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nor is it implied.
GSA Document has been reformated for
NMFS Office of Industry and Trade Web site and is provided "as is" for
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about the content of this document should be directed to:
Domestic Assistance Catalog Staff at GSA.
Services Administration Office of Governmentwide Policy
(M) Office of Acquisition Policy (MV) Governmentwide
Information Systems Division (MVS)
And Writing Grant Proposals
PART ONE: DEVELOPING A GRANT PROPOSAL
A successful grant proposal is one that is
well-prepared, thoughtfully planned, and concisely packaged. The potential
applicant should become familiar with all of the pertinent program criteria
related to the Catalog program from which assistance is sought. Refer to
the information contact person listed in the Catalog program description
before developing a proposal to obtain information such as whether funding
is available, when applicable deadlines occur, and the process used by
the grantor agency for accepting applications. Applicants should remember
that the basic requirements, application forms, information and procedures
vary with the Federal agency making the grant award.
Individuals without prior grant proposal
writing experience may find it useful to attend a grantsmanship workshop.
A workshop can amplify the basic information presented here. Applicants
interested in additional readings on grantsmanship and proposal development
should consult the references listed at the end of this section and explore
other library resources.
INITIAL PROPOSAL DEVELOPMENT
Ideas for the Proposal TOP
When developing an idea for a proposal it
is important to determine if the idea has been considered in the applicant's
locality or State. A careful check should be made with legislators and
area government agencies and related public and private agencies which
may currently have grant awards or contracts to do similar work. If a similar
program already exists, the applicant may need to reconsider submitting
the proposed project, particularly if duplication of effort is perceived.
If significant differences or improvements in the proposed project's goals
can be clearly established, it may be worthwhile to pursue Federal assistance.
Community support for most proposals is essential.
Once proposal summary is developed, look for individuals or groups representing
academic, political, professional, and lay organizations which may be willing
to support the proposal in writing. The type and caliber of community support
is critical in the initial and subsequent review phases. Numerous letters
of support can be persuasive to a grantor agency. Do not overlook support
from local government agencies and public officials. Letters of endorsement
detailing exact areas of project sanction and commitment are often requested
as part of a proposal to a Federal agency. Several months may be required
to develop letters of endorsement since something of value (e.g., buildings,
staff, services) is sometimes negotiated between the parties involved.
Many agencies require, in writing, affiliation
agreements (a mutual agreement to share services between agencies) and
building space commitments prior to either grant approval or award. A useful
method of generating community support may be to hold meetings with the
top decision makers in the community who would be concerned with the subject
matter of the proposal. The forum for discussion may include a query into
the merits of the proposal, development of a contract of support for the
proposal, to generate data in support of the proposal, or development of
a strategy to create proposal support from a large number of community
of a Funding Resource TOP
A review of the Objectives and Uses and Use
Restrictions sections of the Catalog program description can point out
which programs might provide funding for an idea. Do not overlook the related
programs as potential resources. Both the applicant and the grantor agency
should have the same interests, intentions, and needs if a proposal is
to be considered an acceptable candidate for funding.
Once a potential grantor agency is identified,
call the contact telephone number identified in Information Contacts and
ask for a grant application kit. Later, get to know some of the grantor
agency personnel. Ask for suggestions, criticisms, and advice about the
proposed project. In many cases, the more agency personnel know about the
proposal, the better the chance of support and of an eventual favorable
decision. Sometimes it is useful to send the proposal summary to a specific
agency official in a separate cover letter, and ask for review and comment
at the earliest possible convenience. Always check with the Federal agency
to determine its preference if this approach is under consideration. If
the review is unfavorable and differences cannot be resolved, ask the examining
agency (official) to suggest another department or agency which may be
interested in the proposal. A personal visit to the agency's regional office
or headquarters is also important. A visit not only establishes face-to-face
contact, but also may bring out some essential details about the proposal
or help secure literature and references from the agency's library.
Federal agencies are required to report
funding information as funds are approved, increased or decreased among
projects within a given State depending on the type of required reporting.
Also, consider reviewing the Federal Budget for the current and budget
fiscal years to determine proposed dollar amounts for particular budget
The applicant should carefully study the
eligibility requirements for each Federal program under consideration (see
the Applicant Eligibility section of the Catalog program description).
