I recently spent some time working on a federal grant proposal that obviously could not be completed by one person in a four-week time period. I was reminded once again of the complexities of federal grants, and why it’s important to leave plenty of time to work on a proposal.
Here are some time-saving suggestions if you find yourself faced with a complex grant application process and only a few short weeks to apply:
1. Do you have a project idea that fits in with the goals of the grant program, and does it match what the agency wants to fund? If not, stop right here and start looking for funding opportunities that are a closer match and a more realistic opportunity to pursue.
2. If a funder asks for statistical information, do you have this information on hand, or do you know where you can access it quickly? If not, either you’ll have to factor in additional time to search for important statistics to support the need for your project, or you’ll have to ask someone else who can do this type of research to start looking for what you need, while you focus on other aspects of the application process.
3. If a funder asks for collaborative partnerships and letters of agreement, are these relationships already in place? If not, then–realistically speaking–it would be highly unlikely, if not entirely impossible, to create a partnership in the few short weeks you have to put the proposal together. The same goes for memorandums of understanding and letters of support: It will be difficult to get others to sign such agreements or write such letters quickly if they aren’t already familiar with you or your staff.
4. Do you have the internal financial infrastructure to manage the grant, and have you managed any other grants of the same scope? If not, it might be hard to convince the funder that your district could, in fact, manage the grant successfully if you were awarded funds.
5. If a funder suggests using an external evaluator, do you know anyone you can contact? Here’s where it helps to have a relationship in place with someone at a higher-education institution who might be able to serve as an evaluator. Remember, you’ll need time to discuss the types of evaluation tools your project will use and the evaluator’s costs, and you’ll need to make quick decisions regarding the contract you’ll need to sign to hire the evaluator. Some evaluators like to be involved in the proposal development stage, too, which will mean finding someone quickly.
6. Does your school board have to approve a grant proposal before it is submitted? If so, you’ll need to factor in enough time to draft a short summary of your proposal and take it to the next board meeting to get the required approval.
7. Are you registered for Grants.gov, so you can submit applications for federal grants electronically? If not, you should register immediately, as it can take several business days to become registered. Imagine the frustration of having a proposal completed, but not being able to submit it because you have not received confirmation of your district’s registration. If you have any plans–even vague ones–to apply for a federal grant in the next 12 months, register for Grants.gov now while there is no pressure.