One of the worst sections of a proposal that I’ve ever read was the personnel section of a Toyota TAPESTRY grant I was asked to edit several years ago. The section went something like this:

“John Smith has been a middle school science teacher in our school district for the past 10 years. He really enjoys teaching and has great leadership abilities. John is a Boy Scout troop leader and his troop has raised the most revenue from sub sales in our region of the state.

“Sue Jones has taught science at our middle school for five years. She has served as the president of the local Quilting Club and she enjoys playing tennis in her spare time. She is very interested in outer space and the concept of life on other planets…”

As you can imagine, I took a deep breath and called the individual who wrote the proposal. Although the information for these staff members was interesting and commendable, I said, was there any science-related information that was missing?

In fact, Mr. Smith had received the “Science Teacher of the Year” award for his state in 1996 and Ms. Jones had worked as a NASA research scientist prior to entering the teaching profession. She, too, had received commendations for her achievements while employed at NASA. We revised the personnel section to reflect these science-related accomplishments after I educated the writer about the purpose of the personnel section.

Why do we include personnel sections in grant proposals? In most cases, the readers don’t know the individuals who will be carrying out the project, so what difference does it make if we include this information?

Remember that one of your goals when writing a proposal is to convince the readers that your district has the capability to carry out the project after funding is awarded. Capability can be illustrated by discussing other grants that you have received and managed, as well as by describing the staff that will be responsible for the project.

Funders want to give money to those applicants who seem the least risky–applicants who know what they are doing. The personnel section of the proposal is another opportunity for you to show that competent people will be managing your project on a day-to-day basis, thus enhancing your credibility.

Here are some pointers for you to follow as you write this section of the proposal:

  • Keep this section brief and list only those qualifications that relate directly to the project.

  • Start with the project director first and list additional staff in descending order of importance to the project.

  • Place resumes of the paid staff in the appendix and make a reference in the narrative that they are there.

  • Try to make each person’s resume appear in the same format and no longer than one page.

  • If you’re going to hire someone for a project position, be sure to include a job description in the appendix. In the personnel section, indicate that this position will be filled when funding is received and list two or three of the major responsibilities this person will have as they relate to the project.

  • Consider adding an organizational chart in either the narrative or the appendix (as page limits and RFP guidelines allow), especially when there are several levels of staff that will be involved in the project. “Painting a picture” with a chart will enhance the words in the narrative and make a complicated staff hierarchy easier to understand.

  • If volunteer staff (i.e., local employees, parents, college students) will be used to carry out project activities, include a brief summary of this in the personnel section as well. Remember to include this staff as in-kind contributions in your budget.

Though it’s often only worth a small number of points on the readers’ scoring checklist, don’t underestimate the importance of the personnel section and how it can enhance your credibility. Put yourself in the readers’ shoes and consider what would make you more apt to fund a project in terms of staff credentials. Save the sub sales, tennis, and belief in extraterrestrial life for the introductions of project staff at the recognition dinner to commemorate a successfully funded project!

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