The applicant may learn that he or she is required to provide services
otherwise unintended such as a service to particular client groups, or
involvement of specific institutions. It may necessitate the modification
of the original concept in order for the project to be eligible for funding.
Questions about eligibility should be discussed with the appropriate program
Deadlines for submitting applications are
often not negotiable. They are usually associated with strict timetables
for agency review. Some programs have more than one application deadline
during the fiscal year. Applicants should plan proposal development around
the established deadlines.
Organized to Write the Proposal TOP
Throughout the proposal writing stage keep
a notebook handy to write down ideas. Periodically, try to connect ideas
by reviewing the notebook. Never throw away written ideas during the grant
writing stage. Maintain a file labeled "Ideas" or by some other convenient
title and review the ideas from time to time. The file should be easily
accessible. The gathering of documents such as articles of incorporation,
tax exemption certificates, and bylaws should be completed, if possible,
before the writing begins.
At some point, perhaps after the first or
second draft is completed, seek out a neutral third party to review the
proposal working draft for continuity, clarity and reasoning. Ask for constructive
criticism at this point, rather than wait for the Federal grantor agency
to volunteer this information during the review cycle. For example, has
the writer made unsupported assumptions or used jargon or excessive language
in the proposal?
Most proposals are made to institutions rather
than individuals. Often signatures of chief administrative officials are
required. Check to make sure they are included in the proposal where appropriate.
Proposals should be typed, collated, copied,
and packaged correctly and neatly (according to agency instructions, if
any). Each package should be inspected to ensure uniformity from cover
to cover. Binding may require either clamps or hard covers. Check with
the Federal agency to determine its preference. A neat, organized, and
attractive proposal package can leave a positive impression with the reader
about the proposal contents.
A cover letter should always accompany a proposal.
Standard U.S. Postal Service requirements apply unless otherwise indicated
by the Federal agency. Make sure there is enough time for the proposals
to reach their destinations. Otherwise, special arrangements may be necessary.
Always coordinate such arrangements with the Federal grantor agency project
office (the agency which will ultimately have the responsibility for the
project), the grant office (the agency which will coordinate the grant
review), and the contract office (the agency responsible for disbursement
and grant award notices), if necessary.
PART TWO: WRITING THE GRANT PROPOSAL
Components of a Proposal TOP
There are eight basic components to creating
a solid proposal package: (1) the proposal summary; (2) introduction of
organization; (3) the problem statement (or needs assessment); (4) project
objectives; (5) project methods or design; (6) project evaluation; (7)
future funding; and (8) the project budget. The following will provide
an overview of these components.
The Proposal Summary: Outline of Project Goals
The proposal summary outlines the proposed
project and should appear at the beginning of the proposal. It could be
in the form of a cover letter or a separate page, but should definitely
be brief -- no longer than two or three paragraphs. The summary would be
most useful if it were prepared after the proposal has been developed in
order to encompass all the key summary points necessary to communicate
the objectives of the project. It is this document that becomes the cornerstone
of your proposal, and the initial impression it gives will be critical
to the success of your venture. In many cases, the summary will be the
first part of the proposal package seen by agency officials and very possibly
could be the only part of the package that is carefully reviewed before
the decision is made to consider the project any further.
The applicant must select a fundable project
which can be supported in view of the local need. Alternatives, in the
absence of Federal support, should be pointed out. The influence of the
project both during and after the project period should be explained. The
consequences of the project as a result of funding should be highlighted.
Presenting a Credible Applicant or Organization TOP
The applicant should gather data about its
organization from all available sources. Most proposals require a description
of an applicant's organization to describe its past and present operations.
Some features to consider are:
A brief biography of board members and key
The organization's goals, philosophy, track
record with other grantors, and any success stories.
The data should be relevant to the goals of
the Federal grantor agency and should establish the applicant's credibility.
The Problem Statement:
Stating the Purpose at Hand TOP
The problem statement (or needs assessment)
is a key element of a proposal that makes a clear, concise, and well-supported
statement of the problem to be addressed. The best way to collect information
about the problem is to conduct and document both a formal and informal
needs assessment for a program in the target or service area. The information
provided should be both factual and directly related to the problem addressed
by the proposal. Areas to document are:
There is a considerable body of literature
on the exact assessment techniques to be used. Any local, regional, or
State government planning office, or local university offering course work
in planning and evaluation techniques should be able to provide excellent
background references. Types of data that may be collected include: historical,
geographic, quantitative, factual, statistical, and philosophical information,
as well as studies completed by colleges, and literature searches from
public or university libraries. Local colleges or universities which have
a department or section related to the proposal topic may help determine
if there is interest in developing a student or faculty project to conduct
a needs assessment. It may be helpful to include examples of the findings
for highlighting in the proposal.
