How to Get Grant Proposal Writers to Meet Deadlines

Meeting deadlines is the bane of grant proposal development.  Most proposal schedules center on deadlines and deliverables, and many Proposal Managers spend an inordinate amount of their time getting the proposal team to adhere to the schedule.

 One of the chief challenges Proposal Managers face is getting their proposal writers to meet deadlines.  Todd A. Boehm, a Principal Associate at Tenzing Consulting, has good advice about how Proposal Managers can accomplish this difficult task.  They are listed below.

 Find the right writer for the right task

Identify the writers that know a great deal about content of your proposal.  Knowledgeable people are more likely to write well and adhere to deadlines than people who are flummoxed by their assignments.

 Get agreement

A good rule in proposal development is “no surprises.”  Tell your writers exactly what you need from them, the importance of their roles, and the schedules and deadlines they must follow.  If possible, this should be done via a face-to-face meeting.  Lunch is even better, especially if you treat.

 Set expectations

No one likes to work in an environment where expectations are vague.  At the beginning, tell your writers what is expected of them, hold them to these expectations, and provide them with the resources and support to succeed.  There is no substitute for clear instructions and goals tied to a calendar schedule.

 Create a supportive proposal environment

Getting the right people for the right tasks is a good first step, but it is only a first step.  Creating a supportive proposal environment is very important.  Do the following:

  • Communicate with others the way you would like them to communicate with you.
  • Set clear expectations.
  • Coach, mentor, and provide advice.
  • Make the proposal schedule a daily stand-up topic in meetings and conference calls.
  • Monitor progress or the lack of it.
  • Provide support to people who need more assistance.
  • Establish interim milestones, such as due dates for a preliminary draft.

 Ease the task of writing

Writing well is a skill that can be nurtured.  Provide your writers with a detailed outline or storyboard.  Develop win themes.  Develop differentiators.  Identify graphics early.  Focus on the substance.  Provide a writing and style guide.  Break assignments into smaller, achievable steps to bolster confidence and achieve progress.  The easier the task of writing, the more likely it will get done and get done well.

 Writing well is a challenge, even for good writers.  Make it easier by providing your grant writers with a supportive environment in which to complete their tasks.  More structure will result in less midnight oil being burned, which will make everyone happy.


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