What’s it like to work with us?
This page explains the kind of results you can expect, my guiding beliefs about grants and proposals, and my approach to client projects.
If you commit to working with us, here’s what will happen, depending on how we agree to work together:
- Time to produce a grant or proposal capable of winning will be reduced. We’ll reduce the pressure you’re under by adding our resources to yours to help you finish in time. You’ll be able to work more effectively, think more clearly, and be more likely to win.
- You’ll see greater focus on the review criteria. Winning is about giving the funding agency what it wants, which means paying extreme attention to aligning your proposal with the agency’s mission and exceeding its review criteria. To give your funding agency what it wants, we’ll zero in on the review criteria and repeatedly compare how your proposal stands in comparison.
- Your strengths will be presented more persuasively. One result you’ll notice from our work is that the reasons why your project deserves money are clearer, more compelling, and placed where reviewers will find them harder to overlook.
- Major weaknesses will be eliminated. It’s devastating to be rejected because your proposal contained a flaw you should have corrected before you submitted it. We’ll flag flaws, inconsistencies and weaknesses in your proposal so you can remove them. Every weakness removed gives reviewers one less reason to doubt you will succeed — which can only increase your odds to win.
Guiding Beliefs on Winning Grants and Proposals
- Reviewers cannot be bored into awarding grants and contracts. Just as you don’t want to write a grant (but you do, because you need the money), reviewers don’t want to read it (but they do, because grants are part of the agency’s mission). So reviewers are easily prone to getting bored and distracted. This is dangerous: a reviewer who fails to pay attention can easily misunderstand what you’ve written and give you a bad score you don’t deserve.
To avoid this danger, your job is to get reviewers interested early and keep them interested all the way through. You must explain starting on Page 1 why what you offer is unique, important, innovative, and just what the agency needs. You cannot wait until the middle of the proposal to do this. Like it or not, your proposal is really a high sophisticated ad to an extremely demanding buyer, and although you are writing in dignified language, you must strut your stuff — early! — to keep reviewers interested. We’ll help you do that.
- Winning requires eliminating weaknesses. There isn’t enough money for everyone to win, so reviewers are instructed to find reasons why proposals should not be funded. So they look for reasons to doubt your proposal can succeed, because doubts justify turning you down. It follows that one of the best ways to increase your odds of winning is to comb through your proposal looking for every possible weakness that could raise a doubt you can succeed — and then eliminating them. We’ll help you do this.
- Checklists are vital — but not always enough. Winning requires giving funding agencies what they’re looking for. This may sound obvious, but grant and proposal writing is so complex it is easy to unintentionally omit something essential. To prevent this fumble I recommend a humble and underappreciated tool: checklists. Funding agencies use them, and we should too.
Your funding agency will evaluate your proposal against a checklist of things they expect a winner to offer. A checklist can be published and fairly short and general (like NIH’s review criteria for R01 and SBIR grants). Or it may be implied and very detailed (like the description of a Funding Opportunity Announcment or a RFP Statement of Work). Regardless, if we work together, we’ll be using checklists.
Checklists aren’t always enough, however. A good example is a RFP contract proposal seeking to take the contract away from the current vendor. In this instance, just meeting the agency’s checklist may not give the agency sufficient incentive to change the status quo. So you must go beyond the checklist and explain why choosing you instead of the incumbent will be a big improvement for the agency.
- Winning requires luck (and our task is to minimize how much). In a perfect world, the best proposals always win. In the real world, even magnificent proposals ocassionally go unrecognized. Luck is always a factor. Our work is to minimize the need for luck. To do this, we emphasize your strengths early, eliminate weaknesses that can raise doubts, and use checklists to make sure everything that should be covered is covered.
My Approach to Client Projects
Clients seek help in many different ways, so their projects can be very different. In general, though, here are things I try to do with every project.
- We will begin by assessing where your project is now and what needs to be done. Our initial discussion of your project often begins with a free strategy session before you become a client. Once we decide to work together, we’ll go deeper into your situation and challenges. That will include reviewing where your proposal stands in regards to the agency’s criteria for choosing a winner, and which parts of your proposal you’re most worried about. For a group working on a proposal as a team, we’ll discuss assignments and deadlines for each member. Finally, we’ll discuss who is responsible for what, how we’ll communicate, and how we’ll put a plan of action in motion.
- We will pool our resources to speed up the work. What with all of us being so crazy-busy and overwhelmed with work, your project may already behind schedule, raising the risk that you will lose by submitting a proposal that is less than your best. If you’re facing this problem, we’ll discuss how we can bring more resources (both yours and mine) to bear to get your project back on track.
- We’ll aim for a thorough prior-to-submission review. One of the worst possible mistakes is to submit your proposal without first combing it page by page and line by line for every possible way to make it better. Unless time until deadline has simply run out, this should always be done. We’ll look for ways to make the reasons your work is unique, important, and innovative stand out more clearly. And we’ll try to eliminate anything that might make your reviewers doubt you’ll succeed. After all, reviewers can’t penalize you for proposal weaknesses they can’t find.
Now that you know how I work and the results you can expect, go to Services to learn about the services and programs I offer. Or, go to Success Stories to read about some of the wins I’ve helped clients achieve.