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Writing effective grant proposals takes a lot of time and effort, and anyone who has experience writing a successful grant application knows this all too well. You may be surprised, for example, that up to 25% of your time will be spent looking for an appropriate funding call for your project. The actual writing of the grant can take more than 45% of your time. So, what’s left of the remaining 30%? That time is dedicated to planning and administration of the writing and submission process.
So, successful grant writing examples have to include not just the writing, but looking for proposal opportunities as well as the planning and administration of the grant writing process. In this article, we’ll go through each step of the process.
Step by Step Grant Proposal Writing
Step 1: Your idea
Why is your project interesting, and who might care about it? Who will benefit if you successfully complete the project? Is your idea novel in the field, and why are you the best person to complete the project? Are you being realistic in what you claim you can achieve?
These are all questions that will drive the success of your grant proposal. Unless each of these questions is tackled well, it’s not likely that your proposal will be accepted. Funding organizations want to fund projects that fit these criteria.
Step 2: Find a match
Now that you’ve generated an interesting idea, take time to find out who funds similar projects. Different funding agencies focus on different projects. Think outside the box. For example, if you’re studying the effect of climate change on a certain animal population, in addition to the obvious sources who are interested in climate study, consider also climate ethics.
At the same time, cast a wide net. You may be surprised at the variety of organizations that are interested in your research topic.
Step 3: Research the Funder and Topic
Every agent has its own style and process. If you can, talk to the program manager. Don’t worry – they’re very accustomed to getting calls out of the blue. In addition, conduct a thorough literature search, which can later save you weeks of writing for the actual project. Assume the selection committee knows nothing about you or your work, and that they do know about others in your field who are researching what you’re researching. At the same time, don’t assume that the panel consists of experts in your field. So, make sure you put your work into the context of current events and what the general public would understand.
Step 4: Writing the Technical Portion
What is your hypothesis and what problem are you hoping to address? Why hasn’t this problem been solved already? Why do you think you’re the one that will succeed? What is your plan, including key milestones? How will you track and measure your success?
Writing this portion of the grant can take a significant amount of time, as we’ve discussed already. So, it’s important to budget enough time for this portion of the grant writing process.
Step 5: Read the Call for Proposals again…and again.
Calls for grant proposals are usually very specific about formats and what is required. Scan the document again for anything related to what must be included, and guidelines to adhere to. Make sure your budget is realistic and complete, and in the format requested. If you need external letters of recommendation, make sure you’re giving people enough time to respond and get them to you.
Step 6: Send and “Forget”
Prior to uploading files, and making sure everything can be opened and is free of errors, double-check everything. During submission periods, agencies may be very busy, so you may not hear from the review panel for some time. Occasionally check your spam folder to make sure updates aren’t being filtered.
Often an agency will send detailed reviews of your application and invite you to resubmit your proposal. Take advantage of these opportunities, and use their review to make appropriate changes.
Tips for Successful Grant Writing
Keep these quick tips in mind, as you work on your proposal:
- Be realistic and focused about your time.
- Keep it simple when it comes to style and formatting. Don’t use a font smaller than 11-point. Margins smaller than 1” are generally not viewed well. Remember to avoid a “passive voice” when describing your project. You’ll be more effective if you “tell a story” that engages and interests your audience.
- Connect with the program manager by calling. You’ll find they rarely answer emails. Have any questions that you want to ask prepared.
- Recycle, to a point. Everybody reuses parts of older grants, just make sure you’re not including things that were specific to the former grant proposal. This will make your proposal stand out, but not in a good way.
- Budget wisely. Be conservative and realistic when it comes to your budget. Research the average size of an award to get a good idea of what the program manager will be awarding.
- Be original! If your proposal is like everyone else’s, you’ll get lost in the cracks. Grant reviewers have seen it all. Don’t submit something that they’ve seen before. Explain anything that might be unusual, too.
- Assume it’s your fault. This can be tough, but you should assume any problem with your application is your fault, and not that of the reviewer. If they don’t understand something, then you have to consider that maybe you didn’t explain it clearly. If you’re asked to revise something, invest the time and work needed for that revision. The reviewer will do the same for you.
Good luck with your grant application!
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