Last week, we started a short series on federal grant opportunities with an article on determining whether or not a particular funding opportunity is a good fit for your organization. Once you determine that a funding opportunity is a good fit, the next step is to really understand the RFP. This will ensure that your proposal is responsive to the RFP and that its chances of being funded are higher.
Note that while some agency website will have links to funding opportunities posted, you will also want to look at the Federal Register where the notice is “officially” published. This can most easily be found through grants.gov. And, one of the benefits of accessing the notice through grants.gov is that when you are downloading it, you are able to include your email address so that you receive updates and modifications to the notice.
Step 1: Read the entire notice
Many federal notices can be 50 or 100 pages and it can be tempting to only read a portion of the notice. However, doing so can negatively impact the organization’s ability to get funds it needs to provide services and programs to the community. For instance, the notice always includes information about who is eligible to apply; typically, it will say nonprofits, institutions of higher education, local government agencies, etc. But, if you only read the eligibility statement, then you might miss a statement buried in the pages of the RFP that says that only nonprofits who have been in existence for XXX number of years are eligible to apply or only nonprofits that have formed partnership consortiums are eligible to apply. So, read the entire notice.
Step 2: Pay close attention to the definitions listed in the RFP
Each notice in the Federal Register provides definitions for terms that may not be familiar you as they are being used in the notice. It is important to read through these definitions even when you think you know what the terms mean. I am currently working on a federal proposal that provides a definition for a term that is different than it is commonly defined by nonprofits. For the purposes of this proposal and the entire project, we will need to use the term as it is defined in the Federal Register. Again, read the entire notice.
Step 3: Take note of any application resources
More and more federal opportunities are providing potential applicants with resources to help them be successful in their application. These resources often include websites, webinars and conference calls. Take advantage of each of these opportunities. Plan to spend the time to participate in a webinar. Often, you will learn more about the true intent of the RFP and the overarching goal of the funding opportunity. This information can help you craft a proposal that is stronger and of greater interest to the funding source.
Step 4: Does the solicitation have any Absolute Priorities?
An absolute priority is a must….no ifs ands or buts. If your organization does not meet the absolute priority as it is stated, your organization is not eligible for the funding opportunity. And, in your grant narrative, you will want to explain how your organization meets the priority.
Step 5: Are there any Competitive Priorities?
Competitive priorities are opportunities for your organization to earn bonus points when you meet the priority as stated in the funding notice. Take the time to read through them to see if any of them apply to your organization or those you serve. If so, you will want to take advantage of the extra points that you can receive. But, note that you must document in the grant proposal which competitive priorities you align with; without explicitly stating so, the funding agency generally does not award the extra points. And, in a highly competitive grant environment, an extra two or three points can be the difference between getting funded or not getting funded.
Next week our focus will be on the various sections of the RFP and how to ensure that you are providing the information that the funders are looking for. In the meantime, happy reading!