Join Karl Kapp for an in-depth discussion in this video Front matter, part of Grant Writing for Education.
- Okay, this section may seem a little mundane, but the mundane stuff can get you, or more accurately, leaving out or ignoring the mundane stuff can sabotage your chances for success. So while it might seem like a good idea to breeze through the front matter requirements of the proposal, don't. Front matter refers to the information you need to submit to the funding agency at the beginning of the grant proposal. It's sometimes called a grant application cover form, or even the grant signature page.
Front matter is the pure bureaucratic elements of the grant process, and the absence of something like a key signature could mean the end of a particular grant submission. So pay attention to this section. I've included an example of a cover application in the Exercise Files for this course. It is just one example of the many possible formats that might be requested. In some cases, the front matter is in the form of a cover letter, which accompanies the grant proposal. In other cases, such as for the government grants, front matter consist of forms that need to be completed and signed.
Basically, front matter is any material and information that is required before the grant abstract is presented. It is primarily administrative but still required for submission, and if it's missing, often a grant proposal would not be accepted. Front matter in the form of a cover sheet or cover letter is used in many grant review processes to keep the reviewers from knowing which person or organization submitted the funding request. Since many groups blindly review grants, the cover sheet is the only document that contains identifying information.
The cover sheet is removed from the grant prior to being given to the reviewers, who then review the grant blindly without knowing who or what organization submitted the grant. The front matter helps protect the integrity of the process. In the case of a government agency, the following types of information typically need to be provided. The name, ethnicity and gender of the principal or co-principal investigator, as well as information about whether or not the investigators are currently serving, or have previously served, on any federally-funded grants.
The agency may also ask for any recommended reviewers, or reviewers to be excluded, because of possible conflicts of interest. The forms might also request things like the organization's DUNS number, tax identification number, the organization's address, and the type of organization, such as a small business, educational institution, or minority business. Do you know this information? Do you know who to ask for this information? If not, find out. Get the information early to avoid last-minute scrambling over details like tax identification number.
This is easy information to get if you ask early enough. In the 11th hour, people can be less helpful. The form may also ask for the requested amount, the proposed duration, and if human subjects are involved, or even if this is the principal investigator's first time managing a grant. The forms typically contains spaces for authorized organizational representatives to sign. The front matter may also ask for the estimated number of individual students, faculty, directly impacted by the activities of the project.
This is all basic information, but can sometimes take a while to gather. It is important to know what the front matter requirements are in advance so you can allow enough time to obtain the proper signatures well before the due date of the grant. Often in a university setting, a two-week time frame for obtaining the Provost's signature on a grant is not unreasonable, and in many cases it can take even longer. Private organizations will also have front matter requirements. These will often involve the completion of forms similar to the ones required by government agencies, but can sometimes be simpler, such as a cover letter requesting funding and providing basic contact information, and information such as the solicitation number of the RFP, authorization that the organization submitting the grant can do the work, and appropriate signature from the person in the organization authorized to enter into a grant funding agreement.
Regardless of the type of organizations from which you are seeking funding, take the time to review all the requirements and elements they require in the front matter. Often you can gather much of that information early in the process, and avoid having to scramble as the grant submission deadline grows closer. Front matter can feel like a bureaucratic nightmare, but it still needs to be given careful attention. Methodically read the requirements related to the front matter, and put a plan into place early to ensure you have all the required information, and notify the right people for required signatures well ahead of time.
- Finding a private or governmental funding agency
- Locating collaborators
- Understanding an RFP
- Dissecting the anatomy of a grant proposal: front matter to appendices
- Avoiding common grant-writing mistakes