Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Final Step: Beating the Grant Deadline

Over the past several issues we have discussed in detail how to find appropriate grants for your school and how to complete applications that help ensure your school receives the grant money it needs.

The final step in this process is to complete your application and get it in the mail at least one week prior to the deadline. If you don’t meet a grantor’s deadline, the granting entity will not consider your application. What a waste -- and what a disappointment -- to do all that work and not even have your application considered!

While getting your grant application in on time may not seem like a big deal, you might be surprised how many grant writers wait until the very last minute to mail their applications. One grant-writer friend of mine is a famous procrastinator. She often pulls all-nighters to finish grant applications on time. She lives in East Texas, and there have been times when she has sent her husband on the 300-mile mad dash to Austin because it was the only way she could beat the deadline for a grant sponsored by the Texas Education Agency. I have to say that she is a great grant writer. She wins a very high percentage of the grants she writes. But why go through all that stress and torment when you could simply do a better job of planning?

It takes a lot of preparation and hard work to write and submit a good grant application. The last thing you need is to be stressed at the end of the process because of a looming deadline. Before you ever begin to fill out a grant application, you must create a plan -- a timeline -- that leaves time to fine-tune the application before mailing it. A plan with a little padding leaves room for emergencies, too. You can never fully predict emergencies that might come up at your school or in your life that could take precedence over completing a grant application. So creating a plan -- and sticking to that plan as much as possible -- will help ensure that your grant application arrives safely and on time.

With the potential for emergencies in mind, you should always set a deadline for completing your grant application a minimum of one week before it is due. Even a week will not guarantee that a mailed application will arrive on time. You also need to be absolutely certain whether the deadline the grantor established refers to the postmark on the application or the date when the application must reach the grantor’s office. If you do not know that information, call or email the grant’s contact person to make certain.

One more word of warning: be careful about trusting guaranteed delivery times. Those guarantees usually mean you will get your shipping fee back if your package does not arrive on time. That’s great for what it’s worth, but getting your $20 mailing fee refunded while missing your chance at a $250,000 grant won’t help your students. Just remember that “Overnight” does not necessarily mean overnight. And “Guaranteed Delivery” does not mean that your shipper can absolutely guarantee that your package will arrive on time.

The responsibility for ensuring that your application arrives on time sits squarely on your shoulders. You must create a schedule for writing your grant, and you have to keep to that schedule. As you create and follow that schedule, be sure to allow plenty of time for your grant application to reach the grantor several days before the published deadline.

The Seven Steps
Over the last few months, we have discussed the seven steps needed to find, research, and write successful grant applications. Those steps include
1. finding a problem in your school that needs correcting,
2. developing a solution to the problem,
3. finding a grant that fits your situation,
4. confirming that you are eligible for that grant,
5. gathering the application and all the data you will need to complete your grant application,
6. actually completing the application, and
7. getting your application to the grantor by the grant’s deadline.

If you consistently follow those seven steps, you will consistently win grant money for your school. Whether you write one grant or 20 grants this year, follow that process. It will make you more successful as a grant writer than you ever imagined.

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