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How to Develop a Guidance Document (outline) to Set the Stage for a Successful Grant

A successful grant writer establishes oneself through the rigors of trial and error.  In order to sharpen one's skills as a grant writer, it becomes essential to focus your attention to detail and learn to read the words (criteria in this case) in between the lines.  Anyone can write a grant, but not everyone is awarded the grant.  In order to raise the stakes and improve your chances of getting funded, it is important that you learn to dissect the Request for Funding (RFP) and understand the priorities of the agency you are requesting funds from. This skill that is developed over time can be tricky to the amateur learning the ropes of grant writing.

Whether you are seeking a small or large amount of grant funding, the requirements and guidelines for a successful grant award remain the same.  Learn to align your responses to each prompt with the scoring criteria listed in the grant guidelines.  One way to further expand upon your proposal narrative is to develop an outline or guidance document that responds to each of the questions in an RFP with scoring criteria section headers. The headers in your narrative must be listed in the same order that the scoring criteria is enumerated.  For example, if the funder tells you that for a value of 25 points, you must explain the qualifications, roles and management skills of your key players in section 4, then you must create a header for your outline or guidance document and then type your response after each header titled.

This helps you to read the prompt and then respond accordingly in your narrative to the scoring criteria as each area is listed. I learned the basis for responding to the scoring criteria early in my career, but only recently learned to add the prompt and the scoring criteria guidelines in the same section of the narrative from my current Grant Development Director.  Once we develop a Prospectus for the lengthy RFP, we develop a guidance document that is oftentimes given to the department we are working with as a guide to help them develop the sections of the narrative for the grant. This guide can be tweaked depending on the needs of each funder. The guidance document is easier to manage (using dual computer monitors) if you display the scoring criteria from the RFP alongside the guidance document.  I have included a sample below for easy reference.
Scoring Criteria Guidance Document - SAMPLE ONLY
The evaluation criteria is based on the information required in the application as described in Sections IV.B.2. Project Budget and IV.B.3. Project Narrative. Reviewers will award points based on the evaluation criteria described below.
Project Narrative has several “section headers” (i.e., IV.B.3.a. (1) Statement of Need). Each of these “section headers” of the Project Narrative includes one or more “criterion,” and each “criterion” includes one or more “rating factors,” which provide detailed specifications for the content and quality of the response to that criterion. Each of the rating factors has specific point values assigned. Scoring under this criterion will be based on the extent to which discussion of the following factors is clear, logical, and an accurate interpretation of labor market data. All data sources must include citations to provide information that enables identification and verification.

Statement of need (12 points)
Clear identification and complete explanation of the H-1B industry(ies) and/or occupation(s) targeted by the proposed project. Applicants must select one of two options provided in Section I.C. Target Industries, and provide a clear explanation that these are middle-to high-skilled occupations.
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1. Expected Outcomes and Outputs (38 points)
Applicants must clearly identify outcomes and outputs that the project will achieve as a direct result of the proposed project. Outcomes are measurable characteristics that directly result from the implementation of specific project design activities.
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The guidance document outlined here helps keep the grant writing team focused on meeting all the requirements laid out in the RFP.

What tools do you use to keep your team focused?

Ms. Gonzales actively works as a Grant Writer for a community college in South Texas and has assisted in obtaining over 2 million dollars in state and federal funding throughout her career.  She also helps teach a Grant Proposal Development workshop to college faculty and serves as a Peer Reviewer for several agencies. Ms. Gonzales is also an active board member for the LRGVDC, Solid Waste Advisory Council and previously worked as an Environmental Education Coordinator for over 15 years supporting environmental sustainability and education programs, grant funding program support.  She is also an active Yogi and health and wellness activist. Ms. Gonzales has over 20 plus years of experience writing freelance articles and related journals.

GPC Competency #3: Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development (07. Identify existing community resources that aid in developing programs and projects)