Thursday, September 23, 2010

What is a Grant Competition?

Grant writing is exciting because it's a competition, for money, so there's a lot at stake. The competition isn't so much against other grant writers as it is against the RFA criteria.  It's like the grant maker is throwing you a pitch and your job is to hit it out of the park!

The competition is what makes grant writing exciting for me, the winning and losing is what raises the adrenaline level of every grant writer. Grant Writer reputations are made and lost in grant competitions and people who don't understand what a grant competition is all about can be misled into thinking that a writer is less than competent if there grant is unfunded. Not that success is not important, because it is, but if the observer (a client perhaps) does not understand how a grant competition is operated and what goes into winning a grant award, then mis-assumptions are bound to be made.

Here's a list of key concepts at play in the grant competition that many people outside the process did not understand.

a. Grant applications are scored by readers who may, or may not, have expertise in the grant area.

b. Readers generally work in triads and it only takes one reader in the group who dislikes a particular proposal to sink its chances of receiving funding.

c. While most grant competitions allow applicants to protest the results, these protests are rarely successful because you are challenging the legitimacy of the process of scoring and those who will decide on the validity of the protest are the same people who designed and implemented the scoring process.

d. There are sometimes unstated priorities for funding that are not written in the RFP. These unstated priorities are generally unknown to novice applicants, non-grant writers, and program administrators of agencies. This is why it's important when hiring a grant writer to determine their level of experience with a particular grant, agency, and topic.

e. Often grants are scored on a 100 point scale and there are often priority points given that favor agencies with particular characteristics. In today's hyper-competitive grant environment, it is important to score as close to 100% as possible in order to ensure a possibility of receiving the funding.

f. Your legislator is unlikely to be of any assistance or value in helping you get a competitive grant approved. I am frequently asked by clients if their relationship with a legislator will be of any value and unfortunately it is not. Legislators can be helpful in contacting the agency to gain notice of successful funding or to request information about a protest. Aside from these limited areas, legislator intervention in the scoring process is not welcomed nor viewed positively by agency staff.

Grant competitions are exciting and a lot is at stake. Submission of grant proposals is a lot of work on the part of a lot of people in when you have that level of commitment you have a concomitant level of concern about the outcome. Winning a grant competition is a little like the clock striking 12 on New Year's Eve in I've done my share of victory dances down the aisle of my agency when we've successfully secured a large grant award.

It is important for grant writers, especially freelance grant writers, to help clients understand what the grant competition entails so that expectations are realistic and so that there is a shared understanding of the process and the pitfalls inherent in. After all, it is a human process and prone to human error.

By Derek Link
Related Posts:
Grant Writing Rejection
Federal Grant Selection Processes: Random or Fair?
Focus on Your Mission for Grant Writing Success

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
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.