I wrote a blog article a while back discussing some of the difficulties inherent in successfully fulfilling a role as a grant writing subcontractor (insufficient time before a deadline, a lack of client vetting for grant preparedness, etc.), while proposing some solutions to these problems, such as avoiding situations in which there is not enough time to do a good job, and performing all due diligence on a potential client to make sure they can deliver the goods. That discussion did not include a very important task, one that if not undertaken successfully can sink any grant proposal, especially when time is tight.
And that's editing.
I don’t only mean the sort of rudimentary polishing of text that we all engage in. I am referring to the kind of editing that takes place when there is more than one participant in the grant writing process. In these situations, there are often a number of documents being worked on simultaneously so that it becomes difficult to determine which is the actual proposal for submission. These problems often occur when one finds oneself working as a subcontractor, answerable to both a client(s) and employer. They become potentially amplified when there is more than one subcontractor.
I was in a situation like this after agreeing to write a federal grant under an extremely tight deadline. I turned the final version over to the employer after being assured by another grant writer that what I had was their finished work. The problem was that they had sent a different version of that work on to the employer. I didn’t know that this alternate version existed. I had also agreed to submit the grant (something that I will be on guard about taking on in the future). I did so with literally seconds to spare before Grants.gov closed for submissions. I only found out that there were problems when it was too late. Because I had assumed primary responsibility for submission, I got the blame and I now have one less source of income as a result.
How can confusion like this be avoided, especially as the deadline for submission fast approaches? Of course, there should always be one person who is responsible for assembling the final package, whether they ultimately submit the grant or not (again, not something that a subcontractor should be responsible for, but that’s another discussion). Also, the Track Changes feature in Miscrosoft Word, assuming that’s the word processing program used, should always be employed. The individual responsible for assembling the final package should check the dates/times of all of the revisions so that they know for a fact that they have what is intended to be the absolute, final version of the document. Also, an incontrovertible deadline for final submission of a draft (or parts of it) to whoever is responsible for putting the final version together should also be established so that different parts of it are not flying around right before it has to be submitted.
I understand that it’s not always possible to follow these suggestions. But it’s incumbent upon someone to try and gauge how ready a client is so that edits are not taking place at the last minute. If a subcontractor cannot make this kind of determination, then it may be a sign that they should not take the work on in the first place. This is especially true in the case of federal grants involving hours of work and many disparate sections. In any case, it’s especially important to have control over the final editing process when there is more than one writer (too many?) working on different parts of the same proposal simultaneously. If this kind of control is not exercised, what gets cooked up could possibly be quite tasteless.
About the Author
David Lipten, Ph.D., owner/consultant at GrantWorks and a Grants Professional Services partner, has written winning federal grant proposals on behalf of a number of electric utilities, garnering nearly $40 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants, among other successes. He is based in Tallahassee, FL. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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