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How to Use the Point System to Outline the Writing of Your Grant Application

Most government grant application narratives are weighted for a total of 100 possible points. The most comprehensive writing section of any grant application narrative is usually the program design section because this is where you write your goals, measurable objectives, implementation strategies, and timelines; create a Logic Model; develop the management plan; and comply with any additional information requested by the funding agency.

Some government agencies assign more than 100 points to the narrative sections of grant applications. Read every word in the guidelines so you know what to shoot for. You may need to write extra response sections to be considered eligible for the additional review points.

In the example that follows in this section, note that the largest point section is the program design, management plan, and evaluation methodologies section, which weighs in at 50 points. Because program design is worth 50 percent of the entire grant application’s scoring schematic of 100 points, you want to take more time to research and write this section of your grant application narrative.

If the funding agency’s formatting instructions tell you that the grant application narrative can’t exceed 20 single-spaced pages, you want to earmark 50 percent of the 20 pages (so 10 pages) for the program design and methodologies section.

When you know the maximum number of pages that you’re allowed to write for the entire grant application narrative, you can take the total points (100 points) and divide them by the points for each section. Translate this number into a percentage, and you know how many pages you need to write in each narrative section to fulfill the peer reviewers’ expectations.

In the following list, you will find the maximum number of pages you should write in each narrative section based on a 20-page limit. This list also provides you with some of the questions that peer reviewers keep in mind when reading your application. Remember, the total possible peer review score for your grant application is 100 points.

Note: The point values included are fairly typical, but the values vary from application to application, as do the section headings. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Statement of Need — 20 points (20 percent of 20 pages equals 4 pages for this section): Does the application specify those issues that this project will address from the list of issues facing the target population? Is this project likely to successfully address the issues identified? Will the target population be involved in the design and implementation of the project? Does the project meet the objectives of the funding?

  • Program Design, Management Plan, and Evaluation Methodologies — 50 points (50 percent of 20 pages equals 10 pages for this section): What are the goals and measurable objectives for the project? Are they aligned with the purpose of the funding as it’s articulated in the grant announcement? Are the proposed program activities likely to achieve the stated goals and objectives?

    Is the scope and duration of the program adequate to achieve the proposed outcomes? Have collaborative partners been included in the planning of the program design, and will they remain involved in the project’s implementation? Is the appropriate research base used to support the proposed interventions? Is the Logic Model comprehensive?

    Does the applicant provide an impact statement? Are the evaluation designs and methodologies adequate to measure the extent to which program indicators and outcomes are being met? Is there evidence of strong and adequate project management, including key staff and their functions, timelines, accounting procedures, reporting, and collaborative efforts with the partner organizations?

  • Applicant Capability — 20 points (20 percent of 20 pages equals 4 pages for this section): How long has the grant applicant been in operation? Does the grant applicant have sufficient human and financial resources to implement the project successfully? Does the grant applicant have previous experience and expertise in working with the proposed target population and/or delivering similar services? Has the grant applicant managed federal grants previously?

    What were the outcomes of these previously funded programs (number served, measurable benchmarks achieved, and other statistical indicators demonstrating implementation success)? What is the grant applicant’s organizational structure? Is the board of directors hands-on and involved in providing management and financial oversight to administrative staff? Are there clear lines of accountability in the organizational chart?

  • Budget and Sustainability — 10 points (10 percent of 20 pages equals 2 pages for this section): Is there an appropriate amount of money allocated to each key activity/task? Is the total budget allocation adequate to reach project goals? Can the applicant sustain the grant-funded program after the funding period has ended?

    What percent of the applicant’s total project cost is in-kind (non-cash) from the applicant? In-kind from collaborative partners? Cash match from the applicant? Cash match from collaborative partners?

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