Complying with the Technical Review Requirements on Your Grant Application

By Beverly A. Browning

When you first submit a grant application to a federal agency for funding consideration, your application goes through a technical review process (or simply pre-review). This pre-review includes checking to see whether you’ve completed and signed all the required forms. The pre-review process also verifies your compliance with formatting instructions and checks the page length of your narrative and all other documents. Many government grant and cooperative agreement applications have narrative length restrictions, such as no more than 20 double-spaced pages.

The narrative is the body or main event in your grant application. It’s where you write about your organization’s history and capability as a grant applicant, the statement of need for grant funding, and the program design (plan of action) for planning and implementing the grant-funded program. In addition, the narrative of a grant application also contains writing sections for the program’s management plan (key personnel responsibilities, and task descriptions), the evaluation plan, the sustainability statement, and the budget details and summary.

If you fail to pass one of the pre-review mandatory checks, your application doesn’t move from the pre-review phase to the peer review phase.

When you first read a grant or cooperative agreement opportunity announcement, some basic information points can give you clues about how to set up your word-processing software to correctly format the narrative. As you read through the formatting instructions, pay attention to the following information. The quicker you find this often buried information in the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), the sooner you can get started with the writing process.

  • The line spacing required: This can be single or double. Either way, it matters. Press Ctrl+F (⌘+F) to open the Find window. Type single to find any references to single spacing. If you don’t find single, type double. This approach is the easiest way to find and note line-spacing requirements.
  • The font type and size you must use: Press Ctrl+F (⌘+F) and type font to quickly locate the mandatory or strongly suggested font you have to use to type the documents. Not all grants require a specified font, but many do.
  • How page limits and page numbers are handled: Most grant application narratives have page limits. The limitations may apply only to the narrative or they may apply to the narrative plus all the mandatory or required attachments. Typically, extra narrative-supporting charts, résumés, letters of commitment, and other documents are considered a part of the attachments. When they’re included in the page count, it can be stressful for the grant writer.

Page numbering can also present due diligence moments. The pagination requirements can begin with the first form and end with the last page in the appendixes or can apply only to the narrative section of the request.

Some funding agencies also require that you write an abstract. Press Ctrl+F (⌘+F) to open the Find box; type page to find all references for page limits, page numbering requirements, and page formatting. Keep in mind that e-grant applications (where the entire grant application is filled out online) have character limits as opposed to pagination requirements found in a hard-copy grant application.

In addition to the formatting requirements, the instructions may include specific program requirements. To be sure of the requirements, check the actual funding announcement before preparing your application.

Always read the grant application guidelines and then be sure to follow the instructions for forms and formatting to the letter.