An exercise to evaluate grant proposals

Recently, nonprofit consulting firm, Amanda Johnston Consulting, released their Grant Writer’s Toolkit, an educational resource that provides strategies, worksheets, and case studies for grant writers who are passionate about winning more funding for their organizations. Amanda Johnston is generously sharing excerpts from this resource with CausePlanet readers. This is the first: an exercise designed to help you evaluate your grant proposals. Find out more about her toolkit at Amanda Johnston Consulting.

Use the scale below to score various components of your proposal narrative. This tool will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in your application. Add the points from each section to see your total score.

Use the following scale:

1 Totally Agree

2 Agree

3 Neutral

4 Disagree

5 Totally Disagree


______ Proposal demonstrates a real need/problem.

It does so by using data, case studies, interviews, focus group results, media attention, etc.

______ Proposal demonstrates timeliness and/or urgency.

It does so by showing that the investment in this work is urgent, pressing; uses recent data, events, press attention.

______ Proposal provides clear and tangible outcomes.

It does so by specifically explaining the objectives and desired outcomes for the project. Examples include improved client status, greater public awareness, new or improved systems, etc.

______ Proposal uses sound methodologies.

It does so by using methods, approaches and strategies that are realistic, effective and outcome-oriented.

______ Proposal demonstrates organizational credibility.

It does so by clearly explaining and demonstrating that the organization has strength in this type of work, name recognition, a track record of achievements, a unique position and/or providing letters of support.

______ Proposal clearly explains staffing for the project.

It does so by appropriately allocating human resources to this project specifically, including internal staff, use of consultants, advisory committee, etc.

______ Proposal clearly explains participation for the project.

It does so by identifying the stakeholders, partners, clients, beneficiaries and funder representatives who will participate in the planning, implementation and/or evaluation of the project.

______ Proposal clearly explains collaboration efforts for the projects.

It does so by including new partnerships and an overall collaborative approach.

______ Proposal demonstrates creativity and uniqueness.

It does so by using a concept that is innovative and not redundant with other projects.

______ Proposal demonstrates the projects’ multicultural/intergenerational efforts.

It does so by providing a clear recognition of the value of diversity and use of multicultural and/or intergenerational approach.

______ Proposal has a solid evaluation plan.

It does so by clearly explaining who, what, where, when, why and how the project will be evaluated.

______ Proposal demonstrates a project dissemination plan.

It does so by explaining how the results of the project will be effectively disseminated – through peer review journals, press events, mailings, websites, etc.

______ Proposal demonstrates project replicability.

It does so by clearly explaining how the proposed model can be replicated in other organizations.

______ Proposal demonstrates sustainability.

It does so by clearly explaining how the project is sustainable, including what funding has been awarded and what further funding is being pursued.

______ Proposal explains in-kind contributions.

It does so by clearly explaining what in-kind contributions have been awarded or what further in-kind contributions are being pursued. (funding, staffing, equipment, office space, etc.)

______ Proposal explains the organization’s use of technology.

It does so by demonstrating the organization’s willingness to use the most up-to-date and emerging technologies.

______ Proposal demonstrates overall value of the project.

It does so by explaining how the overall value of the project (relationship of benefits to cost) is high. The overhead rate is reasonable and competitive.

______ Proposal demonstrates how the project fits with the funder.

It does so by clearly explaining how the project fits with funder priorities and parameters. It is based on research and pre-submission conversations with the funder.

______ Proposal demonstrates clarity, organization and completeness.

It does so by ensuring the proposal content is well organized with a local progression of ideas. The writing style is concise and the funding guidelines are strictly followed.

______ Proposal is presented in a visually appealing manner.

It does so by including graphics/charts/tables, exhibits, marketing materials. Proposal is neat and orderly.


Total Score:


Reviewer: ______________________

Comments: _____________________

© 2013, Amanda Johnston All Rights Reserved

Excerpt from the Grant Writer’s Toolkit

Available at:

See also:

Storytelling for Grantseekers: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

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