Don’t let the lure of big federal dollars overcome your good judgment. “It happens all too often,” according to Barbara Floersch, director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
People hear about a grant competition just before the deadline and decide to go for it. Floersch argues that unless you already have a program plan, documentation, and budget in place and unless they sync precisely with the competition’s requirements, developing a federal proposal at the last minute is a fool’s errand. She suggests keeping these points in mind:
- Study the application guidelines. You’ll often find requirements — one-to-one cash match, public participation in planning, etc. — that take time to carry out.
- The competition will be stiff. If you can’t meet a program requirement, there’s no use trying to fake it. Flimsy responses don’t hold up in the review process.
- Even highly experienced federal proposal writers find it hard to respond effectively to last-minute opportunities. If you’re new to the work, a frantic, eleventh-hour effort will most likely be a painful waste of time.
- Many federal grant programs hold annual competitions. You might need to bow out for now and begin putting together a plan for next year.
Can seasoned grant professionals ever pull off good last-minute applications? Sometimes. But it’s never the best approach. It’s better to plan ahead. Use resources such as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and Grants.gov to learn about available grant programs and when they are likely to open for competition. That way grant competitions won’t sneak up on you.