In the face of dwindling budgets, many public safety agencies use grants to get the equipment and services they need. Once grant proposals are submitted, grant reviewers pore through the applications and evaluate them based on the criteria provided by the funding entities. Next, the reviewers get together — either in person or via technology — to create a consensus about which applications are most promising. The reviewers submit their recommendations to the grant sponsors, who make the final decisions about awarding monies.
During a recent session of Lexipol’s Connect 2023 virtual conference, Sarah E. (Wilson) Handler, vice president of Lexipol’s Grants Division, spoke with three seasoned grant reviewers: Dan Hallowich, Stephan Hutchins and Catilin O’Connor. The panel gave their audience a fascinating peek into how reviewers approach grant applications during the peer review process.
Be sure to provide a compelling hypothesis, a well-defined plan and a feasible timeline — and make sure to follow the formatting and length requirements.
Here are just a few nuggets of advice from this informative session:
1. Use the self-evaluation sheet (if one is provided). This outlines the same set of standards used by reviewers to decide the merits of your grant application. Be sure to provide a compelling hypothesis, a well-defined plan and a feasible timeline — and make sure to follow the formatting and length requirements.
2. Make sure everything matches. If you’re seeking funding for a certain number of items, make sure the totals match in the various sections. Also, make certain the narrative matches the exact items you’re asking for.
3. Put in the effort where it will pay off the most. Pay particular attention to the point values of each section so you can devote your time and written content to the areas that will have the biggest impact on your application.
4. Don’t overexplain. In most cases, the people reviewing your application are your peers. They understand the industry. It’s not necessary to explain things as if you were talking to just anyone off the street.
5. Be creative, but factual. It’s a good idea to include a cost-benefit equation, which takes the total cost of what you’re asking for and divides it by the number of people you serve. That kind of information puts your asks into perspective.
6. Above all, follow the directions. Reviewers can tell in an instant if you haven’t really paid attention to what’s expected of you. Don’t get your application rejected out of hand just because you didn’t read the instructions.