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Emergency Preparedness for Grant Professionals

My favorite mantra as a grant professional is “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” This philosophy can be particularly pertinent for the submission phase of your application process.

At this point, the narrative and budget are complete, required attachments are in the appropriate format, and final review and approval confirmed. So what could possibly go wrong?
The answer to that question likely depends on how you will submit the proposal. Is there an online grant portal? Or do you need to make multiple hard copies and put them in a sealed packet to send through the mail? Either way, this final step of submission requires careful and deliberate preparation so that you do not find yourself in an emergency situation of your own making!
Most of us have learned and used various online grant portals over the past few years, which usually makes the submission process easier and faster. However, the technical aspects of each system can be different, and we have no control over the speed or accessibility of the system.
Some portals, such as FLUXX, are more amenable to certain browsers, which I learned the hard way when I could not see all the pop-up boxes while using my preferred browser. I had to change the zoom percentage on my browser settings to fully access the FLUXX interface, including important slider bars and submit buttons. Figuring out this type of workaround saps precious time, so testing out portal functions in advance is imperative for avoiding a missed deadline.
One of my strategies is to begin inputting data into a portal as soon as I have any of the application finalized, whether that means copying and pasting parts of the narrative, completing a budget spreadsheet, or uploading required attachments. Luckily, most portals allow you to save your work and update it later prior to final submission. By taking care of the “low-hanging fruit” early, you can save time and resolve any technical issues well before the submission deadline.
On the other hand, if you need to submit hard copies, you do not have this same opportunity to frontload your submission. Instead, you need to plan from the beginning to allow sufficient time to make and compile the copies, package them, and send them via a secure delivery service.
I recently completed a lengthy state proposal that consisted of 15 different attachments organized in a three-ring binder with tabs between sections along with an electronic copy in a single consolidated PDF file on a USB drive. I had to submit one original proposal with authorized signatures plus five copies, each in a tabbed binder. The proposal had to be in a sealed package and delivered in person by postal service or overnight delivery.
My internal due date for any grant is always at least one day before the official deadline, and for this proposal, I backed up that date even further, knowing that compiling one original and five copies into tabbed binders takes a certain amount of time, especially when using your own on-site equipment rather than an external service. By planning carefully, I gave myself extra time for final verification of the proposal contents, and our organization was the first confirmed submission for this competition.
Emergency preparedness is a lifesaving skill when you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods or tornados. However, submitting a grant application should not be a life or death situation! With careful planning and a strategic approach, you can successfully avoid a submission emergency.
What one lifesaving skill can you start today?

A devoted Red Sox fan, Jodi is the Deputy Director of Development & Training at the California Primary Care Association. She has worked in grants management and education for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, as a teacher and trainer for Kaplan Test Prep, and as a Foreign Language Technologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jodi holds a PhD in French Literature from the UW-Madison, an MA in French from Middlebury College, and a BA in French & Theatre from Wesleyan University.


By: Katherine F.H. Heart, GPC, M.Ed.
On: 09/05/2017 15:37:20
Thank you for the catchy title, specific examples and helpful tips! I've prepared federal and state applications for primary care centers as well, and can attest to these complications and remedies. As we all know, online portals often crash on deadline days, so it helps to set the internal deadline for a few days early. I have also found it helpful to copy and paste the full application outline into a Word document for the draft, revision and approval process so that all of the required elements (narrative sections with character limits, attachments, budgets, and other documentation) can worked on with others and approved as a whole without mucking up the online application.
By: Susan Caruso Green
On: 09/05/2017 15:44:21
Great article, Jodi! I'd like your take on this situation: What do you do when it's getting closer and closer to the deadline day and the folks who are supposed to be sending the grantwriter the info needed to complete the application -- but they are not. Do you kill the proposal?
By: Leona
On: 08/17/2018 08:17:09
Hi Jodi, its really important to save files in the cloud, at least you can get them back even your computers or gadgets are ruined in disasters.

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