Faithful readers will recall my post on the perils of last minute changes to proposal concepts in “Stay the Course: Don’t Change Horses (or Concepts) in the Middle of the Stream (or Proposal Writing).” But, as Paul Harvey likes to say, now it’s time for the rest of the story. . .
Just after I’d written “Stay the Course,” the public-sector client who was the subject of this sad tale of woe called to breathlessly say that HUD funded the proposal for $3 million! Despite the unnecessary drama resulting from last minute changes that caused the proposal to be submitted at 11:59 PM on the due date, the outcome was great, illustrating the difference between process and outcome objectives that I covered in “The Goal of Writing Objectives is to Achieve Positive Outcomes (Say What?).”
Plus, our client didn’t even know that HUD had received the proposal until two weeks before the funding notification. She didn’t receive the sequence of emails from grants.gov confirming receipt; calls and emails to grants.gov (and HUD) generated responses along the lines of, “we can’t find any record of it.”*
This went on for months. It also turned out that there were problems with other applicants that day at grants.gov, so HUD re-opened the competition to allow affected applicants to re-submit. Our client called the HUD Program Officer to discuss the re-submission process, at which point she was quickly told, “You don’t have to, we have your proposal and it’s already scored.” Two weeks later, she got a call from her congressman letting her know she’s been funded.
I’m not sure what the moral to this story may be, other than proposal writing is stressful enough without amping it via last-minute changes. The story does reveal the chaotic nature of the grant review process, as well as the general uninterest most bureaucrats show toward the programs they run and their “customers” (grant applicants).
If anyone at grants.gov or HUD cared, they could’ve done the research necessary to reassure our client that the proposal was received, instead of providing the slow psychological torture of bureaucratic indifference.** I could’ve helped our client solve this problem if she’d called me, because a quick phone call to her congressman’s field deputy who is the HUD liaison would’ve lit a fire under the bureaucrats’ rear ends sufficient to raise even the most slack-jawed HUD staffer from their stupor long enough to get to the bottom of this exercise in absurdity.
* Faithful readers will remember how fantastically unhelpful bureaucrats can be.
** For an exquisite study in psychological torture, read Ian Fleming’s most unusual James Bond story, “Quantum of Solace”, which is not to be confused with the eponymous movie that merely shares the title.