Following on Kathleen Williams’ 3 September blog post “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Grantees,” I am posting some important tips for applicants.
- Contact the director of the NHPRC grant program to which you plan to apply. Even seasoned grant writers can benefit from having a phone conversation or email chat with the grant program director. Why? One, the program officer can point out ineligible activities or any changes to the grant announcement guidelines. Two, program officers can often provide you with a sample application similar to the type of project you intend to undertake. Three, program officers can candidly tell you whether the proposal you plan to write seems competitive, and if not, then help you identify ways in which you might strengthen your project.
- If your institution has a sponsored programs office, contact them early on in the grant writing process and let them know of your intent to apply. Sponsored programs offices generally have high turnover. Being on a personal name-to-name basis with a particular grant officer in the sponsored programs office can really benefit you when the time comes to submit your application or when problems arise down the road.
- Contact your State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). Authorized under NHPRC regulations, SHRABs review grant proposals submitted to us from institutions in their respective states. Most SHRABs like to know of institutions that intend to apply. SHRABs can provide invaluable advice to applicants and in some cases even review the applicant’s materials prior to the formal application deadline. For more information, please visit the SHRAB webpage on the Council of State Archivists’ website.
- Submit a draft. Even former NHPRC grant recipients intending to reapply should take advantage of the opportunity to submit a draft for review by an NHPRC program officer. Why? Drafts are read and commented on by the director in charge of the program to which you will apply: someone who has read countless good and bad applications and can identify ambiguities and weaknesses within the proposal. Drafts should include a full narrative and budget. Also, program officers read and respond to drafts in the order in which they are received, and so you don’t necessarily have to wait until the draft deadline to submit. The sooner you submit, the sooner you will receive comments, leaving you more time to improve your application prior to the final deadline.
- Follow the instructions in the grant announcement. This may seem obvious and expected, but you would be surprised how many applications fail to follow the instructions included in the grant announcement. One common mistake applicants make is exceeding the 20 page maximum for your narrative or supplementary materials. In this case, we will either ask you to remove pages to get your proposal within the page limits or simply remove any pages beyond the 20 page limit. Oh, and yes, you must include resumes of project staff in your supplementary materials. No, they do not need to include a full vita of all professional accolades and experience. Annotate your resumes to include experience and education that demonstrates the staff person’s ability to perform the project work.
- Don’t wait until the deadline to submit your application. Each cycle most grant applicants wait until the deadline date to submit their materials to Grants.gov. Why not submit your proposal a few days ahead of the deadline to avoid any problems? If the deadline is Thursday, for instance, and you submit on the previous Monday, then you are able to contact the NHPRC staff, make sure that your materials have been received and correct any mistakes that have been made.