Little Details to Look For

Planning and completing a grant application is a lot of work, so in the rush to meet the application deadline it can be easy to overlook little details. That is why it is important to identify all requirements listed in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) near the beginning of the process (even if it does not seem like a big deal).

Examples of “Little” Details (that are actually important)

These are specific examples of requirements for certain FOAs—these are NOT requirements for all grant applications.

  1. Example from Centers for Disease Control FOA: “Each section should use 1.5 spacing with one-inch margins”
  2. Example from Department of State FOA: “Please also attach CVs for these staff members/volunteers, which are not more than two (2) pages each and indicate the person’s relevant skills and experience.”
  3. Example from Department of Commerce FOA: “APPENDICES (not included in 12-page limit)”
  4. Example from Bureau of Justice Assistance FOA: “Applications should include a high-quality Project Abstract that summarizes the proposed project in 400 words or fewer. Project Abstracts should be—
    • Written for a general public audience
    • Submitted as a separate attachment with “Project Abstract” as part of its file name
    • Single-spaced, using a standard 12-point font (Times New Roman) with 1-inch margins”

Do not use these requirements in every application. You must find all the requirements in the specific FOA you are applying to.

Why Do These Matter?

Government programs established by law and implemented through grants from a federal agency to an award recipient are often complex, multi-year projects. To accomplish the public-serving missions of these grant programs, each entity must follow a specific set of rules.

These specific requirements for a grant application serve two general purposes:

(1) To vet whether applicants follow requirements: If an applicant does not notice or follow the FOA requirements in their application, this may raise questions about how they would implement and report on specific details of the grant program if they received the funding.

(2) To make the application review process fair, consistent, and efficient: Formatting, page limits, and other similar requirements create a level playing field (i.e., fair and consistent) for all applicants to apply and be evaluated by those reviewing grant applications. Practically speaking, these length limits also make it possible for multiple layers of thorough, objective reviews of the applications.

What Should I Do?

In addition to reading the full FOA carefully before applying, you can also perform a careful review of your application after it is written to ensure it accurately and consistently addresses all these types of requirements. This review goes by various names (e.g., Red Team Review, final copyedit, etc.). Whatever you call it, make sure someone is looking closely for these details before you submit the application.