Planning to submit? What you should be doing NOW!

I often get calls from clients who wish to submit an SBIR/STTR grant with a deadline only a couple of weeks or even days away.  Not realizing the amount of time and effort needed to put together a winning proposal is one of the biggest mistakes we see.  I’ve had people tell me that they should be able to knock out a 15-page proposal “this weekend,” and have it ready for a deadline on Tuesday.  For those of you with experience, you know that is really impossible to do. 

So what should someone be doing NOW and how early should they start before a deadline?  My advice is that it is ideal that an inexperienced grant writer start as much as 3 months before the deadline.  If you want to submit and SBIR/STTR to NSF in December or NIH in January, NOW is the best time to be getting prepared.  Here is a list of some things to be getting done:

  1. Get your registrations in order.  These sometimes take 4 weeks to complete
  2. Prepare an executive summary.  This can go to a program manager, but also give you a good idea of what your project is about.
  3. Contact a program manager.  Some agencies go ‘silent’ a month before the deadline, so you won’t be able to talk with them after that date.  It’s best to bounce your idea off of them as soon as you have an executive summary.
  4. Get collaborators on board.  You will need letters from them, and letters tend to languish on other people’s desk (like their legal department) for weeks.  I’ve seen many cases where a letter promised was not submitted in time because the collaborator forgot or had it get stuck in bureaucracy.
  5. so we can help!!

Things always seem to take longer than you expect, such as that proposal draft or budget from a collaborator, so plan for delays.  If you realize that you just don’t have the time to put together a good proposal be comforted that there is another deadline coming up and you are well prepared with an early start for that next one.

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