How to Feel More Confident When Reviewing RFPs

Reviewing funder guidelines, especially large government guidelines, comes with a fair amount of pressure not to miss a key detail or misinterpret an organization’s eligibility, alignment, and overall competitiveness with the opportunity. There is the pressure to not miss out on a funding opportunity, but also the counter pressure to ensure that it is an appropriate opportunity for you to commit your resources, as well as those of your colleagues, to the work to put a competitive application together.

To help make you feel more confident when reviewing RFPs and making recommendations on whether or not to apply, I recommend that you have a list of the key things that your organization’s leadership agrees are important when looking at RFPs (whether a formal decision-making matrix or informal checklist is up to you/your organization), including:

  1. The organization’s willingness to apply for grants that require match/cost-share OR not;
  2. The organization’s willingness to apply for grants that allow for indirect costs/administrative overhead to be funded by the grant OR not;
  3. Interest in applying for grants that require a partnership OR not;
  4. Interest in applying for grants that will mean you must hire new staff OR can be done with existing staff; and
  5. Other unique criteria important to the organization that can broadly be considered for all opportunities.

By having an agreed-upon structure for things that are important (or not) to your organization, you can ensure that when you review an RFP/NOFA/FOA and present recommendations to your colleagues, you can use your checklist items to summarize the opportunity. That should eliminate a great deal of the back and forth that may happen around funding opportunities.

Beyond that process, the other likely thing that can happen is that well-intentioned leaders get really excited about funding opportunities that may not always be a competitive fit, and as grant professionals, our role is to help provide the data/proof for why we think something isn’t a good fit like “only two awards being made across the country” or “all of the previous awardees are Institutions of Higher Education, and we are a Community-Based Organization” etc.


How do you work through the review and recommendation process for funding opportunity guidelines? We’d love to hear. Let us know in the comments below.

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