For Winning Grants, Pay Attention to Attachments
For Winning Grants, Pay Attention to Attachments

When developing grant proposals, the project narrative and budget share center stage. The narrative carries a heavy burden–proving the proposed program is needed, explaining how the program will work, what it will accomplish, and building confidence that the applicant organization has the capacity to get the job done. 

A stellar budget alone will not win a grant award, but an incomplete or incoherent budget can sink your chances of winning. But in the frenzy of pulling the project narrative and budget together, the task of compiling attachments is often a last-minute consideration. That’s a mistake.

“Attachments are generally thought of as add-ons that can easily be included once the narrative and budget are complete, but that head-set can be fatal to your chances of an award,” said Barbara Floersch, grants expert and author of “You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change.” 

“Many attachments are required rather than optional, sloppy attachments hurt the proposal’s credibility, and securing some attachments takes serious time, according to Floersch. To ensure that a package of high-quality attachments will be ready when you need it, Floersch urged organizations to elevate the importance of attachments in the proposal development plan.

One way to ensure attachments receive appropriate attention is to assign responsibility. Just as staff members are assigned to lead development of the project narrative and budget, make someone responsible for producing the attachment package. 

As the project narrative evolves, the lead writer will likely refer to attachments that are beyond those required by the funder (e.g., an evaluation report, a news clipping), so establish a simple alert system to ensure that the person preparing the attachment package is aware of evolving needs – no last-minute surprises.

Securing needed attachments can take a considerable amount of time and might require participation of the organization’s administrative team. For example, when a federal proposal requires specific, detailed Memoranda of Understanding from other organizations, the executive director might need to handle those requests and negotiations. When a state agency needs to certify that your organization is meeting a priority need, obtaining a written statement can take considerable effort. 

Updating staff resumes and job descriptions is time consuming. Updating an organizational chart generally takes consideration and discussion well beyond where to add a new box in the existing graphic. 

When preparing attachments, start right away. Identify those that will take the most effort to secure and implement a strategy to get them. Maintain a draft table of contents for the attachments, placing them in the order that seems most logical and most supportive of the narrative. 

Use Adobe Pro to label each attachment so the people reviewing your grant proposal will understand what the attachment is without having to read the entire document.

A strong attachment package can increase the credibility and power of your proposal. But a sloppy or incomplete package can damage your credibility. Omitting a required document can sink your chances of a grant award. “Start compiling your package early and take the work seriously,” said Floersch. © Copyright 2022, Barbara Floersch