What makes a good proposal?

Some pointers for making your proposal stand out.

As ARDC grows, we’re getting more proposals than ever before, and the way we evaluate grant proposals is evolving. Of course, we’re still looking for proposals that support and promote amateur radio, advance education, and advance the state of the art in amateur radio and digital communications. What’s different is how we evaluate the proposals: we now have quarterly review cycles and a ranking system that uses consistent criteria. Given this new framework and increase in competitiveness, here’s how to improve your chance of success.

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First of all, make sure that your proposal meets ARDC’s goals. These include empowering individuals and small organizations, benefitting the widest community possible, inclusion of under-represented groups, and preservation of the individual’s right to innovate. Projects that we fund must also be accessible and usable by all. If a project is a development project, the hardware, software, and documentation must be open source so that others can use and learn from the work.

Next, we’ll look at how your project is structured, including its key objectives. Your proposal should clearly state what you intend to accomplish and why. We’ll also look to see that you have a project plan that outlines the steps you plan to take to accomplish your goals. The plan should include a list of the people who will be working on the project, the expertise they bring, and the amount of time you expect them to work on it.

As part of this process, we’ll look at the budget. Your project’s budget should be appropriate for the results you want to achieve. We encourage grantees to use the most modern technology available—although we recognize that in some cases older technology may be the most appropriate choice. If that is the case, please provide an explanation supporting your technology choice. We also encourage grantees to choose high-quality equipment, but we don’t want to see unusually high-dollar expenses without an explanation for why it is needed. Similarly, use volunteer labor when appropriate, but hire professionals if you don’t have adequate experience on your volunteer team.

Making an impact

There are other factors that will affect the success of your proposal. For example, when appropriate, please tell us how the project’s outcomes will be maintained and continue to have an impact beyond the lifetime of the grant. We also look favorably upon projects that will be regularly used and maintained, even if they are designed for a specific event.

If your project is designed to benefit a particular community, your proposal should show that it has community support. This can be in the form of financial support, donated equipment, or volunteer time. If a project supports or becomes part of city, county, or state infrastructure, it is important that those applications include letters of support from those government agencies.

Having said all that, we’re also looking for projects with some special sparkle. In the spirit of innovation and flexibility, we may fund exceptional projects that don’t perfectly align with our stated criteria or categories.

You’ll find more information about how to submit a grant application on the Instructions for Submitting an ARDC Grant Application page. If you still have questions, email us at giving@ardc.net to set up a time to talk. Our staff can answer questions about our process or give you advice on if we think a proposal for your project is likely to be successful before you begin. If you need technical assistance with your project, please describe what it is you want to do and the type of help you need in your email. We may be able to connect you with a volunteer to help, or may refer you to another resource.

Good luck with your application!