Grant writing workshop

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					     Donna Martin
      NIU Office of
Sponsored Projects
Office of Sponsored
                              NIU Foundation
   Sponsor requires             Donations
    progress reports             Gifts
   Sponsor expects              Support for a particular
    deliverables (technical       activity, program area
    report, evaluation)           or purpose.
   Award restricts use of       May have no
    results or publications       expectation of
   Sponsor includes              outcome or
    “Terms & Conditions”          deliverable.
    of award
Common Heading Who Completes     Answers the Question
Cover Sheet             OSP      Who are we?
Table of Contents       OSP/PI   What’s in the proposal?
Abstract                PI       What’s the big picture?
Problem Statement       PI       Why should we do this now?
Goals/Aims              PI       What are we trying to accomplish?
Measurable Objectives   PI       What will be different?
Procedures              PI       What exactly are we going to do and when?
Evaluation              PI       How will we know if our idea works?
Dissemination           PI       Who else will benefit? How will we share data?
Facilities              PI       Do we have the necessary
Personnel               PI       Who will do the work? Are they qualified?
Budget                  OSP/PI   How much will it cost?
Biographical Sketch     PI       Who are the players?
References              PI       Whose work are you building on?
Appendices              PI       What else do the funders need to make a
 Life Cycle of a Grant Proposal
                                                     5 days before
                                                     a deadline,
                                                     OSP should
Idea/                    Narrative—                  start the
RFP                      draft, get                  routing
                         feedback,       Narrative   process:            OSP
                         revise          finalized                     Submits
           Office of
                                                     Routing Forms
                         Draft                                         proposal
           Projects                      Budget      for University
                         budget                      Approvals:           to
           RDS                           finalized
                         (get                        PIs, co-PIs,      Agency
                         permissions                 Chair, Deans,
                         if needed)                  Directors, VPs,

                                                     OSP finalizing
                                                     agency forms

Days before agency submission deadline                    Business Days

90+      60       30                     14          7        5           3       0
- IRIS/GrantForward (as of July 1)
- GrantSearch
- Foundation Directory—Library
Use Databases ( -- Funding
 Databases) to locate information regarding:
 ◦   Foundations
 ◦   Federal agencies
 ◦   Corporate foundations
 ◦   Professional organizations
Listservs (Federal, state, Foundation Center RFP
Facebook (yes, Foundations have FB pages)
RSS feeds (the Foundation Center’s
  Philanthropy News Digest, for example).
   Federal info:
   State: IRIS/GrantForward or agency websites
   Foundations -- Foundation Center:
    ◦ Foundation Directory
    ◦ Foundation Finder
    ◦ Newsletters (Arts, Education, and Health funding)
   IRIS/GrantForward (Federal, state, foundation)
   GrantSearch (Federal, state, foundation)
   IRIS (GrantForward as of July 1, 2012)
   GrantSearch

   Foundation Center: newsletters available
   Foundation Directory: NIU Library, Reference
    Desk to log you in to search the Foundation
   Federal info:
   State—by agency
   Over 9,000 active federal and private
    funding opportunities in the sciences,
    social sciences, arts, and humanities
    (agriculture to zoology)
   Search by sponsor, deadline date,
    keyword, and other criteria
   Most IRIS records contain links to sponsor
    Web sites and electronic forms
   Seems you can establish an Alert for each of
    your funding searches and then receive
    emails when new funding opportunities that
    match are added/updated.

   IRIS can now be used from off-campus. “Link
    to your institution’s network.”
 You have to play by the Rules
•   Get the (most recent)
•   Read the guidelines
•   Follow the guidelines
 Avoidfuzzy or inappropriate use
 of words:

 The intrinsic labyrinth of wires must
 be first disentangled. The liquid
 contents of container should then be
 disgorged via the spout by the
             What is the writer really saying?

