I heard of a grantwriter who, having completed her application package and getting it ready to submit, took it down to the company receptionist to be sent off by FedEx. There was plenty of time before the deadline, and everything should have gone off without a hitch.
Except – there was a hitch. Just after she dropped off the package to the receptionist, a storm of emergency-level distractions descended on the receptionist and the package got shifted to her side desk and got covered over with other papers. It was discovered there three days later (two days after the submittal deadline). As a result, THE GRANT APPLICATION WAS DEAD BEFORE ARRIVAL. (In most cases, missing the submittal deadline is fatal to your application.)
Situation #2 (hypothetical): the grant application got off to FedEx on time, but it was on Tom Hanks’ FedEx plane that crashed in the movie “Castaway.” Like the first example application above, it never arrived either. OR – another example – a truck carrying your grant application via US Postal Service mail was hit by a freak tornado on a bridge near Tampa in 2015. The video is here. Imagine that one of those thousands of pieces of mail seen spiraling into the air was your grant application… get the point?
So what can you do about these sorts of situations which are out of your control? First, realize that while the situations themselves as described are out of your control, you are in control right up to the minute you turn your grant application package over for shipment.
Here are two actions that will provide you with insurance against these or other similar mishaps:
1. Always always always take the package to the shipping company YOURSELF. Do not trust this to anyone else unless you have an emergency come up. You will rest better knowing for sure that it was sent on time.
2. Always always always submit two complete packages using two different shippers. When I send off grant packages I always send one complete set using FedEx, and a second complete package using UPS. That way if Tom’s plane crashes, or the truck breaks down, or someone falls asleep at work, my application package will arrive on time.
I don’t recommend it, but if you are forced to use the US Postal Service (say because the grantmaker’s only address is a PO box), always send your package using Certified Mail with Return Receipt requested so you have evidence of both mailing and delivery times. If, as in the PO Box scenario, your only submittal path is via USPS, send two identical packages using Certified Mail, Return Receipt requested.
Usually, both packages will arrive on time, which is o.k. – some grant application instructions I have seen specify that if there is more than one submittal received, only the first one is accepted, and all others are discarded. That’s all right, because you are still sure that one got there.
Always comb through the application instructions on this point, however – occasionally there will be a grantmaker that could get really irritated by your double submittal and throw out both of your packages, so make sure there is no prohibition on multiple identical submittals. You might even include a cover letter that informs them that in the interest of certainty you have sent two identical packets by different means and that either one can be discarded at their option.
A belt-and-suspenders method (probably overkill) I have used in addition to the double-submittal plan is to send the two packages well before the deadline and have yet a third complete set available for hand delivery in the extremely-unlikely case that both go astray (you can check FedEx and UPS delivery online using the package number). Of course this method will only work if the submittal address is within feasible travel distance, but if a 10 million dollar grant application were involved, a plane ride across the country would not be out of the question…
3. The exception to the do-it-yourself-double-submittal rule is if the grantmaker requires electronic-only submission, as in the case of FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. In this case, however, their electronic submission system provides you with a dated receipt confirming that you made your submittal on time. The confirmation will serve to allay your fears about them receiving it. Of course, always print out a hard copy of what was submitted and file it with the confirmation so you can reconstruct the whole thing later if need be.
Follow these simple steps and you will have gone a long way toward having grant-submittal insurance that will allow you to relax and rest easy while you wait for awards to be announced. There is enough stress associated with that waiting period – you don’t need to add the stress of wondering whether your application even arrived on time…