Help Reviewers Remember and Love Your Proposal

October 10, 2011 | By Guest Contributor | Post a Comment

(This guest post was written by Dr. Phyl Renninger and Dr. Karen Stinson, co-authors of a number of Thompson’s grant-related publications.  Dr. Renninger is the Director of Resource Development for Florida State College at Jacksonville and the president of the Florida Council for Resource Development. Dr. Stinson is the Director of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and has successfully written proposals for millions of dollars in state and federal grants.) Grant reviewers wade through stacks of proposals to determine whether each has met the requirements on the scoring rubric.  After hours of grueling assessment, the review team discusses the proposals, often remotely.  Each proposal will have a numeric rating, but many proposals may have similar rankings, particularly for highly competitive programs.  So how do you 1) make a dynamite first impression and 2) make it easy for reviewers to remember and discuss your proposal in an intelligent and professional way?

First, use a memorable visual and emotional image to create a mental link to your geographic location.  Include a regional map and a local map that is tied to an icon for your area.  For example, if you live in Ohio or Iowa, hawks are prevalent and may speak to your reader.  Weave subtle references to that icon throughout the proposal.

Draw the reader into your proposal within the first few sentences, as you start telling your specific story.  There are more dirt roads than paved ones in our rural area of North Dakota, where it is 100 miles to the nearest interstate and where weather ravages the roads and spirits of our diminishing population. School children wait in the freezing cold or blistering heat for a long ride to the nearest school that looks much the same as it did 100 years ago. That creates a mood and feeling for the area with an emotional appeal that will be hard for reviewers to forget.

See if you can come up with a clever and relevant project acronym that will allow reviewers to recall your proposal and, if possible, your location.   For example, calling your project Homeless Alternative Weekend Kitchens (HAWK) would stand out for reviewers, especially if it is linked with a hawk icon throughout the proposal.  Consider including a small version of the icon in your footer or next to the start of each section.

Through those kinds of project- and location-specific cues, try to provide as many ways as possible to help reviewers easily read, remember and discuss your proposal.

(Photo credit marco900/stockxchng)

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