                      From Grant Resource Training, 2006
Academic writing                                  Grant writing
   Scholarly pursuit:                               Sponsor goals:
    ◦ Individual passion                              ◦ Service Attitude
   Past oriented:                                   Future oriented:
    ◦ Work that has been done                         ◦ Work that should be done
   Theme-centered:                                  Project-centered:
    ◦ Theory and thesis                               ◦ Objectives and activities
                                                     Persuasive rhetoric:
   Expository rhetoric:
                                                      ◦ “selling the reader”
    ◦ Explaining to reader

    From: Porter, R. (2007). Why academics have a hard time writing good grant
    proposals. The Journal of Research Administration, 38, 161-167.
Academic writing                                  Grant writing
   Impersonal tone:                                 Personal tone:
    ◦ Objective, dispassionate                        ◦ Conveys excitement
   Individualistic:                                 Team-focused:
    ◦ Primarily a solo activity                       ◦ Feedback needed
   Few length constraints                           Strict length constraints:
    ◦ Verbosity rewarded                              ◦ Brevity rewarded
                                                     Accessible language:
   Specialized terminology
                                                      ◦ Easily understood
    ◦ “insider jargon”
                                                      ◦ (who are reviewers?)

    From: Porter, R. (2007). Why academics have a hard time writing good grant
    proposals. The Journal of Research Administration, 38, 161-167.
   Influence decision-makers
   Convince them to commit dollars in
    support of a specific project
   A winning proposal addresses an important
    question with an innovative idea, well
    expressed, with a clear indication of
    methods for pursuing the idea, evaluating
    the findings, and making them known to all
    who need to know
   OSP website:
     Go to the “Proposal Preparation” section and click
      on Writing Guides

      Agency Guides
        Foundation Center Proposal Writing Short
        Corporation for Public Broadcasting
      Courses and Workshops
        a Proposal Writing Seminar at the Foundation
         Center (includes a free online course)
Go to Resources, then Webinars.
To listen to the webinar for “Crafting a Sales Pitch
 for Your Grant Proposal,” click on the
 PowerPoint graphic. Enter your email to register
 to watch the recorded webinar. Dr. Porter’s
 article and PDF of the webinar are also

Note: We’re also using the In4grants site (or
 InfoReady) as a collaborative website for large,
 interdisciplinary projects.
   Jargon Files:
    ◦ Words whose once-precise meanings got watered down
      through trendy misuse: Impact, Strategy, Parameter,
    ◦ Some that never had a clear meaning to begin with:
    ◦ Buzz words: at-risk, capacity, empowerment, proactive

   Online at the Edna McConnell Clark
    Foundation at:
   Access the agency guidelines and follow them
    to the letter!
   May be short, 1 page or so. Or might be 10
    pages. (Some federal programs have almost
    100 pages!)
   They indicate how they want to see the
    finished proposal arrive at their door.
   Agency priorities/themes—what areas
    they are interested in funding
   Format issues: Page limits, word count
    limits, margin & font size limitations
   Budget information (more on that later)
   Deadlines (hard copy or email; postmark
    or receipt; don’t forget time zones!)
   Executive Summary/Abstract
   Statement of need: why is this project necessary?
   Project description or Narrative: the nuts and
    bolts of how the project will be implemented
    (might be 3 pages or 20 pages! See agency
   Budget: what are you going to use the $ for?
   Organization info (sometimes NIU info,
    sometimes your department info or mission)
   Conclusion: summary (read guidelines to see if
    this is needed; can be optional)
* See the agency guidelines for which sections to include
   Read the guidelines!
   Length: # pages, single/double spaced?
    ◦ Determines how much space to use for the literature
      review, description of need/problem, explanation of
    ◦ 3 pages, 6 pages, 1800 words.
   Need/Significance, Literature Review, Objectives,
    Activities, Evaluation
   Description of researcher/credentials
   Meet review criteria
   Write clearly
   Address agency priorities! (example, Guggenheim)
   General description of the project
   Specific purpose of funds requested
   Target population served
   Evidence of need for the project
   Activities planned to meet objectives
   Time required to complete activities
   Qualifications of key personnel involved
   If collaborative, details of collaboration
   Plans for future funding of the project
   Expected benefits and outcomes of the project.
   Overall concept,
    more abstract
   Broad statement of
    what you want to
• S – Specific
• M – Measurable outcomes
• A – Achievable, attainable
• R – Realistic
• T – Time-bound, achievable
 in a specified time period
   Should be mapped to the Objectives
   Explain how project will accomplish the
   Discuss ONLY those actions that support an
   Fully describe the work to be done in the
   One or more activities for each objective
   Specify:
    ◦   Who will do them
    ◦   When they will be done
    ◦   How they will be accomplished
    ◦   Why you chose this approach
    ◦   What other methods were available
    ◦   How long each activity will take
   Clear Objectives and Activities leads to an
    Evaluation Plan—how are you going to know
    you accomplished what you set out to do?
   Funders want to be able to determine if their
    money has been well spent.
   How well did the program achieve its goal?
   Did the project meet its objectives?
   Were project activities implemented as
   How effective were the activities in achieving
    the objectives?
   Disturb/Irritate
    ◦ Spelling errors
    ◦ Overusing technical terms
    ◦ Using acronyms
   Confuse
    ◦   Writing overly complex sentences
    ◦   Failing to attend to paragraph coherence issues
    ◦   Using passive voice
    ◦   Including non-parallel lists
   Diminish Credibility
    ◦   Failing to address criteria
    ◦   Abstract, problem statement, budget disconnect
    ◦   Failing to address assessment and administration
    ◦   Including extraneous information

