For some, grant submission induces more anxiety than the writing of the proposal itself. I am sympathetic. I have been writing, editing, and consulting on grants for many years, but before pressing “submit” I compulsively check fonts, measure margins, and scrutinize PDFs for possible errors caused by document conversion. These are the things that keep me up at night, so today I have some brief grant submission strategies based on questions I have recently been asked.
While hopefully some or all of possible submission pitfalls will be alleviated for US federal agency applications by the transition into Grants.gov’s Workspace, plenty of other granters (with their own submission requirements) exist outside of the Workspace bubble. Recently, I have received some questions about the grant submission process, so I thought I would capture some brief advice on the topic of grant submission strategies:
- Be a polished professional. Do not submit a proposal that you think may not fit the opportunity or its guidelines (including details like formatting). The competition for funding is intense, so granters absolutely do not have to accept sub-par or otherwise unprofessional work. Funding announcements typically have contact information specific to that opportunity, so if you have scoured all of the information available to you through the funding announcement, the granter’s web site, informational webinars, etc., and you still have a question about a funding opportunity–ask. Inappropriate applications may not be accepted by online submissions systems and may be removed during administrative review or streamlined (effectively removed from consideration) by peer review.
- Don’t underestimate the submission process. In order to get to administrative review, in many cases your application needs to make it through the automatic checks of the software accepting your application. These checks absolutely will look for what may seem to you like minor formatting issues, so do check the small things that seem like easily dismissed details.
- Submit early. You have listened to insightful advice and are all over the details–great. But online submission systems can and do get overwhelmed as a deadline nears. By “overwhelmed” I mean slow or difficult to access. In many cases deadlines are absolute and late applications are not accepted, so your 11th-hour problem with an application process is just that: your problem. My rule of thumb is to submit an application you have thoroughly vetted at least 48 hours (two working days) before the deadline if your team is domestic, more than that if your team travels or includes colleagues located overseas.
- Follow up if you need to. If your granter does not have an automated online system that provides you with confirmation of successful submission, do follow up with the contact at the granter for confirmation. Although many email systems have gotten better at alerting senders to failed attempts at delivery, do not risk a submission fail due to an incorrectly addressed email or an over-eager spam filter.
The submission process is the culmination of weeks and months of hard work by you and your team. Although you may feel “so done” with it all, submission is not the point at which to get careless and resign yourself to the quiddities of fate. Follow the simple rules outlined here and you will find you have more control over the submission process and experience far less anxiety in the hours and days before the deadline.