At our house, when I mow the yard, my wife often comes out afterwards and identifies areas where I have left “sticky-ups.”
For those unfamiliar with this term, a sticky-up is a single stalk of grass that remains upright (sticking up) and uncut above the surrounding mowed grass level. While sticky-ups are sort of cute, they detract from the overall manicured look of a freshly-mowed lawn, and as such are undesirable.
Now I am much like every guy who mows the yard – when I’m done I want to BE DONE, and not have to go back and rework areas that aren’t quite right. After all, they will grow out again anyway, right?
In grant writing, sticky-ups are a problem just like in lawn mowing – something that is not completely done and checked before submitting. A sticky-up in a grant application can be a question that is not answered thoroughly, a signature omitted, discrepancies between numbers for the same thing cited in different parts of the application, or a missed deadline.
Here is the difference between your yard and a grant application: in your yard, sticky-ups are a mere annoyance, and you can either go back and deal with them or ignore them and wait for the surrounding grass to grow up a bit and hide them. In a grant application, however, a single sticky-up can be FATAL!
Here’s an example. A while back I worked on an energy-conservation grant application for a Florida city. The application instructions were very clear that the application was to be signed on page one by “the elected official,” i.e., The Mayor, and submitted to arrive in the State Energy Commission office by a certain time on a certain day.
When the awards were announced, news came out that one of the applicant cities had failed to get the required signature on their application, and although they discovered the omission the day after the due date, it was too late to fix it and the application was rejected as non-responsive (“non-responsive” is grant language for “you did not follow the directions”). THIS WAS A FATAL STICKY-UP! All the hard work that went into putting together that grant application was wasted because of a single seemingly minor goof. All the data, the project summary composition, the internal interviews and planning, the budget computations and allowance figuring – all of it went into the trash and was never reviewed by the grantmaker. Because of one sticky-up.
So here is the lesson – never, never, never, never, never allow your grant application to be submitted without carefully going through the requirements (YES AGAIN) one-by-one and making sure that you have satisfied every single last one of them. Minimum 12-point font? Check. Maximum 1 page answer for Question 1.A? Check. Everything. Down to the last blade of grass. No exceptions. None. Nada. This is not the time to get lazy – you have worked very hard to put everything together for a good submittal – don’t let it be ruined by a single sticky-up.
If you can’t stand to look at the application one more time, enlist a coworker or friend or spouse or even a paid enemy to look through it for you. They don’t have to be experts in the technical field involved. They just have to be committed to looking at every fine point and making sure you have covered it properly. Don’t have enough time before it is due? Good luck – but learn from your mistake, and next time allow an extra day/two days/week to let you comb through to make sure that you are sure there are no sticky-ups.
If you make a habit of looking for and dealing with sticky-ups, you will sleep better as a result, and your grant capture percentage will go up as well!