How many times do you read the RFP when preparing a grant application?
I read the RFP (also known as the RFA, NOFA or FOA) at least twice: initially, to learn about the grant opportunity, and a second time after the client confirms that they will apply, to reinforce my understanding of the program and extract all of the information needed set up the project plan and application components. After that, the RFP becomes more of a reference document, to look up specific information as needed during the application process.
Lately, however, I have realized that doing a third full read of the RFP as the application process is underway, as if reading it for the first time, is valuable, especially for large government RFPs that often have 50+ pages of detailed instructions and requirements. It is possible to have a full understanding of a grant program’s complexities from only two full reads, but it seems more likely that the need to look up details during the application process is partly because these details were not intentionally prioritized during RFP review. For example, an additional full read may help to solidify your understanding of the long list of allowable and unallowable costs, or help you be 100% certain that all of the required attachments are separate documents and not forms to fill out directly in the application portal.
Further, additional full reads of the RFP, even if time-consuming when there are still hours left to go to finish the narrative, help quiet the voice that asks “Are you forgetting anything?”
Self-reflection is important for professional development, and after reflecting on the recently completed NYS Consolidated Funding Application “season,” taking the time to step back from the application and do an additional 1-2 full reads of the RFP without any tasks necessitating or dependent on these reads, even just for reassurance that I am on the right track and will be able to better answer detail questions from clients immediately after they are asked, is a “quality control” improvement that I would like to put into action.
How about you? Do you have processes to ensure that you have not missed any important details in the RFP/RFA/NOFA/FOA/grantmaker’s guidelines, or do you deliberately schedule additional reads as a safety net?