Join Karl Kapp for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a requirements matrix, part of Grant Writing for Education.
- You found an appropriate grant solicitation or RFP that seems to be a match between the needs of your organization, and what the funding agency typically funds, so now what do you do? The next step is to read and reread the solicitation carefully. Often, grant solicitations are long documents with many sections, it's important to read and understand what is being requested and outlined in each section. Once you have a feel of the basic idea of the RFP the next step is to create a requirements matrix.
A requirements matrix is a table that lists every requirement in the RFP or grant solicitation, and the corresponding page and paragraph number of the requirement. Listing all the requirements helps ensure your grant will be compliant with the requests of the funding agency, and that you don't forget a key request from the RFP. You may think locating all the requirements for the funding agency would be straightforward, but sometimes requests are embedded within the language of the RFP, and are not presented as straightforward as they may seem.
For example, the NSF ATE grant solicitation related to curriculum development asks that products be developed with input from business, industry, and government, validated by experts from those organizations, field tested in diverse locations, and validated in terms of their effectiveness in meeting learning goals. This means you've a requirement that business people review and validate your curriculum, that government people review your curriculum, and that it is field tested in more than one place, and that its effectiveness is measured.
This is one line of the grant solicitation that turns out to be several items placed into the requirements matrix. The requirements matrix becomes especially important if you are working collaboratively to write the grant, because the process of putting together the matrix helps ensure that everyone on the grant team understands all the requirements, and that nothing falls through the cracks. The process of developing the requirements matrix is simple, but it can take a while. The first step is to have each member of the grant writing team read the grant solicitation individually, and identify the requirements of the grant.
Once individual team members develop their own matrix, the team members should meet as a group and compare each matrix. If an item is on everyone's list it's definitely a requirement. If the item is only on one person's list it needs to be revisited to determine whether or not it's an actual requirement. The process is effective for identifying all that needs to be done to satisfy the funding agency. Requirements can often be broken down into three types, submission requirements, project requirements, and institutional requirements.
Submission requirements are items like page count, due dates, font sizes, and spacing. These may seem mundane, and it's tempting to ignore them and go right for the important requirements, but these submission requirements can really trip up the grant writing team. When things are down to the wire, and four pages have to be cut to meet the page limit, or you suddenly notice the team has been writing in 10 point font when the funding agency specifically wanted 12 point font. Identifying and adhering to these requirements early is helpful when the deadline is looming.
Project requirements are the requirements the funding agency has for the work you are proposing. These relate to the nature of your project. These can include items such as the project must cover science concepts for middle school children, or must prepare college sophomores for careers as an engineer, or there may be matriculation requirements that must be in place with three different school districts, or even that the curriculum is field tested in multiple locations. These requirements ensure that the project you propose meets the desires and needs of the funding agency.
The final type is institutional requirements. These are the requirements you're institution must abide by when creating the proposal. These can include cost sharing, or in-kind contributions. Requirements related to the reporting of the grant, or even related to who's eligible to serve as the principal investigator of the project, or that there must be an internal review board and approve all human subject research. These might not have a direct impact on project outcomes, but do impact the administration of the grant.
Once the grant writing team has written the grant use another column of the requirements matrix to double check the proposal, often when the proposal is written another column is added to the matrix, a column called grant page number. This column lists the page in the grant proposal on which a specific requirement is addressed. When all the requirements are listed in that fourth column the grant is complete and ready to submit. Addressing all requirements is important, without the requirements matrix something could get missed, and that single item could be hugely important to the grant review team.
Some grants have hundreds of separate requirements, so the matrix can serve as a valuable tool in the review process. Take the time upfront to create a comprehensive requirements matrix, you'll find it incredibly useful.
- Finding a private or governmental funding agency
- Locating collaborators
- Understanding an RFP
- Dissecting the anatomy of a grant proposal: front matter to appendices
- Avoiding common grant-writing mistakes