The purpose for developing the proposal.
The beneficiaries -- who are they and how
will they benefit.
The social and economic costs to be affected.
The nature of the problem (provide as much
hard evidence as possible).
How the applicant organization came to realize
the problem exists, and what is currently being done about the problem.
The remaining alternatives available when
funding has been exhausted. Explain what will happen to the project and
the impending implications.
Most importantly, the specific manner through
which problems might be solved. Review the resources needed, considering
how they will be used and to what end.
Goals and Desired Outcome TOP
Program objectives refer to specific activities
in a proposal. It is necessary to identify all objectives related to the
goals to be reached, and the methods to be employed to achieve the stated
objectives. Consider quantities or things measurable and refer to a problem
statement and the outcome of proposed activities when developing a well-stated
objective. The figures used should be verifiable. Remember, if the proposal
is funded, the stated objectives will probably be used to evaluate program
progress, so be realistic. There is literature available to help identify
and write program objectives.
Program Methods and
Program Design: A Plan of Action TOP
The program design refers to how the project
is expected to work and solve the stated problem. Sketch out the following:
The activities to occur along with the related
resources and staff needed to operate the project (inputs).
A flow chart of the organizational features
of the project. Describe how the parts interrelate, where personnel will
be needed, and what they are expected to do. Identify the kinds of facilities,
transportation, and support services required (throughputs).
Explain what will be achieved through 1 and
2 above (outputs); i.e., plan for measurable results. Project staff may
be required to produce evidence of program performance through an examination
of stated objectives during either a site visit by the Federal grantor
agency and or grant reviews which may involve peer review committees.
It may be useful to devise a diagram of the
program design. For example, draw a three column block. Each column is
headed by one of the parts (inputs, throughputs and outputs), and on the
left (next to the first column) specific program features should be identified
(i.e., implementation, staffing, procurement, and systems development).
In the grid, specify something about the program design, for example, assume
the first column is labeled inputs and the first row is labeled staff.
On the grid one might specify under inputs five nurses to operate a child
care unit. The throughput might be to maintain charts, counsel the children,
and set up a daily routine; outputs might be to discharge 25 healthy children
per week. This type of procedure will help to conceptualize both the scope
and detail of the project.
Wherever possible, justify in the narrative
the course of action taken. The most economical method should be used that
does not compromise or sacrifice project quality. The financial expenses
associated with performance of the project will later become points of
negotiation with the Federal program staff. If everything is not carefully
justified in writing in the proposal, after negotiation with the Federal
grantor agencies, the approved project may resemble less of the original
concept. Carefully consider the pressures of the proposed implementation,
that is, the time and money needed to acquire each part of the plan. A
Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) chart could be useful and
supportive in justifying some proposals.
Highlight the innovative features of the proposal
which could be considered distinct from other proposals under consideration.
Whenever possible, use appendices to provide
details, supplementary data, references, and information requiring in-depth
analysis. These types of data, although supportive of the proposal, if
included in the body of the design, could detract from its readability.
Appendices provide the proposal reader with immediate access to details
if and when clarification of an idea, sequence or conclusion is required.
Time tables, work plans, schedules, activities, methodologies, legal papers,
personal vitae, letters of support, and endorsements are examples of appendices.
and Process Analysis TOP
The evaluation component is two-fold: (1)
product evaluation; and (2) process evaluation. Product evaluation addresses
results that can be attributed to the project, as well as the extent to
which the project has satisfied its desired objectives. Process evaluation
addresses how the project was conducted, in terms of consistency with the
stated plan of action and the effectiveness of the various activities within
Most Federal agencies now require some
form of program evaluation among grantees. The requirements of the proposed
project should be explored carefully. Evaluations may be conducted by an
internal staff member, an evaluation firm or both. The applicant should
state the amount of time needed to evaluate, how the feedback will be distributed
among the proposed staff, and a schedule for review and comment for this
type of communication. Evaluation designs may start at the beginning, middle
or end of a project, but the applicant should specify a start-up time.
