6 Hacks to Score High on a Grant Application That Will Surprise You

These 6 hacks will help you score high on a grant application, although they might surprise you! In fact, they are steps to do before  you even start writing the grant. But they will help you to actually start writing the grant application and will help you score higher and stand out in the competition.

1. Get the FOA/RFP

First you need to download the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or Request for Proposal (RFP). These are usually for federal grants, state grants and contracts, and certain foundation grants. This is basically where the funding sources publish directions and guidance about the grant program. The grant funding sources also put in technical requirements (such as font size, margin sizes, number of pages allowed, and so forth).

Why am I writing something so basic? Because a lot of grant writers might just grab the FOA/RFP and then never look at it again and just copy a previous grant application they wrote for another funding source and send it in. That’s a recipe for disaster and not a proven way to score high on a grant application.

So, get the darn thing and read it. Then, you want to…

2. Convert the FOA/RFP from a PDF to Word Doc

PDFs can be really hard to work with! Especially if you copy something from a PDF and put it into a Word document. It might copy really strange and into a weird font or it might not even let you copy it.

By converting the PDF file to a Word Document, you can work with the FOA/RFPs so much easier and it only take a few seconds to convert!

Here is a link to my favorite PDF converter (and they have merge function and other cool things): https://pdf2doc.com/nl/

3. Copy the Scoring Criteria Section and Paste it Into a New Word Doc

Now that the FOA/RFP is in a Word document you will want to go to the Scoring Criteria in the FOA/RFP. Copy Scoring Criteria and put in a new Word document. I know, another Word document, but you will thank me.

Ta-da! Now you are not starting with a blank page and have something to work with!

4. Turn the Criteria Sections into Headers (Header 1, Header 2)

What do I mean by this…? Make the criteria actual headers.

Just copy the different sections and in your document go to the top of the menu and change the text from ‘normal’ to ‘heading 1’ and ‘Heading 2’.

Make the main scoring criteria (for example, Needs Section) a Heading One and then any questions under Needs Section into a Heading Two.

Side note: Make sure your headers still follow the technical requirements, i.e., Times New Roman 12 pt. font. You can just highlight all of them and change the font and size while keeping them headers. If they are blue, that is okay. You can even bold them.

5. Put in a Table of Contents (if you have space allowed)

Go to the beginning of your Word Document and go to ‘Reference’ Tab in the Word document and click on ‘Table of Contents’. This will insert a nice Table of Contents that follows your grant application. You can include this on your cover page, as an insert page, or in the top of the first page.

This is of course if you do have room. Why is this important? It shows there is a flow to the grant. 😊

6. Respond to the Grant Scoring Criteria – Write Your Grant!

Now you have all the questions formatted and you no longer have a blank page. Plus, you will be directly responding the Scoring Criteria. This is super important because grant reviewers are real people who must score according to the grant scoring criteria.

Even if you write the most amazing grant in the world, but do not respond to the Scoring Criteria or it’s scattered and unorganized in a grant proposal, you will not get the grant awarded.

This method will help you with the starting phase of writing a grant and will help you score above and beyond your competition. Which is fierce. But you got the secret sauce now.


  1. Get the FOA/RFP
  2. Convert the FOA/RFP from a PDF to Word Doc
  3. Copy the Scoring Criteria Section and Paste it Into a New Word Doc
  4. Turn the Criteria Sections into Headers (Header 1, Header 2)
  5. Put in a table of contents at the beginning (if you have space allowed)
  6. Respond to the Grant Scoring Criteria – Write Your Grant!

Related Links:

  • PDF to Word Converter: https://pdf2doc.com/nl/
  • Episode. #170: 8 Grant Writing Resource Reviews to Find, Manage, and Win Grants. Click here
  • Episode #143: 5 Most Popular Grant Writing Questions. Click here
  • Episode #141: Grant Writing Made Easy: 5 Hacks to Write a Grant Proposal. Click here
  • Episode #169: What is the Difference Between an Output and an Outcome in a Grant Proposal? Click here

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