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Building Your Grant Dream Team: The Only 6 People Who Should Review Your Proposals

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

Seasoned grant writers know the importance of having other sets of eyes on their work to catch inaccuracies, oversights, and occasional typos. However, “too many cooks can spoil the broth,” so it’s wise to be selective about who you choose to request feedback from. Your grant reviewers should be limited to people whose input can add value in the eyes of a grant funder. While I often don’t have all 6 of these roles review every proposal, I try to keep my review teams comprised of only the following members:

1. The CEO

It’s important that the Executive Director or CEO be kept in the loop on the details of your requests, especially because funders are prone to calling them directly if they have follow-up questions. Specific questions to discuss with your CEO can include:

· “Which of your programs best align with the priorities of this funder?”

· “Does my narrative align with your vision for this program?”

2. The Finance Director

Finance directors often support grant writers by furnishing budgets for their grant requests. Once the narrative and budget are drafted, it’s a good idea to have the Finance Director review the proposal in its entirety to make sure that their budget corroborates with your narrative. Specific questions to ask your Finance Director include:

· “What line items should we designate this funding toward?”

· “Does the budget justify a request of this size?”

3. The Program Manager

Grant writers often work separately from programming staff, which can create damaging gaps in communication. If the grant writer provides inaccurate projections of activities or outcomes in their proposals, they can appear to be dishonest and ruin their chances of future funding. Having a program manager review drafts can ensure that any misconceptions are corrected before applications are submitted. Specific questions for program managers include:

· “Is the way I described your operation still accurate?”

· “Have your program goals changed since we last discussed them?”

· “What obstacles have you faced so far this year?”

· “What recent success stories can you share?”

4. The Fundraising Director

Your Fundraising Director should be kept in the loop on all of your requests. They are responsible for the organization’s entire fundraising strategy, which grants are an important piece of. Keeping them attuned to the sizes and details of your requests will help guide and calibrate their year-round view of the grant stream’s growth and impact. Questions to discuss with your Fundraising Director might include:

· “What amount should we request from this funder this year?”

· “Is there a way we can justify a higher request to get closer to our annual fundraising goal?”

5. “Joe Shmo”

As grant writers, we often take for granted what people outside of our organization don’t know about our programs. if you’re applying to a new funder or writing about a program that you haven’t described before, it’s wise to have your narrative read by someone who has no familiarity with your organization. Remember the disclaimer that you aren’t looking for Joe Shmo's feedback on your request's angle or writing style, but rather to assess whether your program’s description makes sense to an outsider. Potential questions to ask an external reviewer might include:

· “After reading my proposal, what questions do you have about our program?”

· “Did anything you read not make sense?”

6. The Collaborators

If your organization is seeking a grant in partnership with another agency, it’s critical to allow them to review your proposal to ensure that they are on the same page with your description of their roles and tasks. Some questions for partnering agencies might include:

· “Can you confirm whether you agree with our description of your organization’s role?”

· “Can you familiarize yourself with our proposal so that if the funder reaches out to you, you are prepared to discuss it?”

Like in any career, grant writers can achieve greater success when they leverage the strengths of others, and your grant revenue can certainly increase if you build a solid review team to strengthen your work.

Join me next month for “Mythbuster’s Grant Edition” where we will unravel common myths about grants that may be losing you money!

About Heather Macaulay:

First and foremost I am a proud wife and mom of 3 growing souls who I have miraculously kept alive despite killing every plant I’ve ever owned. I was born and raised in Orange County, California, and while I will always be a California girl at heart, North Carolina is where the Macaulay family has called home since 2015. I cannot say enough about what this wonderful community has offered us. I have been writing grants and copy since 2010 and have had projects funded by a variety of funders from family foundations to major corporations, Ivy League universities, and international rock stars. My passions include cooking, travel, and studying history, languages, psychology, and philosophy. I also have an unhealthy addiction to true crime shows and Nutella.

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