Stronger Grant Proposal Submissions

By Jennifer “Jenny” Hindman, Ph.D.

Fast, powerful, and focused effort commences with the grant solicitation release. Involving an external evaluator as a grant-writing partner often increases the proposal’s robustness and therefore, the likelihood of being funded. Two primary ways of doing this are:

  • Asking the evaluator to write the proposal’s evaluation section. This is usually done at no cost with the expectation that if the proposal is funded the evaluator will provide the external evaluation services. A project narrative’s evaluation section typically is worth 10-15 points of the available 100 points assigned by proposal reviewers. In some cases, funders know the evaluator’s expertise, so a proposal receives a boost from having the professional involved.

  • Contracting with the evaluator for grant writing services. This is a paid service that facilitates the organization submitting the grant to have a partner in the process, dividing the work, and refining the project. For example, the evaluator may draft sections beyond the evaluation section such as the research component and the logic model while the organization focuses on the activities and the budget. When the proposal is funded, the evaluator anticipates receiving the evaluation services contract.

Six tips for grant writing with an evaluator.

  1. Inquire about the evaluator’s availability to write as soon as you decide to write the grant and be specific about what is needed (e.g., evaluation section, grant writing). Send a copy of the grant solicitation (or link).

  2. The evaluation section is drafted after goals and key activities are defined, so estimate a date that these items will be available and allow some time for the evaluator to write the section.

  3. If contracting for grant writing services, a discussion is needed and a mutually acceptable writing plan is created for several weeks.

  4. Share early what the project intends to do. Use a shared folder to maintain proposal drafts. Early in the process, the working drafts of the project abstract and goals provide the evaluator a proposal overview. In particular, the evaluator will be considering what measures can be used to measure and document the grant activities.

  5. Trust that the proposal’s fidelity is the primary focus. Ambiguity, constructive criticism, refinements, feedback, vulnerability, questioning, frustration, glee, weariness, relief, and many other words come into the proposal development process. Two-way communication, patience, willingness to challenge and constructively respond, and affirmation are means to effectively navigate the grant writing process.

  6. Schedule time to discuss the grant proposal with the evaluator. The clarification questions that the evaluator asks can help the grant writing team refine the proposal. The evaluator likely works with other organizations (e.g., universities, organizations, schools) and often can provide insight into what different funders expect to see in an evaluation. When grant writing duties are shared, these phone/virtual discussions are frequent and emails from each other are prioritized.

  7. Provide the evaluator a final copy of the proposal that was submitted.

  8. Follow-up with the evaluator and share any reviewer feedback. This is a no-brainer when the grant is awarded as the evaluator’s services will be needed. Letting the evaluator know if the proposal was not funded offers closure.