It is practical to submit an evaluation design at the start of a project
for two reasons:
Even if the evaluation design has to be revised
as the project progresses, it is much easier and cheaper to modify a good
design. If the problem is not well defined and carefully analyzed for cause
and effect relationships then a good evaluation design may be difficult
to achieve. Sometimes a pilot study is needed to begin the identification
of facts and relationships. Often a thorough literature search may be sufficient.
Convincing evaluations require the collection
of appropriate data before and during program operations; and,
If the evaluation design cannot be prepared
at the outset then a critical review of the program design may be advisable.
Evaluation requires both coordination and
agreement among program decision makers (if known). Above all, the Federal
grantor agency's requirements should be highlighted in the evaluation design.
Also, Federal grantor agencies may require specific evaluation techniques
such as designated data formats (an existing information collection system)
or they may offer financial inducements for voluntary participation in
a national evaluation study. The applicant should ask specifically about
these points. Also, consult the Criteria For Selecting Proposals section
of the Catalog program description to determine the exact evaluation methods
to be required for the program if funded.
Future Funding: Long-Term
Project Planning TOP
Describe a plan for continuation beyond the
grant period, and/or the availability of other resources necessary to implement
the grant. Discuss maintenance and future program funding if program is
for construction activity. Account for other needed expenditures if program
includes purchase of equipment.
Budget: Planning the Budget TOP
Funding levels in Federal assistance programs
change yearly. It is useful to review the appropriations over the past
several years to try to project future funding levels (see Financial Information
section of the Catalog program description).
However, it is safer to never anticipate
that the income from the grant will be the sole support for the project.
This consideration should be given to the overall budget requirements,
and in particular, to budget line items most subject to inflationary pressures.
Restraint is important in determining inflationary cost projections (avoid
padding budget line items), but attempt to anticipate possible future increases.
Some vulnerable budget areas are: utilities,
rental of buildings and equipment, salary increases, food, telephones,
insurance, and transportation. Budget adjustments are sometimes made after
the grant award, but this can be a lengthy process. Be certain that implementation,
continuation and phase-down costs can be met. Consider costs associated
with leases, evaluation systems, hard/soft match requirements, audits,
development, implementation and maintenance of information and accounting
systems, and other long-term financial commitments.
A well-prepared budget justifies all expenses
and is consistent with the proposal narrative. Some areas in need of an
evaluation for consistency are: (1) the salaries in the proposal in relation
to those of the applicant organization should be similar; (2) if new staff
persons are being hired, additional space and equipment should be considered,
as necessary; (3) if the budget calls for an equipment purchase, it should
be the type allowed by the grantor agency; (4) if additional space is rented,
the increase in insurance should be supported; (5) if an indirect cost
rate applies to the proposal, the division between direct and indirect
costs should not be in conflict, and the aggregate budget totals should
refer directly to the approved formula; and (6) if matching costs are required,
the contributions to the matching fund should be taken out of the budget
unless otherwise specified in the application instructions.
It is very important to become familiar
with Government-wide circular requirements. The Catalog identifies in the
program description section (as information is provided from the agencies)
the particular circulars applicable to a Federal program, and summarizes
coordination of Executive Order 12372, "Intergovernmental Review of Programs"
requirements in Appendix I. The applicant should thoroughly review the
appropriate circulars since they are essential in determining items such
as cost principles and conforming with Government guidelines for Federal
GUIDELINES AND LITERATURE
United States Government Manual
The government documents identified above
as available from the GPO can be requested (supply the necessary identifying
information) by writing to:
Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, DC 20402
Circular Nos. A-87, A-102, A-110, and A-133, and Executive Order 12372:
Office of Administration
Room 2200, 725 Seventeenth Street, NW.
Washington, DC 20503
Superintendent of Documents
Regional libraries can arrange for copies
of Government documents through an interlibrary loan. All Federal Depository
Libraries will receive copies of the Catalog directly. A list of depository
and regional libraries is available by writing: Chief, Library Division,
Superintendent of Documents, Stop SLL, Washington, DC 20402.
Government Printing Office
Washington, DC 20402
General Services Administration
Office of Governmentwide
Office of Acquisition
Systems Division (MVS)
Federal Domestic Assistance