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Finding Funding Challenge

Welcome to Day 5 of the Finding Funding Challenge!

Today, we'll consider top tips and tricks that will make your grant proposal a standout. Below are some initial considerations, drawn in part from this Art History and Communications professor and the National Institutes of Health.

Tip #1 Follow the Granting Agency’s Guidelines, with attention to:

  • Font size and style, spacing, margins, number of pages, etc.
  • Attachments and letters of support, if requested.
  • Deadlines.
  • Proposal checked for spelling errors, typos, grammar, alignment, etc.

Tip #2 Write to Your Audience

  • Persuade the reviewer to become your enthusiastic champion and advocate; provide them with good reasons to argue for you.
  • Make sure you know who will be reading and evaluating your proposal. Is it an expert in your field, someone who is in a somewhat similar field, or a board member for the foundation with minimal or no background in your field? Knowing who will read the proposal allows you to present your research narrative in a way to maximize persuasiveness.
  • Use action verbs and an active voice.
  • Make sure your proposal is in alignment with the funder’s mission and funding goals.

Tip #3 Effectively Tell Your Story

  • To know your project is to have researched it and to have framed your work in such a way as to clearly express what you intend to do and why it’s important. It’s even better if you can explain why it’s important to your field as well as to a wider audience.

Tip #4 Have Realistic Goals

  • Don't propose more work than can be reasonably done during the proposed project period. Make sure that the personnel have appropriate, relevant expertise and training, and that the budget is reasonable and well-justified. 

Tip #5a Make the Proposal Easy to Navigate - Quality over Quantity! 
Be clear and concise, use active voice/action verbs, and avoid jargon and wordiness.
 This helps you meet proposal page limits and word counts in applications with these limits, and it helps reduce reader fatigue for reviewers who are reading 100s of pages of text:

"Grant reviewers are often reviewing grants on top of their already busy schedules of conducting research, teaching, conducting professional service, and managing their lives. Help your exhausted reviewers help you. Write a concise proposal that has clear headlines, is easy to read and visually appealing, has a logical flow from one paragraph to the next, contains visuals that complement the words, and connects to a broad audience in that field." From Science's article, Help Funders Help You.

Also, check out "Why Academics Have a Hard Time Writing Good Grant Proposals," with a focus on Table 1, "Academic Writing versus Grant Writing: Contrasting Perspectives."

Your First Challenge: Substitute a Single Word for Each of the Following Phrases
This a quick, easy approach to thinking about an economy of words.

  • At that point in time-
  • At this point in time-
  • In the event of-
  • In the majority of the cases-
  • In spite of the fact-
  • In final analysis-
  • A large percentage of time-
  • In conclusion-

Click here for some suggestions.

Tip #5b Make the Proposal Easy to Navigate - Recognize the Importance of Skim Value!

  • Use headings and sub-headings to make the application easy to navigate 
  • Highlight major sections/key points with bolded or italicized text
  • Utilize white space
    • Use diagrams, figures, and tables
    • Use bullets and numbered lists

Example 1. Which of the following is more eye catching? 
Both documents include similar information, but one utilizes bolded headers and a timeline table to increase white space.

Example 2. Gantt Chart-Style Work Plan
A Gantt Chart is a visual representation of tasks that will take place over a period of time.

See the full chart at Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship successful application

Your Second Challenge: Create a Work Plan for your Grant Project Using this Template 

This is an effective way to visually represent the activities you're undertaking, including any research you're conducting during your grant project period (without having to write all of the details in paragraph form). It can also be a useful tool to set up your project calendar, track your project status, and create progress reports. Click on File, and Make a Copy, to create your own template from the link above.

Example 3. A Logic Model
A logic model is a visual representation of the overall scope and expected outcomes of your grant project, in a flow-chart format.

example logic model of assumptions, inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts for recruiting underrepresented students in STEM

Your Third Challenge: Create a Logic Model for your project, using this template.

A logic model can be helpful as an outline to guide your proposal writing, as a ready reference to track project progress, and as an aid in project evaluation development. Plus, more funders are requiring logic models as part of the grant proposal! Click on File, and Make a Copy, to create your own template from the link above.

BONUS (Optional) Challenge: Create a Grant Evaluation Plan 

Create an evaluation plan that you will use to determine if your expectations were met, using these examples as inspiration. This type of assessment will help you discern the impact of your project, if you met your objectives, and what comes next for your project. This is usually presented narratively, but the addition of a visual timeline may be helpful.

Further Considerations in Your Grantseeking Journey

  • Choose a citation manager: a citation manager can help you cite your sources in the style required by the funder you're applying to, create shared bibliographies for your grant projects, and effectively collaborate on writing projects. Zotero and Mendeley are examples of free citation managers. See this comparison chart for more.
  • Create a biosketch, which is a document that describes your qualifications and experiences for a specific role in a grant project. Most federal agencies require a biosketch, as do some state and private funding agencies. SciENcv is a free profile service for creating a biosketch that you can automatically submit for federal grant applications.
  • Identify who might write you letters of support, which are often requested of collaborators, key personnel, institutions, and other significant contributors to a grant project. 
  • Watch NIH Tips for Applicants
  • Watch 10 Most Common Grant Writing Mistakes.
  • Identify additional potential visuals for your grant proposal. 

Remember: Balance is key. Identify a few ways in which you will refresh and sustain yourself during the grant seeking process. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

Congratulations! You have completed the Finding Funding Challenge!

Thank you for joining us this week, and please reach out with any questions.

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