Every grant professional should have a clear methodology for managing the development of proposals. My approach is a condensed and modified version of the process developed by Shipley Associates.
The purpose of the Purple Meeting is to determine whether to pursue an RFP or not. Every circumstance is different, but there are key questions that should drive most discussions. How much is the award? How many awards are being made? What is the eligible geographic region? How well does the project idea match the funder's own agenda? Who is the likely competition? Is there something to be gained from submitting a response even if it is unlikely to win (for example, getting on a funder's radar)?
Know what you are doing, and why.
The Pink Meeting produces two products: (1) a storyboard for the response and (2) a completion checklist.
The storyboard articulates the underlying narrative of the response. What is the need? What service will we offer to meet the need? What is the intended result? How will we demonstrate success? These questions should always be considered, regardless of whether they are explicitly included in the RFP or NOFO. Further, regarding the service that will meet the need, I challenge the content specialist(s) to identify up to five reasons why their service is exceptional. What sets it above the competition? An innovative approach? In kind contributions? Specialized staff? Access to supplemental supports?
The completion checklist is a document I create prior to the meeting. It lists every item that must be included in the response, including the narrative (typically broken down to sections), budget, attachments, letters of support, memorandums of understanding, and more. The checklist includes space to record who will gather information (as needed) and when that information will be sent to me. This document is updated and revisited throughout the proposal development process.
DRAFTING THE PROPOSAL
Doing the work.
This step in the process focuses on gathering, creating, and revising the content listed in the completion checklist. I am in frequent contact with the content specialist(s) during this period. I gather information, synthesize that information into content for the narrative and relevant documents, review the content, and then gather additional information as needed to advance the process of revision. This cycle of information gathering and content creation repeats until the narrative is polished and all other items on the completion checklist are collected or completed.
Make sure everything adds up.
The Green Review is when a draft budget is reviewed. Given that budget analysis and review often require representatives from the business office and not just the content specialist(s), it is useful to schedule this meeting as its own entity during the Proposal Drafting stage.
Know the score.
The Red Review is an opportunity to assess the status and quality of the proposal prior to submission. If the RFP or NOFO includes a scoring criteria, the proposal should be scored against that rubric. Ideally, the Red Review should include individuals who were not directly involved with the proposal’s development. This will ensure an objective evaluation. The Red Review often leads to new content, the elimination of irrelevant content, and possible formatting changes.
A final touch.
Once all Red Review issues have been resolved, I (and others, as appropriate) conduct a final review. While the Red Review can produce some significant revisions, the Gold Review should only involve minor line edits for clarity or grammatical accuracy. Every item in the checklist is subject to the Gold Review and should be scrutinized.
Upon completion of the Gold Review, the proposal is submitted in accordance with all RFP requirements.
The finish line.
A time to reflect (and prepare).
The Platinum Meeting is an opportunity to debrief after the proposal’s submission. Participants in the process discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what parts of the process could be improved in future efforts. The Platinum Meeting is also a good opportunity to identify language that should be kept and added to the organization’s stock language for future use.