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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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