by Mandy Pearce
In short, grant guidelines are instructions. Grant guidelines are not suggestions, they are a specific set of rules that an applicant should follow when developing a grant proposal. Guidelines can be anywhere from one page, to hundreds of pages, depending on the agency/organization/foundation providing them. Typically, the larger the funding opportunity, the longer and more complex guidelines will be. Guidelines can include everything from font size and type to be used, to the spacing of the pages/margins, information to be included and left out, specific items to be addressed, how to submit the application, etc.
Additionally, state or federal grant guidelines will likely provide a breakdown of the scoring system to be utilized in the peer review process. The explanation of the scoring system will probably include point values for each question and if there are bonus points available. This is helpful as programs are designed and strengths and weaknesses are assessed.
As I tell everyone I work with… read the guidelines, they are there for a reason. Before you begin writing one word on the application, read every word in the guidelines.
Guidelines are a great way for donors to weed out applications. A funder will often discard an application based on lack of compliance with guidelines. While this may seem strict, it is only fair that a funder may assume if an applicant is unable to follow simple instructions in the guidelines, they may not comply with the grant contract if funded. This is a great reason to contact the program officer if you have questions or something is unclear.
I have read hundreds of pages of guidelines for a grant that allowed a maximum of 40 pages to be submitted. Every page is important. Be thorough and know everything being requested before you begin writing.