The 10 Point Checklist for Creating a Competitive Grant Application

Notebook where a person has started writing a checklist

By: Micki Vandeloo, GPC

In the course of our consulting work, we work with many different types of companies in the manufacturing and technology communities.  No matter the client, we want them to be successful in their pursuit of grants. And, we want you to be successful as well!

To this end, I have created a 10-point checklist for creating a competitive (and hopefully funded) grant application.

  • Ensure you are eligible to apply for funding. The eligible entities are listed on the funding opportunity website or in the Request for Proposals (RFP) or Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) document.
  • Make sure you have a well-defined project. Answer these questions for every project you hope to include in your grant applications:  What will you be doing?  Who will be doing it?  How will they do it?  What will it cost? Having a well-defined project is key to both finding and accessing grants.
  • Read and re-read the FOA/RFP document. Make sure you understand the potential award amount, the eligible activities covered by the grant, any formatting requirements (font, page count, etc), scoring criteria, the deadline for applications (if any) and any reporting requirements you will have to comply with if you get the grant.
  • Be succinct but thorough in your responses to questions in the grant application. Make sure you answer any questions fully, but don’t use flowery language, industry terminology, or extra words in your responses. Some applications limit response to a certain number of characters or words.
  • Upload documents in the format required. Sometimes attachments can only be uploaded in PDF format or there is a file naming format that must be followed. This information can be found in the RFP/FOA and also in the body of online applications.
  • Make sure the point of contact for funder communications is available and knowledgeable. If the funder has a question on your application, make sure that the person they are directed to contact knows about the application and is available to answer questions.  Most often, this is the person who completes the application but, if that person travels a lot or attends a lot of meetings, consider including someone who is more available in the application process and make him or her the point of contact for the funder. 
  • Pay attention to the application deadline. The deadline is very strict for grant applications.  Most online applications, including federal applications sent through, will time stamp the submittal. If that time stamp is after the deadline, the application will automatically get thrown out.  If you are mailing in a grant application, be sure to provide enough time for the mail to get to the funder prior to the deadline.
  • Maximize your cost share. Your cost share is your match to the funding provided through the grant.  If your minimum cost share is 25% of the project cost, but you can provide 30% comfortably, put a 30% cost share in the budget.  Most funders look upon extra cost share favorably when scoring applications.
  • Get a second set of eyes to review your application prior to submittal. This is a best practice for improving the chances of a successful application.  It is preferable to get someone to review it who had nothing to do with the application development and has strong knowledge of grant applications.  Many grant consulting firms, including Lakeview Consulting, offer a proposal review service.
  • If you are turned down, ask for feedback. Most grants are competitive, which means you stand a chance of your grant request being denied.  If this happens, contact the funder to see if they will provide feedback on the reason the request was denied.  You are often not precluded for applying more than once, so this feedback will help improve your chances of success for future applications.

I hope this checklist helps you create and submit winning grant applications.  If you need help finding and acquiring grants, contact me to schedule a no-obligation Zoom call consultation.

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