The Development Source

Don’t Botch your Red Team Grant Review!

For most nonprofit organizations, the Red Team review is the last one before a proposal is finalized.  This is your last big opportunity to improve your proposal!  Don’t botch your Red Team review.

The purpose of the Red Team review is to ensure that your proposal has a strong focus on the funder, is complete, and clearly and persuasively communicates your major themes.  There are many things that can go wrong in a Red Team review, so plan, manage, and execute the review thoroughly. has good recommendations for a successful Red Team review.  I will modify some of them to fit my own experience with color reviews for nonprofit organizations.

Pick the right Red Team reviewers.

They must be able to thoughtfully analyze your grant proposal draft and have the time and commitment to do it thoroughly.

Orient your Red Team.

They should receive a brief orientation session, or, if that is not possible, a clear set of instructions.

Appoint a Red Team leader.

A successful Red Team review needs someone to manage the review process.  Often it is the Proposal Manager, but someone needs to take responsibility for planning and managing the process. 

Define your goals.

You cannot expect Red Team reviewers to know what you want to accomplish unless you tell them.  Give them the grant guidelines far in advance of the review so they can study it.  Tell them what pages to study, and pose questions that you would like them to consider during their review.

Perform the review at the right time.

Do not wait until a few days before the deadline to get advice.  You may not have enough time to follow it.  Schedule the review (1) when you have a good version of the proposal; and (2) about two-thirds through the process.

Encourage the right attitude.

A Red Team review is supposed to be a constructive, helpful process.  The goal of the Red Team is to help your organization win the grant.  Consequently, reviewers must provide comments and changes that will improve the document by making it complete, compliant, and persuasive.  Anything else is irrelevant.

The fastest and best way to improve a grant proposal is to give it to knowledgeable people to review who have not been involved in developing it.  Use the expertise of the Red Team to polish your proposal and make it highly competitive.



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