Many of us know the terrible, stress-inducing panic that sets in when we realize just how much remains to be completed before a looming grant submission deadline. An invaluable first step to avoid this anxiety is to create a timeline: an easy-to-digest, visual map of what tasks need to be completed, information collected, and materials formatted, by whom and when.
Not only does a timeline help you ensure that the many components of your grant proposal are completed on time, but ideally the increased organization and proactive planning entailed in using a timeline gives you the mental space to concentrate on constructing a clear, credible, convincing, and hence more competitive, proposal.
Many customizable resources for building and sharing timelines can be found online (Smartsheet®, Google Calendar, and Evernote are some examples), but you can also manually create a timeline in Excel.
Here’s a bare-bones list of milestones to plan into a timeline. IU’s required deadlines for sponsored research proposals that are handled by the Office of Research Administration (ORA) are marked with an asterisk; all others are recommendations. Above all, we encourage you to give yourself as much time as you can for planning, consulting with mentors and colleagues, writing, editing, reworking, etc.
- As soon as you start: Block out your aims/goals and an outline for the project description. Assess how your aims fit together, fit with agency’s program priorities, etc.
- Ideally at least 6-8 weeks ahead of the agency deadline: Before you start writing the rest of the proposal, get feedback on your specific aims from your program officer or colleagues who know the field and will give you frank, constructive feedback. Perfecting your aims first gives you the leeway to make revisions to your project without having to rework large sections of the proposal.
- At least a month ahead: Start working on the budget with your school’s fiscal officer or other budgeting support personnel.
- At least 3-4 weeks ahead: Seek feedback from colleagues on the substantive content of the full proposal.
- At least 2 weeks ahead: Seek feedback on the persuasive style of the full proposal, including rhetoric, organization, flow, language, etc.
- At least 2 weeks ahead: Offer any letter writers a drafted letter of support for them to modify and sign.
- At least 2 weeks ahead: Contact ORA at email@example.com to have a grant specialist assigned. The grant specialist will review and submit the proposal.
- 2 weeks ahead or so: Target this time to finalize administrative pieces such as the budget, biosketch, facilities, and current & pending funding information.
- 8 business days ahead or so: Have administrative pieces ready for final polishing. Aim to have any letters of agreement/support in hand.
- *4 business days ahead, 9AM: This is the ORA review deadline for administrative pieces.
- 4 business days ahead: PDS recommends that your remaining documents (technical pieces – abstract, project description, references) are also ready for final polishing by this time so that you can focus on dotting the final i’s and crossing all the t’s.
- *2 business days ahead, 9AM: This is the ORA deadline for the full proposal. All remaining pieces are due, especially the technical pieces if they have not already been submitted.
- Day 0 (agency deadline): Submit your proposal. If you are working with ORA, they will submit the approved proposal. We recommend that you submit early enough to allow time for any submission system errors to be resolved.
From our most recent faculty workshop, faculty shared that the most valuable tip was the discussion of how to plan backward from the proposal deadline. We hope the milestones above will be equally useful to you in constructing a timeline for your next proposal.