                           From Grant Resource Training, 2006
   Research skills
   Sales capabilities
   Written and oral communication skills
   Ingenuity and flexibility
   Administrative capabilities (from leadership to
   Human relations skills
   Persistence, dedication, patience, and the
    capacity for hard work
   Political acumen
   Integrity
Students in grades 5 and 6 are America’s
future. But the vast majority of these
students are performing at sub-standard
academic levels. This project aims to engage
students in an applied research project
analyzing the water quality of the Chesapeake
Bay. Activities will include collecting
samples, testing, analysis of impact and
reporting results. The standardized science
scores for students engaged in the project
will improve by 12 percent.

               From Grant Resource Training, 2006

   Grant writing process
   Timeline examples
Letters of Support             Letters of Commitment
   Letter writer advocates       Evidence of interest in
    for your project               the project from
   Referred to in the text,       participants
    put in appendix               If the project is funded,
   How does the project fit       they are ready with their
    with the mission/goals         contribution
    of the organization           What they will contribute
                                  They will participate at
   Presents type of support
                                   the time you need them
   It may be short, but it packs a punch…
    ◦ Reviewers read it first. You need to grab their
    ◦ Should be brief—200 words/1 page
    ◦ It appears first, but it should be written LAST
   What: Topic of project, goals, objectives.
           What do you intend to do?

   Why:   Problem/Issue to be addressed.
            Why is the work important?

   How:   Methods, procedures.
            How are you going to do the work?
   Who:     Target population, group served or

   When:    Project dates, duration

   So what: Significance, outcomes expected
   If you have an idea for a project, contact OSP
    to discuss your idea and for help in locating a
    funding opportunity. It’s best if you can
    prepare a 1 – 2 page description of your idea
    or project. The beginning of your
    Needs/Significance section, Goal, Objective,
    or ideas for activities. These will change!
    This is just for some discussion points!
   If you have a Request for Proposal (RFP),
    contact OSP to go over the RFP and help with
    the process.
   Copy/paste the agency’s heading into your
    Word doc to guide your work.
   Start with describing your need, the
    significance of the problem, issue, project
    ◦ A project is significant if it, for example,:
        Solves a problem
        Creates new and important knowledge
        Creates a model
        Improves the human condition
        Improves a scientific technique
   Needs, significance
   Problem statement/Hypotheses
   Objectives
   Methods, work plan, activities
   Evaluation
   Dissemination
   Budget, then budget narrative
   Introduction
   Literature cited
   Forms
   Summary/Abstract
   Attachments, Biosketch/Vita – if allowed
   Begin with an outline (either the agency steps
    or an outline of your project)
   Name your project
   Keep language clear and simple
   Use action words
   Avoid jargon and acronyms
   Revise and edit

            Foundation Center Proposal Writing Basics Webinar
    not how much money you
 It’s
 want, it’s how much the
 project costs.
   Ask for what you need to do the work
   Justify requests that are significant or out of
    the ordinary
   Reviewers emphasize project quality over
   Follow sponsor and institutional guidelines
    and policies
   When in doubt, ask!
   Can be as simple as a one-page statement of
    projected expenses or quite complex on
    agency forms
   Can be overwhelming—but OSP will assist!

