This is the final post in a series on managing the proposal process. In earlier posts, we reviewed creating a proposal calendar, organizing the drafts, and managing the proposal development process. Now it's time to submit the proposal.
The last week of the proposal process can be hectic. Below are six tips to make the final days of the proposal process less stressful and set yourself up for even greater success (and less stress) for the next proposal.
Tip #1: Leave Yourself Plenty of Time to
Review & Assemble the Final Draft
The first tip for making the grant proposal submission process smoother is to leave yourself plenty of time to finish the proposal, review it for completeness, edit it, and submit it. While this may seem like an obvious step, all too often it is a mad rush to get the proposal submitted by the deadline. When you submit a proposal at the last minute, you don't have the time to review everything as carefully as it deserves or to correct last-minute formatting issues.
How much time should you leave to do the final edits and assembly? It depends on several factors including the length and complexity of the proposal. As a general rule of thumb, reserve at least two days to complete the final edits and package the proposal for submission. If you don't need both days, you can always submit the proposal early. On the other hand, if you don't have a buffer of a few days to handle the proposal editing and assembly, you risk not being able to meet the proposal deadline if you run into last-minute crises related to the content or structure of the proposal.
Tip #2: Double- and Triple-Check
the Submission Guidelines
Even though you've probably read and re-read the submission guidelines many times, read them again. Read them at the beginning of the final week of the proposal development process and read them again in the final hours of the process when you are on the verge of submitting.
You need to do this because although you and your colleagues have read the submission guidelines multiple times, often this is at the start of the proposal process. At the beginning of the process, everyone is focused on questions like how to structure the proposal response and who will be the proposal lead. At the start of the process, it is natural to be less concerned with the specifics of the submission process and to scan the instructions. To avoid being surprised at the last minute, read the submission guidelines while you still have time to address them. Read and re-read, check and double-check, because when you are in proposal-writing mode you may have been unable to concentrate on the finer details of the submission process.
Tip #3: Prepare at Least Two Sets
of the Final Proposal Package
After you finish the proposal, make multiple copies of the full proposal package before you move forward with the submission process. The full proposal will consist of the proposal narrative, the budget, the cover letter, and any attachments. You should plan on distributing copies of the proposal to the other proposal team members, senior colleagues, and external partners (minus the budget or other confidential information). At least one copy of the proposal should be archived.
Making multiple copies of the final proposal package is important. However, there is something else you should do that is possibly even more important, which is to have a back-up "original" copy. In other words, prepare two identical copies of the proposal, each with original signatures on cover letters, etc. To prepare your two "originals," have the executive director sign two copies of the cover letter. If the grant application is a fill-in-the-blank form and not a proposal narrative, fill out the form twice and get all the required signatures on each copy.
Having a backup "original" will be less of an issue if the submission is electronic instead of in hard copy. With electronic submissions, the essential task is to save a copy of the final version of the proposal in a secure place (i.e. not on your laptop) and labeled clearly as the final copy.