Grant funding is an intimidating concept. Even brilliant researchers and excellent academic writers don’t always receive their full requests. If you are a graduate student, or are just beginning your foray into academia, you may feel unsure about your chances.
But don’t be discouraged! Grant writing is a completely different animal than composing a research paper or producing an academic article. Once you master it, you will be as competitive as many of your colleagues.
So, where to begin? What follows is a simple, step-by-step checklist to get you thinking about your application. But above all, my advice is to be patient. It may take you three or four proposals to get the hang of this.
- Define your project and then find a grant program that fits. Don’t make the rookie mistake of trying to shape your research or project to fit the needs of a certain program. Ask yourself: Does my project really align with this program? If not, find a different program.
- Get a team together. If you are just writing a small research grant for your own purposes, you may be able to skip this step. Otherwise, consider forming a group of students, faculty, and community members who can read, comment on, and contribute to your proposal. Make sure to keep one or two of these folks on the sidelines until the proposal is almost ready to go – that way, they will view it with fresh eyes.
- Carefully read through the call for proposals. Make sure you know every detail and piece of information found in the document. Don’t wait until the last moment to read through the “unallowable costs” and discover your project does not fit the funder’s guidelines.
- Think through your project before you begin the narrative. Avoid creating the project as you go along. Try making an outline, creating a logic model, or design a list of goals for your work.
- Take your outline to contractors, community partners, and collaborators and figure out how they will be involved. This can be the toughest part of the application process. Getting everyone on the same page can be like herding cats! But it’s wise to get all of your bids, letters of support, statements of commitment, and feedback before the project is finalized in the narrative and budget. Then, continually follow up with partners until you have everything you need.
- Write your first draft. Make sure to answer every question fully. Whenever possible, use the same language as the funding organization to describe your goals and process. Make the case that you are a good fit for the project. Be clear, concise, and introduce your project and request from the get-go.
- [Check out this great handout on how to write for grant proposals]
- Revise, revise, revise! As with any good written work, revision is key. Get feedback from anyone who will read your proposal. Get started on your budget early and make sure to update numbers whenever you revise the project.
- Collect your supporting materials. Depending on the funding program, this may include: Letters of support, statements of commitment, contractor budgets, photographs, digital examples of projects, and promotional materials.
- Submit your final narrative and budget to your institution’s internal research team. If you work at a university or major institution, odds are that there are resources available for you to submit to as a final check for your work. There may also be policies and budget components that can only be inserted by your organization. Make sure you keep yourself available until the actual deadline to handle last-minute questions.Of course, there is a lot more to writing a grant, but these basic steps should get you on your way! How about you? Have you ever written a grant? What suggestions would you have? Leave a comment, below!
- [Want more tips? Check out these tips!]