Request for Proposal: How to Read Between the Lines

Request for Proposal: How to Read Between the Lines

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is typically a dry piece of writing, filled with technical jargon, an endless list of requirements and sometimes contradictory information. Your ability to tease out critical details can determine the outcome of your grant writing efforts. Consider these key areas:

  • Funding opportunity description. Most solicitations provide background information that explains why the funding opportunity is being offered. It may focus on a priority of the funder, address a current issue or problem, or seek evidence-based solutions.

Why this information is important: The funding description helps you quickly decide if the grant opportunity is a good match for your nonprofit. In particular, consider if the funding request fits your mission, focuses on your target population and includes an approach that your organization can support. Pay close attention to issues that warrant further investigation and buzz words that should be included in your proposal.

  • Award information. Look for how much funding is being distributed overall, how many grants will be offered and the funding range for individual grants. Be aware of the service period of the grant and how soon your organization must begin implementation if your application is successful.

Why this information is important: Funding information provides you with insight as to how competitive a grant is and the ability of your organization to deliver programming at the desired financial level. If a grant is highly competitive, you need to weigh the investment your organization will need to make to develop the proposal versus your chances of success.

  • Eligibility information. Most applications are very clear regarding eligibility. If collaboration is a large part of the desired proposal, consider who your partners will be and how strong those relationships are.

Why this information is important: If your organization is not eligible to apply for a grant, it is a waste of time to forge ahead in the hope that the requirements will be overlooked. If an established partnership is required, your organization will start out at a disadvantage if you begin pulling that group together mere weeks before the application is due.

  • Application submission information. Pay close attention to deadlines and directions for submitting the proposal. If you decide to submit a grant application, give yourself plenty of time to write, edit and submit your proposal, whether electronically or in paper form. Understand the required format, including the length of the narrative, whether pages should be double spaced or single spaced, and if there is a preferred typeface.

Why this information is important: In many cases, application formats and deadlines are nonnegotiable. If you do not submit your application in the desired format by the required deadline, you have wasted your time and resources. As you consider whether or not to apply for funding, determine if you have enough time to prepare a solid proposal.

  • Evaluation criteria. Before you begin writing your application, understand how it will be evaluated. For maximum points, answer each section, including multiple questions within each section. Include all required attachments.

Why this information is important: Evaluation criteria indicates what information is most important to the funder. If this evaluation criteria is weighted, use it to determine how much detail you should provide for each question. For example, if the need section is worth 10 out of 100 points, and the goals and objectives section is worth 25 points, plan to provide more detail for the latter section.

  • Award information. Look for information regarding when awards will be announced, how award agreements will be finalized and how soon all award funding must be spent.

Why this information is important: Award information helps you understand how to manage and administer grant funds appropriately while fostering a positive relationship with the funder. Award information helps you understand your organization’s obligations when funding is accepted.

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