Summer Reading and Federal RFPs

One of my favorite things about the summer is the free time. I do not have to cart my kids around to practice, help with homework, or stick to the school year’s schedule. That extra time is spent doing all the things we love: watching the summer blockbuster movies, enjoying laidback days with friends, and experiencing an adventure or two.


For me, summer always conjures up images of time at the neighborhood pool and family vacations. For my family, our favorite summer destination is the beach. Which means that for a full week, you will find me parked in a chair at the water’s edge with a book in hand. I will tear through book after book while sneaking glances at the rest of my crew as they boogie board, build sandcastles, and collect seashells. (Hey, we all find our happiness in different ways.)


I read all kinds of books throughout the year, but summer beach reads are special. My lineup usually includes some chick lit – I especially enjoy a Mary Kate Andrews, as her books are typically set in Savannah or its surrounding beach towns, places I have frequented since my parents live in the area.


About 10 years ago, a coworker suggested I read Magic Bates by Ilona Andrews, the first in the Kate Daniels series. It’s a utopian fantasy that takes place in Atlanta, and I took it with me to the beach. Each summer, the next in the series was released – so you could always find me checking out the latest Kate installment during my vacation.


I read for enjoyment, escape, and to learn about times and places I have not or cannot ever visit. To me, reading is one of my favorite hobbies. If I could get paid to read books all day long, I would be a happy camper. But like most grant professionals, reading isn’t always something I do for a good time. Most funders, and especially federal funders, provide plenty of reading materials. Let me tell you, reading a Request for Proposal (RFP), Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), or whatever acronym the funder calls its grant application guidelines is not NEARLY as exciting as the next great novel.


No, RFPs are typically straight to the point, just the facts and writeups about all the rules, regulations, and requirements associated with grant application submissions. While not the kind of thing I dream about while reading on the beach, it is vital reading for my work with nonprofits, local governments, and other organizations. RFPs are the first step toward a successful proposal. And believe me, there is an art to reading them. Let me share my three simple steps to reading any RFP.


First, know that you will read the document more than once. The first time is a review, a quick analysis to determine if your organization is not only eligible but competitive regarding an application. The second time you are looking for all the details to make sure you have the knowledge, resources, and information to submit a completed application. From here on out, you will read and reread different sections as you put together the application. This ensures all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.


Second, I use the RFP as a checklist. Sometimes they give you an actual checklist. If they do not, I make my own. It will include all the sections that must be completed – from the program narrative to the 15 attachments that are mandatory. Missing even one element is grounds for denying your request, so I make sure I have everything the funder asks for.


Third, the RFP is a great guide, especially the ones that give you a score sheet. It helps you hone in on the sections worth the most points, to ensure you cover the questions asked in enough detail. Not every funder gives this level of detail, but most federal funders do.


If you want to learn more about how to read a federal RFP, I highly recommend you check out the latest Fundraising HayDay podcast episode: We’re sharing all the ins and outs of the process. Whether you’re new to the grant world or have been doing it for years, you can either learn something new or confirm the work you’re doing.


So far this summer, in addition to RFPS, I’ve read Happy Place by Emily Henry (cute read), The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (not my jam), Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus (high school murder mystery at its finest), The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni (such incredible storytelling), and Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (worth all the hype!). What’s on your reading list these days?


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 6 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 5 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

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