Monday, March 22, 2010

A Fool and His Grant Are Soon Parted - Follow the Instructions

I am continually surprised by intelligent, educated people who think they know better than the funding source. In a recent grant competition, folks from an organization approached me and asked if I would serve as evaluator for a project they are proposing.  They further requested me to write the evaluation section of the grant narrative.  I agreed. It is not uncommon for an evaluator to write the evaluation section.  In fact, if I'm going to be conducting the evaluation, I really prefer to design the evaluation myself.  It's difficult to be stuck with a non-evaluator's often flawed evaluation design after a grant is funded.
So, we got started.  We did some planning.  They wrote most of the narrative.  I wrote the evaluation section.  When they sent me a draft to review, I noticed that they had organized the narrative accoring to the selection criteria, but not in the order directed by the RFP.  I pointed out (politely, of course) that the RFP said specifically, "Address the scoring criteria in your narrative in the following order....."

I didn't like the order in the RFP, either.  The funder clearly had just rearranged the criteria from the previous year to make sure no one just submitted the same proposal, but the rearrangement made little sense. Normally, the order goes something like this:  Needs, Project Design, Management Plan, Evaluation.  If there is a Project Quality section, it goes either before or after Project Design. However, in this RFP, the order went like this: Project Quality, Project Design, Needs, Management Plan, Evaluation. It makes more sense to discuss your needs first, and then move on to how you plan to address those needs, but that's not what was specified in this RFP.

What's the number piece of advice on grant writing I always give?  Follow the directions.

The narrative that was sent to me for review was not compliant with the RFP instructions.  When I mentioned it, I was told that they knew some people in that governmental department who told them that it would be ok to write the narrative in any order that made sense to them.


There's another instruction in the Federal Register - the legal authority for federal grant announcements - that is important.  Announcements in the Federal Register usually say that if you are given any advice that contradicts the instructions given in the Federal Register, the written instructions in the Federal Register should always be followed.

So, no matter how smart you are, or how smart you think you are, follow the instructions.


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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.