Paper-based submissions of grants are disappearing.
Electronic Submissions of Grant Applications
In this scenario, the grant RFP says you must submit the grant electronically by a certain time and date through an online portal. NSF has been using this for quite a while. The federal department of education has also started the move to online submissions. Their system is actually quite user friendly compared to NSF.
The NSF uses something called "FastLane."
For details on how to use the Department of Education's online submission portal, check out:
How to use the e-Application process in the federal Department of Education
Concerns you should have over electronic submissions:
Apart from the usual nightmares that you have left it until the last minute and are now concerned that the entire University network will go down, you have to be very concerned about the authorization process and the time lines associated with that process. Electronic submissions are actually a multi-step procedure.
Once you get all of your bits and pieces uploaded, the system sends a message to the authorized representative for the University who must electronically sign your document to authorize it to go forward to the competition. Without that step, your proposal is going nowhere. For electronic submissions, the Provost’s Office has been the authorized representative. NSF provides a breathing space between your submission of the proposal and the authorized university representative signing it. This allows for anomalies such as submissions that occur late at night or for a situation when a person could be out of town. Note that the federal department of education does not do that. If your submission is to be in no later than midnight on a particular date, then once you submit your proposal, the authorized representative must also electronically sign your proposal before that midnight hour. Of course, if you’ve got the proposal in early, that won’t be a problem. On the other hand, if you are indeed submitting it at the very last minute possible, and it will be happening well after work hours, you could have some excitement.