I have no idea what I’ve agreed to when I click the button that says “Yes, I’ve reviewed all the rules and regulations” before I update the software on my phone. My family, mostly comprised of lawyers, are somewhat appalled by this, but I say, “Well, if I want to use the phone, I need to agree to this, don’t I?”

Yes, but I am also taking a risk that I am agreeing to something I don’t want to do, and if that happens, it is going to get a lot more awkward for me than just not having my phone.

My attitude is merely flippant when discussing the terms and conditions for iTunes, but it is much more problematic when referring to the terms of a grant. There are implications of accepting a grant without understanding the sponsor’s rules that range from:

  1. The very serious: Once you accept a grant, you have entered into a contract with the sponsor, and breaking that contract has both legal and professional ramifications.
  2. The less serious: Once you accept a grant, you have signed yourself up for a project for a period of time, usually at least two years and often up to five. If it isn’t what you want to do, it is going to be a rough time for you.

Because no matter the grant, from the very small to the very large, there are rules about what you must do once you receive the funds. So as part of determining if a solicitation is right for you, you must familiarize yourself with the expectations and requirements of the award. It may not impact what you write in your proposal beyond your budget, but it should absolutely impact whether or not you write the application. Because when you write an application, you are committing to do everything in your project plan for your budget costs while following all the sponsor’s rules and regulations.

While you are looking, keep in mind that some sponsors do not provide this information in the solicitation. Federal funders have separate documents with their grant politics and guidelines so they do not have to repeat them in every solicitation. Wherever they are housed, take the time and make sure you understand not only what the sponsor requires of your budget, but what they will require of you in terms of reporting, information sharing, and visits.

You expect your sponsor to do what was promised, mostly in the form of sending you the amount of money at promised time. The sponsor expects you to do what you promised them. So don’t agree do to anything you are either unwilling or unable to do.