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Steps for Preparing a Competitive Proposal

Start early.

Contact the Grants Office, begin collaboration with colleagues and community partners, outline ideas and budget needs, register with the funder if necessary, and request supporting materials and letters as soon as you can. Develop a timeline so that you have allowed enough time to develop a strong proposal.

Read guidelines thoroughly.

The most common reason grant applications are rejected is that the guidelines were not followed.  Each question must be answered completely.

Follow instructions.

This includes using the headings listed, following the funder's outline (even if it's repetitive), adhering to page limitations or margin and font sizes, including appropriate attachments and letters of commitment, and submitting the package by the deadline.

Ask questions.

 Charlene Alspach, Assistant Director for Pre Award Administration, is available to help you understand guidelines and instructions, and most agencies employ program officers to guide prospective applicants.

Develop a good project.

Awarding agencies and foundations fund innovative, cutting edge projects or research-NOT ideas.  They fund well thought out projects. Fundable proposals must contain substance and a suffieient level of detail.

Write a clear and concise proposal.

The proposal should explain what you will do, why it's important, and why you're the best one to do it.  It should have clear, specific, and measurable goals and objectives. Your evaluation plan should align with these.  Remember, while most grants require this information,  please follow  the specific guidelines exactly.

Find reviewers to read drafts.

Ask for feedback from the Grants Office, from colleagues with expertise in your field, and from colleagues unfamiliar with your work.


Realize that reviewers may not be experts in your field, so you cannot assume they will understand jargon, highly technical language, or unsupported references to other work.

Don't panic.

Remember, the  Grants Office staff is here to assist!

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