Lessons from Grantmakers on Using Competitions and RFPs

As you think about whether a competition or an RFP would be helpful to your program, it might be useful to bear in mind these brief lessons that our contributors have identified:

  • Grant competitions make sense in some settings, but not in others. Before deciding, it is important to consider the benefits of a competition, but also the costs of participation — for the grant maker, for grantees, and for those who aren't selected.
  • Competitions and RFPs can serve program interests in several ways. They can send a message to the field about the program's goals, they can attract attention and resources to a field, and the RFP itself can be a learning tool for grantees and funders.
  • Competitions are labor-intensive operations. It is a good idea to allow sufficient time to plan them, as well as to think about how they will be administered. Using an external organization or intermediary to administer the competition has both advantages and disadvantages.
  • Advisers can wear multiple hats — as consultants during the information-gathering stages, as technical assistance providers to applicants, and as a panel to aid in selecting grantees. It is important for the grantmaker to clarify for the advisers exactly what their role should be.
  • Competitions and RFPs can be helpful in creating a learning community within a field. Grantmakers frequently convene grantees and others to share what they are learning and to build on each other's experience.
  • It is important for grantmakers to think through how they will work with those not funded, since competitions typically create a pool of organizations that spent time and money submitting an application, but were not successful.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Using Competitions & RFPs.