By Star Moretz and Maria Gallardo Williams (Office for Faculty Excellence)
Part 1of a 3 Part Series
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Grant writing is probably the very least favorite activity for most scholars, and yet it is one of the most important. Without grants we don’t get funding, and without funding…well without funding we can’t do most of the things that we love about academia.
However, grant writing is a talent that can be acquired and cultivated. It is also an activity that can benefit from some general organizational principles. In this series of 3 blogs we will cover the things that we have found to be more relevant in crafting a successful grant, and will share them with you, one simple step at a time.
Let’s go over some of the crucial parts in writing and submitting a successful grant proposal:
Understanding your audience: Before you start writing your grant proposal, make sure that you acquaint yourself with the granting agency, and with the people in charge of grant administration. A contact person is included with every Request for Proposals, and it is entirely appropriate to reach out to them with questions regarding the scope of the grant, and the composition of the reviewer panel. Beyond that, make sure that you are writing in a way that will be clearly understandable to your reviewers, minimizing the use of jargon whenever possible. Spell out all acronyms when you first use them, and keep your writing interesting for a reader that might not be familiar with your narrow field.
Be clear and persuasive: Clarity is a goal that we all have in mind, but one that can be difficult to achieve when you consider that a grant will have space/word limits that have to be observed. Editing one’s own writing for clarity might be challenging, so you might want to consider asking a colleague to proofread your grant submission (and be prepared to reciprocate). Clear writing that gets to the point quickly, and that conveys a sense of urgency in the reader to take action will be more likely to get funded. Also, keep in mind that it is essential to explain the motivation behind your application, even if you think it’s obvious. Your reviewer might need to be persuaded to see the possible benefits of funding your work, because they are not as familiar with the subject matter as you might be.
Follow the directions: Your reviewers will be asked to use a rubric that will line up with the agency’s grant submission guidelines. If you don’t follow these guidelines to the letter you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage when compared to candidates who did. Make sure to meet all criteria regarding word limits, documentation requirements, reference formatting, etc. Your College’s Sponsored Research Office might have personnel that can help you meet all the required criteria, but if this is not the case, a thorough review of the guidelines can be an important component of your process when submitting a grant application.
Budget enough time to write/research: Most novice grant writers underestimate the time commitment required to assemble all the elements of a grant application, and the extra burden imposed by variable guidelines from different agencies. Writing a grant proposal requires a lot more attention to detail than writing a research paper or a report, mostly due to the need to establish the importance of the subject matter early on, and showing command of the existing literature. Beyond the careful writing, you will have to fit your content into very specific forms, which might be more time consuming than you imagine. And, lastly, do not underestimate the amount of time that it will take to complete budgets and to collect all required signatures. A good rule of thumb is to try to get the grant application completed at least a week before the deadline, in order to accommodate last minute changes and delays.
Don’t miss the second installment of this blog series, in which you will learn about the other four important components of grant writing:
Show why you are the best person/team for this grant
Put the deciding reason up front
Find strategic partners
Pay attention to detail
And also, stay tuned for our third installment, where we will show you the nuts and bolts of how to put a grant together.