More fun with Grants.gov

26 Nov

One of the more confusing aspects of Grants.gov is the PDF document that is used to complete and submit your grant. It serves many purposes. It is a vehicle for uploading your narrative, budget narrative, and other attachments; the source for forms such as the budget summary, face page, and certifications; and the home of the all mighty SUBMIT button.

The problem with the PDF is that it is a big ball of assumptions waiting to happen. The first is that you can access it, complete the forms, even upload documents—all without being registered with CCR (see previous post). This can lull you into a false sense of security. You complete the forms, upload everything you need, hit submit—and nothing. You’ll be asked for a username and password, which you might have, but which won’t work until you have completed ALL steps of registering with CCR.

While most online grant submission systems in the private sector live on the web and can be accessed from any computer as long as you have the URL for the log in page, a username, and a password, Grants.gov does not work like this. Repeat. Grants.gov does not work like this.

When you click to download the PDF and save any changes, you have downloaded it from the web to your computer (or network). Therefore, to make any changes or additions, you must not go back to Grants.gov and should not direct anyone else to do so. You must all work from the single, original PDF that you downloaded. Make changes directly to that document. You might want to spot check from time to time to make sure that everyone is literally on the same page.

This is a surprisingly difficult concept to explain to others. We’re all now used to going to a website, logging in, and making changes that live in and are stored in cyber space. Grants.gov does not store your PDF document and its information and attachments. The key word here is “download.” You have moved a copy of this document to your computer or server.

Again, seems simple, but it’s very easy to have several versions of your PDF floating around your office, none of which have all of the information needed. And none of which will make it past the “check for errors” stage of submission. This is not something you want to realize at the last minute when you are up against a deadline.

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