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Grants 101

Write the Proposal

You must be fully prepared to meet all requirements of a grant award. Grant award requirements are set by the funding agency and are neither negotiable nor optional. Before putting time, effort, and money into preparing an application, be sure that you can fulfill the requirements.

Read Through the Solicitation, Again
Begin by reading through the entire solicitation. Make note of its overarching theme, its specific requirements, costs that may be prohibited, the performance data that you will need to report, and all tasks that will be required if an award is made.

Create a Program Narrative Checklist
Creating a checklist for each of the various parts of the application might prove invaluable when writing and reviewing the draft proposal. Such a checklist helps to ensure that you include the information requested.

You can create the checklist from the solicitation by simply listing the information that is requested for each part of the application. A checklist also could be in the form of questions that you answer during the final read-through of the application. Feel free to use the sample application checklist and the sample program narrative checklist in the Sample Materials section.

Prepare Your Grant Proposal
The program narrative and supporting documentation (e.g., budget and budget narrative, timeline, performance measures, rèsumès, letters of support, and memoranda of understanding) of the proposal package are critical in demonstrating your understanding of the solicitation and in presenting a corresponding need and strategy.

If you follow the tips below, your proposal package has a better chance of making its way through the application review process.

Quick Grant Writing Tips

Quick Tip: Set up your sections, and your files, in a logical manner.

  • Each solicitation contains specific selection criteria. For clarity, use the outlined criteria in your program narrative.
  • Use appropriately descriptive file names (e.g., "Program Narrative," "Budget and Budget Narrative," "Timelines," "Memoranda of Understanding," "Rèsumès") for all required attachments.
  • Limit the number of attachments. For example, if rèsumès are required, include them in a single file.
  • Save and submit files in .doc and .xls or .pdf formats.

Quick Tip: Check your application against the solicitation’s requirements.

  • If the solicitation includes multiple categories for which applicants can apply, make sure you submit your application under the appropriate category. As stated in each solicitation, all applications will be reviewed by the criteria required for the specific category.
  • Make sure that your grant proposal includes all requested documentation. All solicitations contain a core set of required documents, but they also may request additional documentation such as a map of the program area. Look in the Other Attachments section to be sure you have included all the documents required for the solicitation.

Quick Tip: Be sure that all items in your budget are allowable and reasonable and that all your calculations are provided and are correct.

The budget should consist of two components: a budget detail worksheet and a budget narrative. Items to be billed to the grant and the methods used to determine those costs are listed in the budget detail worksheet, while brief descriptions supporting those costs are considered in the budget narrative. Like the program abstract and narrative, the solicitation will identify items that your proposal must include, if any. For example, you may be asked to set aside funding for travel to OJP-sponsored conferences or trainings related to the grant. Those costs must then be included in the budget submitted with the application. Each budget detail worksheet and budget narrative should include the following eight categories: Personnel, Fringe Benefits, Travel, Equipment, Supplies, Construction (typically not an allowable cost), Consultants/Contracts, Other Costs, and Indirect Costs.

Quick Tip: Make sure that the budget narrative is clear and understandable.

  • Tie the budget to the project strategy and design.
  • Justify the need for each expenditure, itemize, and provide detail.

    Example: If travel is in your budget, discuss travel in your project description.
  • Indicate consultant rates—be very clear.
  • Outline travel plans—itemize carefully.
  • List equipment—develop a clear relationship between equipment and the project objectives.
  • Clearly identify which budget items are matching funds, if matching funds are required.

Quick Tip: The budget may be submitted in a different format, such as MS Excel, as long as the eight standard budget categories are listed.

Depending on the grant program, additional documents may be required. Those might include a project timeline outlining grant-funded activities and expected completion dates, position descriptions of grant-funded staff, or signed certification forms.

For assistance with application requirements, contact the OJP staff person identified on the first page of the solicitation.

Quick Tip: Carefully fill out the Application for Federal Assistance Form (SF 425).

  • Make sure that all names, addresses, and other contact information are accurate and complete. This data is used for all grant-related correspondence.
  • Field 15/Descriptive Title of Applicant’s Project: This field should include the name of your proposal or program only.
  • Field 17/Proposed Project Start and End Dates: If applicable, these dates should correspond to the timeline dates included in the proposal narrative.
  • Field 18a/Estimated Funding, Federal: The amount in this field should reflect the federal funds you are seeking and should not exceed the ceiling amount cited in the solicitation. Further, the value in this field should correspond to the value entered in the Federal Amount field in the budget detail worksheet, as well as in the abstract (if applicable).

Quick Tip: Before submitting the application, ask a colleague to review it for accuracy, tone, and clarity, and check spelling and grammar. Remember to—

  • Keep sentences short.
  • Use simple versus complex sentences.
  • Use familiar words.
  • Tie into the purpose, goals, and objectives of the solicitation.
  • Do not merely reproduce or paraphrase the language of the solicitation. Write to express, not impress.

Quick Tip: Avoid common application mistakes.

  • Sloppy writing—ask a strong writer to critique your application.
  • Not following directions—ignoring basic minimum requirements, listing inappropriate budget expenditures.
  • Failing to attach required documents—missing elements of the narrative, documents that are not signed or dated.
  • Poor planning—not allowing sufficient time to deal with problems you may encounter with the online application system such as unfamiliar system requirements, problems with collaboration, missing information from partners.
  • Budget Deficiencies—padding the budget, excessive equipment, unjustified travel, high consultant costs, supplanting.
  • Referring to the wrong solicitation—make sure that the proper solicitation and funding agency is noted. (Some applicants apply for funding from multiple agencies and may use variations of the same text.)

Quick Tip: Include full citations for factual sources.

Date Created: January 21, 2020