Grants 101 Writing Skills

Post-Award Requirements

Sep 28, 2023

People forget to tell you there’s extra work to do after your grant is awarded. Not just the work you proposed, but work required by the funder. I think people assume you know and account for this added work. It’s like the first time I used an Instant Pot. The recipe said it would take me 35 minutes to cook ribs. So I planned to spend 35 minutes cooking. But the recipe forgot to mention that it takes an additional ~40 minutes for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure and release pressure. Those extra 40 minutes mattered to me. I had a hungry toddler to feed. It’s hard to plan your life when you don’t know what to expect.

Let’s fix this, at least in the case of grant writing. You already know that after you get a grant, you need to celebrate heartily and do the work you proposed. What you may not know is that you also usually have to write post-award reports. Most funders ask you to generate these reports. Funders want to understand what you achieved with their money. Post-award reports look different for every funder. But here are general items to consider as you write post-award reports:

  • Make time for your reports. The first time I got a Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) request, NIH’s version of a post-award report, I was just about to go on summer break. I had no time to write it, and I needed to compile a lot of specific information. But you can anticipate and make time for these requests. Read your grant guidelines or check with your research administrator. Study what you’ll need to compile. That way you won’t be stressed when the report request comes.
  • Follow the instructions. Funders will give specific instructions, and you should follow them. I know this is obvious, but we all need reminders to do this. I recently submitted a paper where I forgot to recheck submission requirements. The paper was kicked back to me. That’s a waste of time for the journal and my team. I would have saved everyone time if I’d remembered to recheck the requirements before submission.
  • Do a great job on your reports. Sometimes people treat reports as pro forma and like they don’t matter at all. I think this is a mistake. Yes, probably not that many people will end up reading your report. But sometimes people really care about your report. Your report helps funders show others (congress, their board) that it was a great idea to invest in you. Your report can indicate that the funder should invest in you again, because they already got great returns by investing in you and your team. Here’s one of my reports from this NSF grant. My program officer was so pleased with us after this report, they asked if we might need more funds to support new areas for our work.

So many of us have been caught off-guard by post-award requirements that I’ve had multiple readers email me to say that I need to warn you about these requirements. They wanted to make sure you don’t get caught off-guard too. I love that we have this community where people are looking out for each other.

If you know someone who could benefit from this information, could you look out for them by forwarding this email to them? Thank you for reading and believing that scholars deserve support for incredible ideas.


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P.S. Here’s one of my favorite Instant Pot recipes, Tuscan Chicken from Amy & Jacky. They share insider tips, like how adding a tiny bit of soy sauce boosts umami flavor in cooking.

P.P.S. Gardening is a funny endeavor. We had some good luck growing tiny watermelons this year. But we tried growing watermelons last year in a much better spot, and nothing grew. Go figure!