Budget Costs
 Envision what your project needs to make it a
 A cost must be reasonable
   Read the Guidelines!
   Consider the overall project budget before you
    begin to develop individual budgets for each
   Consider agency limits:
    ◦ items they will fund—items they will NOT fund
    ◦ level they will fund—don’t propose a budget over the
      level (it will most likely be rejected)
    ◦ number of years they will fund
   Outline the budget in the format the agency
   Remember that the grant will not start for
    probably several months and submit costs
   If the project is over several years, build
    in cost increases
   Develop a budget explanation to
    delineate clearly how budget figures
    were computed
   Ensure that the budget coincides with
    the narrative and falls within the time-
    frame allowed
   Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation: “And if
    you submit a budget that contradicts any of
    these carefully described guidelines, we will
    have reason to think of you as a careless
    reader and thoughtless applicant. This will
    inevitably be reflected in our estimation of
    the potential of your scholarship.”
- Internal review process
- Who will review your grant proposal?
- What if it’s rejected?
   Except in very rare cases, proposals must
    normally be reviewed by OSP before
    submission to the funding agency.
    ◦ When a proposal is submitted to a funding agency,
      a legal agreement is created between the agency
      and the submitting institution.
    ◦ Consequently, institutional review is required to
      ensure that the proposed research activity is in line
      with the institution’s mission and abilities.
   Funding agencies normally require proposals to
    be endorsed by someone who has the legal
    authority to commit the institution to carry out
    the proposed work.
    ◦ They also normally require the individual approving the
      proposal to make a number of representations and/or
      certifications as part of the submission process.
    ◦ Authorizing signatory: Director of Sponsored Projects,
      VP of Research & Graduate Studies, and other upper
      administration (including the President on rare
      occasions when the agency specifies).
   Agency guidelines contain Review Criteria
   Peer reviewed
   Panel reviewed
   Staff review
   Board review
   It is OK to ask them not to send a proposal to a
    particular person (must be carefully justified)
   It’s okay to recommend reviewers
   Be aware of points assigned to proposal
   Don’t assume readers/reviewers know the
    subject as well as you do, but don’t go
   Use the agencies Subject Headings for review
    criteria! Don’t make them hunt for the
   The most important rule to keep in mind:
    ◦ Don’t annoy the reviewers!
Examples include:
 Formatting issues (going over page, word, or
  line limits)
 Submitting a proposal over the budget ceiling
 Deadline issues (Online? Do time zones
  matter? Postmark/receipt?)
 Submitting a proposal outside agency
  interests (for example, a health-related
  proposal to NSF)
   Innovation
   Relevance
   Demonstrated Competence/expertise of PI
   Feasibility Study
   Time Schedule
   Enthusiasm
   Simple Straightforward Language
   Complete Literature Search
 1. Project doesn’t address agency priorities
 2. Guidelines not followed
 3. Not a compelling idea
 4. Ideas not clearly presented
 5. Methodology appears to be flawed
 6. Overuse of jargon
 7. Overly ambitious
 8. Narrative and budget don’t correspond
 9. Sloppy presentation
10.The work has already been done
   Don’t give up!
   Get reviews
   Talk to agency contact
   Re-evaluate, revise and
   Look for other potential
   Look at an agencies previous grantees
    ◦ Annual reports
    ◦ Listing on website
    ◦ If requesting a brochure (rare with most
      foundations having websites, but possible), request
      a list of previous grantees.

    ◦ Look at others’ titles, how much money they were
      awarded, Abstracts if available.
    ◦ Look at other institutions—where are they receiving
      money from. Foundations do have geographic
The intrinsic labyrinth of wires
must be first disentangled. The
liquid contents of container       Disconnect the wires
should then be disgorged via        and pour the
the spout by the operator.          contents into…

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