The Development Source

Take Advantage of Grant Proposals Lessons Learned!

After you submit a grant proposal, you should hold a “lessons learned” meeting.  Of course, you are busy, distracted, and you want to forget about the proposal you just submitted as quickly as possible.  However, you need to take a deep breath or two and then proceed with this meeting.

There are two good reasons to hold a “lessons learned” meeting.  First, it will provide the proposal team with a great opportunity to kvetch and vent their considerable frustrations.  This is healthy and therapeutic.  And second, the meeting will you improve your grant proposal development processes.

As ( has pointed out, an effective “lessons learned” meeting should result in change.  You must go beyond discussion and turn the best ideas in the meeting into action items that will lead to new and improved proposals.

Below are major topics and questions that you should discuss in your “lessons learned” meeting.


Was there a clear strategy?

Did you have accurate and useful information?

How can you improve the strategic process?


Did you receive support from senior management?

Did you receive the resources you needed?

How can you improve the support structure?

Proposal processes

Which processes worked well?

Which processes had defects?  What were these defects?

How can you improve your proposal processes?


Where communications clear and helpful?

How well did team members work together?

Were members mentored, coached, and constructively criticized?

Did they receive appropriate encouragement, praise, and acknowledgement?

Would they voluntarily work together again?  Why or why not?

How can you improve communications?


Was the proposal complete, compliant, and persuasive?

Was the proposal well written?

Was the proposal visually effective?

Did the budget tell the same story as the narrative?

How can you improve your proposals?


Was the proposal production process timely and smooth?

Did you produce the proposal at a reasonable cost?

How can you improve the production process?

Winning and Losing

Di you request a debrief meeting with the funder?

What did you learn?

How will you incorporate your debrief meeting into your next proposal development process?

Treat the grant proposal development process as a pedagogical opportunity to learn and reflect.  Then document the “lessons learned” and make changes to your next proposal development process.  You can always improve your ability to develop highly grant competitive proposals.




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