with funder more effectively

 

The next post in this series will explore aspects of an applicant’s readiness for grant seeking as reasons for the funding outcome of a grant proposal.

This post is one of a series that explores reasons why proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons for failure to win funding that relate to an applicant’s attributes. These reasons are among those minimally 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
  • Context and competition
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal content
  • Proposal development and delivery

 

A grant proposal succeeds or fails for any combination of reasons. Some reasons reflect the nature and attributes of the applicant as a competitive grant seeker. Among such attributes are reputation, financial history, and organizational capacity.

 

Reputation

A proposal may fail to win a grant for reasons of an applicant’s reputation as a grant seeker if the applicant:

  • Has no prior relationship with a funder
  • Has had a difficult prior relationship with a funder
  • Has done poorly in reporting results of earlier grants
  • Has performed poorly in achieving results during earlier grants
  • Has a negative reputation among grant makers

 

Financial History

In addition, a proposal may fail to win a grant for historical reasons if the applicant’s:

  • Track record in properly and effectively using funds from earlier grants is poor
  • Programs, policies, and/or personnel have been or are the subjects of controversy or scandal
  • Most recent financial audit reports note significant exceptions
  • Audit exceptions remain uncorrected
  • Financial management capacity is uncertain or inadequate

 

Organizational Capacity

Finally, a proposal may fail to win a grant for reasons of an applicant’s organizational capacity if the applicant’s:

  • Capacity or willingness to evaluate its programs is uncertain
  • Strategies are not clearly innovative or research-based
  • Stakeholders have not clearly bought into its new proposal
  • Plan of action does not clearly advance its mission and/or vision

 

The next post in this series will explore an applicant’s context and competition as reasons for the funding outcome of a grant proposal.

This post is one of a series that explores why proposals fail to win funding. It presents some of the reasons that relate to an applicant’s selection of which grant opportunities to pursue.

 

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

  • Applicant attributes
  • Context and competition
  • Applicant readiness
  • Proposal content
  • Proposal development and delivery

 

A grant proposal succeeds or fails for any combination of reasons. Some reasons for its success or failure reflect its degree of fit with a specific grant opportunity. Other reasons reflect its failure to fit with a specific grant opportunity. In the continuum of reasons why grant proposals do not win funding, both sets of reasons are among those that fall only minimally within a grant seeker’s control or influence.

 

Degree of Fit

A proposal may fail to win a grant for reasons related to the degree of fit between an applicant and its choice of a specific grant opportunity if:

  • The needs it presents match poorly with the type of funding program or the type of grant award being sought
  • Its geographic location does not fit a funder’s priorities
  • The proposed types of services do not fit a funder’s priorities
  • The proposed beneficiaries (target population) do not fit a funder’s priorities
  • Its boilerplate is regarded as unresponsive to a specific funder’s grant-making priorities or review criteria

 

Failure to Fit

A proposal may fail to win funding for reasons related to a poor fit or an absence of fit in the selection of a specific grant opportunity if the applicant:

  • Is not among the types of applicants eligible to apply for funding
  • Requests either too much funding or too little funding
  • Does not provide a required amount of cost sharing
  • Does not commit any of its own financial resources to the total budget
  • Lacks access to necessary subject area expertise to develop a strong and persuasive proposal
  • Fails to respond to a funder’s absolute and/or competitive program priorities
  • Fails to respond to all of the grant program’s selection criteria
  • Does not address adequately the grant program’s priority criteria
  • Tries to recycle too much from its earlier proposals in its new proposal

 

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

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