TIPS FOR GRANT WRITING
Grant writing is not an easy endeavor and often takes more time than one expects. It seems worthwhile to repost the information below as aid to anyone considering writing and submitting a grant. The first order of business when considering writing a grant is to contact your sponsored research office and tell them what you want to seek funding for. Ask questions about the process so you are well-informed about expectations from the very beginning and provide them with enough information that they can help you find funding opportunities that fit your project.
Writing proposals can be a time consuming and frustrating experience. Deadlines have a tendency to fall at a time when schedules are hectic. However, if a little time is taken to carefully plan grant seeking efforts in advance, the task can be tolerable and rewarding. When planning a proposal, define the most pressing problems to be addressed by the proposal. Successful grants present a clear picture of why a program is necessary, what the goals of the project are, and how those goals will be achieved. The answers to those questions form the basis of the proposal and offer direction to the most appropriate funding sources. Those answers also indicate that the individual requesting funding knows exactly what needs to be done and how to accomplish it. However, having a need for funding may not be enough to win over a prospective source of funding. You must also show the funding source that you have realistically pinpointed not only your objectives but theirs and that they will be rewarded with beneficial results. You can do that by addressing the following issues:
- Is your project topic a priority for the funding agency?
- What are others doing in this area?
- What needs or partial needs can be met in the short- or long-term if your proposal is funded?
- Who will benefit from your efforts?
- How will you measure the benefits?
- Why is solving this need important?
There are no real shortcuts to successful proposal writing but setting strategy in advance will make writing the proposal less difficult.
BASIC RULES FOR PROPOSALS
- Take your time writing the proposal.
- Don't waste words, obscure the point, or exaggerate what you can accomplish.
- Begin each section of the proposal with a strong, clear sentence.
- Don't ask for more than you need.
- When dealing with any funder, but especially federal agencies, remember to read the instructions before applying for support. It sounds simple, but federal competitions live by two rules: 1) The agency is always right, and 2) When in doubt, refer to rule 1.
- If your proposal doesn't get funded, try to find out why, use that information to strengthen the proposal, and apply again.
Proposals fail because:
- The research is not well-thought out, has obvious flaws in the logic, or doesn’t demonstrate need or importance.
- The research subject falls outside of explicit program guidelines.
- The proposal failed to persude the funder of three factors: 1) what you want to do; 2) why you are qualified to carry out your research design; 3) why the topic is meaningful, of interest to the funder, and/or innovative.
- Deadlines weren't met. This should be obvious. It is the responsibility of the proposer, not the funder, to ensure that materials are promptly submitted. Many agencies now want electronic submission which eliminates excuses like “Lost in the mail”, “the Post Office was slow in delivering”, etc.
- Instructions were not followed or all questions on the forms were not answered. Assume that instructions and questions are included for specific purposes and are not arbitrary. Obey page limits unless you have received an exception from the program.
- The funder is not convinced the applicant knows what s/he wants to investigate. This is indicated by the vagueness of the research questions posed or even the absence of research questions within the abstract or body of the proposal.
- The proposal lacks clarity. It is too wordy or too long. Jargon has been overused or misused.
- The letters of recommendation are weak. Funders become cautious when letters of reference indicate that the writer is uninformed about the substance of the project or uses generic language. Since most recommendations are confidential, this is the area over which an applicant has least control. Take steps to ensure that the chosen recommenders are familiar with both the content of the proposal and the applicants qualifications.
You can do it:
Grant funding is often vital to continued scholarship but faculty are sometimes reluctant to write a proposal. They are concerned about the time it will take or even if they can write a fundable proposal. Yet these same faculty write publishable papers on a regular basis. Writing a proposal is very similar to writing a publishable paper. It begins with an idea -- an idea that takes a familiar topic and expands it, takes it in a new direction, or examines it in a new light. The primary difference between writing a paper for publication and writing the narrative is that the research for the paper has already been done. A proposal suggests what direction your research will take and how you will go about reaching your proposed goal. Use the same methods that you would use for a paper. Make an outline of what you know of your topic, make an outline of what you want to know as a result of your research and then outline how you will accomplish the research. When converting these outlines to narrative, enclose them between a strong opening paragraph explaining the importance of your work and a concluding paragraph summing up the work and its importance. Once the proposal is written, do as you would do for a paper, ask others to read it and make suggestions.
Some things to remember when writing the narrative or body of the proposal:
- There are no real shortcuts to successful proposal writing but setting strategy in advance will make writing the proposal less difficult.
- It must adequately document and support statements through citation of sources, etc.
- It must make clear the relationship between events since the reader may not be familiar with your particular topic's background. That doesn't mean that you must write a history, but certainly the main currents should be explained.
- It must convince the reader that the direction of your research either has not been looked at previously, expands the available scholarship on the topic, or has some new facet or direction.
- It must be written in a clear and succinct manner. Don't use $50 words in an effort to increase the reader's perception of you as an intellectual. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Don't use jargon or catch phrases. Avoid foreign phrases, if possible.
- Write only enough to clearly communicate your message but don't omit important details. On the other hand, don't overwhelm the reader with unnecessary detail. Reread your proposal several times to make sure that you have included only what is necessary but that it is inclusive.
- The first and last paragraphs of your narrative are perhaps the most important. The first paragraph should make clear the problem you are addressing, tell why it is important to examine it and give a brief statement (no more than two to three sentences) of the project. This is the first impression the reader will have and it must convince him/her that he/she wants to know more. The last paragraph should provide a brief summary of the project and its importance. This paragraph is the last impression the reader will have of the proposal and is the culmination of your argument. It should be comprehensive and leave the reader with a belief in the value of the project and your ability to complete it.
Upcoming Deadlines for funding opportunities in the: