Contrary to the word on the street, federal grants are not free, easy money. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they’re probably running a scam.
Federal grants are tough to write and to manage. They require much more effort and oversight than grants from private foundations or corporations. Federal grants also tend to award more money than other grants, so they can certainly be worth the hours you put in.
If you’ve got the attention to detail, the time, and the organizational prowess to tackle a federal grant, keep the following in mind:
- Read the guidelines thoroughly. They’re usually many, many pages long, so it’s important to read them through several times to digest the details. Make notes and underline key phrases.
- Make a schedule to stay organized. Break the application down by section and organize mini-deadlines for each part. This way, the submission deadline won’t sneak up on you.
- Speaking of submissions, get your ducks in a row early on. Read the submission instructions and make sure your online account is ready to go, and that you understand what you need come submission time. Plan to submit well before the deadline to leave time for any unexpected problems.
- Plan to have a third party review your grant halfway through and again before you submit. A fresh set of eyes will help make sure you’ve written a thorough, competitive grant.
If you are one of the lucky few who are awarded a federal grant, be prepared for a lot of paperwork and strict oversight. Organize receipts, invoices, and any other payment information in one binder or folder, because you’ll need to prove you spent the award money just as your budget outlined.
The same goes with program outcomes. Stick to the measurement plan in your grant, and track progress towards goals carefully and thoroughly, so you can report back with ease.
The best advice I can give you is to stay organized. Procrastination is your enemy when writing a federal grant; how wisely you use your time can mean the difference between success and failure.