Sometimes starting is the hardest part!

Topic: Learning networks Other Type: Best Practices

Grant Writing Tips, Version 2.0

Authors: Emily Troisi

In August 2014, Molly Mowery wrote a blog post titled “Common Grant Writing Missteps – and Solutions!” that listed some tips for writing successful grants. With the start of the new year and upcoming grant deadlines, we wanted to revisit this popular topic.

When I was working for a non-profit organization, I spent a lot of time applying for a variety of grants– from small community foundation grants to large federal grants. One of the most important lessons I learned was the amount of time each took. While most of the small community grants required similar descriptive information, large federal grants required much more in terms of accountability, budget reports, etc. Many places have detailed budget guidance, such as this document from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help you keep track of the information you need to submit.

Lesson 1: Give yourself more time than you think you need.
Lesson 2: Keep good records of your work over the last few years as well as detailed budgets for the grants you have, and have a concise purpose and mission statement for your organization.

During graduate school, I took a class on grant writing that covered many of the tips found in this document by Bourne and Cholupa (2006). I especially appreciated working in small groups to practice explaining our research to people not in our field. I learned the importance of developing clear and concise background information and finding compelling ways to explain your research. At the same time, it is essential to give the reviewer enough information to understand why your research is novel, or why your program is needed. Make the reviewer’s job easy for them; start with a summary of key points, and if formatting rules allow, add bold or underline text to highlight main points.

Lesson 3: Be clear, concise and complete with your thoughts
Lesson 4: Reviewers may not be experts in your field.

At a workshop I went to last year on grant writing, the presenters pointed out that knowing your funding organization is important. Understanding the group you are trying to convince to give you money includes more than just reading their mission and goals. It may also include reviewing previously funded projects, or getting to know the grant administrator.

Lesson 5: Develop a relationship with someone at the granting institution who can help make sure you’re not missing any items, and answer clarifying questions.
Lesson 6: Get to know your funding organization. Read their mission, goals, previously funded projects, etc.

One of the speakers from my graduate class suggested that we keep a spreadsheet of organizations and recurring deadlines for grants. Certain foundations and agencies have annual grant cycles; if you get rejected, learn from your mistakes and try again.

Lesson 7: Try and try again.

Lastly, this list from The Grant Helpers may not apply to every grant, but it includes a useful “top six reasons” proposals get rejected list. This includes a poorly developed program, inadequate staff or resources, and more.

There are a lot of people out there with great tips for writing good proposals, and plenty of examples of successfully funded proposals online. These were a few of my grant writing tips, please feel free to share your tips and resources here!

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