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How to write grant proposal work plans

In addition to the ever-present requirement for a project narrative, some RFPs require a “work plan.” For many novice grant writers, confronting the work plan raises a sense of dread similar to having to prepare a logic model. Unlike logic models, which involve a one-page diagram that displays project elements in a faux flow-chart format, work plans are usually structured as multi-column tables, like the simple illustration in this PDF (or try here for the Word version).

As the attached file shows, the work plan usually contains a blank for goals, with blanks for objectives under each goal and activities for each objective. Other columns may include timeframes, responsibilities, deliverables, data to be collected, and so on.

While it’s possible to create a 10- or even 20-page work plan (the work plan is usually not not counted against the project narrative page limit), there’s little reason to do so, unless you’re required to by the RFP. Instead, one overarching goal statement is generally enough. A goal statement might be, for example:

The project goal is to improve employment and life outcomes for formerly incarcerated cyclops by providing a range of culturally and linguistically appropriate wraparound supportive services.

Use that goal to develop three or four specific and measurable objectives, along with three or four activities for each objective. This will result in a work plan ranging from one to five pages. Each additional goal will (probably pointlessly) increase the page count and the chance to create continuity errors. A compact work plan will clearly summarize why and how the project will be implemented and it will be easy for readers/scorers to understand. That’s enough for a work plan.

It’s easy to introduce continuity errors between the workplan and narrative because goals, objectives, activities, timelines, etc., may be sprinkled throughout the narrative, budget, logic model, and/or forms, depending on the RFP requirements. Details in the work plan must be precisely consistent with all other proposal components. The more you edit each proposal draft, the less you will be able to spot internal inconsistencies within the narrative or between the narrative and the work plan. Inconsistencies will, however, stand out in neon to a reviewer reading the entire proposal for the first time.

We’re experienced grant writers, so we draft work plans after the second proposal draft is completed. But novice grant writers will find it useful to draft the work plan before writing the first draft, as this will help you organize the draft. Novices should also read differences among goals, objectives and activities before tackling the work plan.

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Links: Material goods, durable goods, housing goods, old people and innovation, publishing, and more!

* “Trying to Solve the L.E.D. Quandary:” How can one build a business selling items that last for decades?

* Mr. Money Moustache: “So I Bought an Electric Car…

* “Non-materialistic millennials and the Great Stagnation,” or, how the smartphone in particular has replaced a lot of “stuff.” In 2007 Paul Graham wrote “Stuff,” which seems even truer today. Oddly, though, average dwelling size in the U.S. keeps increasing. Part of the reason involves parochial zoning that distorts markets, however. Seattle, for example, in effect banned popular, affordable micro-housing developments.

* “The High Cost of Residential Parking: Every time a new building includes space for cars, it passes those costs on to tenants.” A timely reminder for affordable housing advocates.

* Too many old people may explain stagnant economies and innovation, at least according to one analysis.

* “Reading Jane Jacobs Anew,” an excellent piece and don’t be discouraged by the title.

* “Comprehensive new data challenges the cultural consensus on public housing. For all their flaws, housing projects can have remarkable positive effects on the children who grow up in them.” Don’t believe the consensus on public housing.

* “The Publishing Gamble That Changed America: The Late Barney Rosset on Fighting for Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and the fight against censorship in general (still ongoing in a few quarters).

* How an enormously clever landlord gets rid of rent-controlled tenants in NYC, or, yet another example of rent control’s perverse outcomes. There is a comic novel in here, though.

* “The Unintended Consequences of Law: How did the entire state of California price itself out of the market for entry-level home buyers?”

* “Teams don’t write grants: individual writers do, one word at a time.”

* Parking Lots Are an Incredible Waste of Space. Here’s How to End Them.

* “Will the United States become a nation of renters?” I find the relentless focus on property ownership bizarre, given all the drawbacks it entails, and indeed most of the people who seem to think it a good idea cannot even articulate the (many) drawbacks.

* “Canada’s cities call for $12.7-billion federal fix for housing crisis;” bizarrely, the word “supply” never appears in the article, yet supply limits are likely making the rent too damn high.

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Grant writing derangement syndrome (GWDS)

Grant Writing Derangement Syndrome (GWDS) occurs when the grant writer works on too many nonsensical, poorly organized, or simply maddening RFPs. The symptoms include an inability to think straight; the inability to continue forming semi-coherent sentences in the face of self-contradictory or incoherent RFPs; and cackling maniacally in the absence of appropriate humor stimulus (the cackling often disturbs anyone sharing the grant writer’s space).

Problems leading to GWDS often begin with repetitive, inane RFP questions that seem designed to frustrate the transmission of information rather than enable it. GWDS becomes more severe as the grant writer persists, knowing that the deadline looms like the ever present clock in High Noon.

I don’t know what the cure for GWDS might be, but I know the ailment well. To some extent, GWDS can be alleviated by going for a walk, taking deep breaths, staring off into the distance, and, best of all, putting aside the proposal for a while. The challenge, however, is that RFP deadlines are rigid and often prevent the grant writer from executing that last step. This means that the symptoms usually persist for at least as long as the assignment does, and sometimes longer. Then, I look at my work schedule and see yet another RFP train bearing down on me. It’s time to power down the iMac and stroll to my favorite hipster coffee shop, La Colombe.

But that often isn’t enough, because the RFPs never stop.