April 21, 2017

Workspace—Making Grants.gov Applications A Little Less Stressful

Government grants are to grant writing as Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction is to Central Avenue. Great opportunity lies ahead—if only we can make it through the stress-inducing, blood pressure-raising experience of getting there. As grant writers and managers, we do not take Federal grants lightly. They represent a significant investment in time, and a not insignificant amount of sleep loss—wading through long instructions (often linked to multiple guides that must be cross-checked and coordinated), numerous forms, custom attachments, and the collaboration of many people, including those responsible for various facets of the program, budget, assessment, and reporting. And then there’s the submission process. It can be the final, cathartic step, followed by a champagne toast and wonderful dreams awaiting the notice of millions of dollars in funding. Or… alternatively… a gateway to horrific nightmares fraught with 11th hour site crashes, previously undiagnosed errors, receipt of an attachment that is missing critical information, or a glitch that won’t allow the package to submit. Ah yes, government grants. They provide access to critically-needed funding for our state, but getting there is definitely a journey.

The recent Workspace option offered by Grants.gov helps to make the journey just a bit easier. Before using it, I anticipated yet another layer in the online Grants.gov process. But it did prove helpful in simplifying application preparation among multiple contributors and reviewers. And importantly, it will make future applications more efficient. Following are a few notes highlighting some of the differences of Workspace as compared to a traditional package download.

  • Workspace is designed for collaboration. Rather than downloading a single application package, each form is a separate entity. Each of these can be worked on separately but simultaneously by different people. One person can download and complete the narrative, while another completes the budget. Each form provides an error check at the end, and will be listed as “PASSED” once all fields are filled in, or “IN PROGRESS” once viewed, but not fully complete. While a form is being worked on, the section may be locked, so another collaborator will not inadvertently work on the same form. It is unlocked once you upload it back to Grants.gov.
  • Grant progress is visible and transparent within the Workspace, with forms shown as “PASSED” or “IN PROGRESS.” Forms are available for preview by any participant at any time.
  • With some funding agencies such as NIH, the entire package, including attachments, can be seen by selecting the Grantor Image—the view the grant reviewer will access. This is a great tool for conducting a final review of the submission; looking at it in one long, linear package helps to highlight inconsistencies in areas such as titles and budget numbers.
  • Forms are REUSABLE for future grants! This promises to be a time-saving feature. Once a Workspace is set up, forms that match in name and version number (think “SF 424”—a form used in almost every application) may be either loaded from an earlier submission, or uploaded directly from your computer. The Workspace will automatically update the form’s cover sheet to reflect the current funding opportunity, while other fields will remain intact (and Biosketches and other attachments will stay attached). You simply edit field by field as needed.

Things to keep in mind when you create a Workspace:

  • If multiple people will access the Workspace, be sure you are registered as an organization applicant. Others within the organization can then be added to the workspace with specific roles. If you don’t want too many people to have access to the Workspace, individual forms may also be downloaded and emailed out to consortium members to complete and return for upload.
  • There are a number of different Workspace user roles. They must be approved by the organization’s EBiz Point of Contact (POC), a role designated when registering with SAM.gov. There can only be one EBiz POC for each DUNS. Once roles are approved, they will be visible in the Applicant Center Welcome Box in the upper left corner. Roles include the following:
    • Participant is any person given access to a Workspace. This role is able to download, complete, and upload forms.
    • The Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) submits the application on behalf of the organization; this role must be assigned in order to submit. The AOR automatically has a Manage Workspace role, as well, and can access EBiz POC functionalities with a valid MPIN (provided through SAM registration). The EBiz POC has access to all Workspace within an organization.
    • The Manage Workspace role allows a participant to create a Workspace, and may notify the AOR that an application is ready for submission. The person who creates the Workspace automatically becomes the Workspace Owner (ownership may be reassigned to a different individual). The Workspace Owner may manage other users’ access.
  • To create a Workspace, visit Grants.gov and log into the system. Once logged in, the Applicant Actions area provides a link to “Manage my Workspace.” Steps include:
    • Select grant. Select “Manage My Workspace,” then indicate the grant you wish to access by entering the opportunity number, title, CDFA, Workspace ID, or other identifier in a criteria field.
    • Add participants and assign roles. The EBiz Point of Contact (POC)—a person named during registration with SAM, often the CFO—will need to approve roles.

For additional information, grants.gov provides an online Workspace Overview, with numerous links to specific questions on assigning roles, reusing forms, and more. As you tackle your next Federal grant, consider using Workspace to avoid some of the typical grant preparation potholes. We would love to hear about your experience with it. Or better yet, bring The Grant Plant along for the journey!

Contact: Cecily Peterson, Resource Development Officer, cecily@thegrantplantnm.com

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