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Tips and Resources for Better Grant Proposals

Tips, Strategies and Ideas for Writing Better Proposals (and Getting Funded)

A Valuable Exercise to Start Your Proposal Crafting Process

You have an idea, and you have a grant in mind that you would like to apply for. And now the actual proposal writing begins. Where to start? In this article published in the National Council of University Research Administrators NCURA Magazine author Robert Porter shares a six-step exercise designed to assist academics with adjusting their writing style to better capture the key points grant-makers are looking for. Additional tips on strengthening your proposal are shared here as well. This is an excellent starting point for organizing your proposal for the highest possible impact.

Broader Impacts that have Impact

The majority of grant applications–large and small, federal and non-federal–expect proposals to contain strong statements to support the “broader impact(s)” the proposed project will deliver. Author Terry McGlynn offers helpful insight and perspective on what constitutes strong broader impact(s) statements in this post on Smallpond Science

A Better Overview Section

The “Specific Aims” page in an NIH proposal (like most abstract, summary, and overview sections required of the proposal writer for any grant) can offer the chance to capture reviewers’ interest and, if crafted well, set up a positive review of the full proposal. This article offers valuable tips and guidance on strengthening this vital piece of a successful proposal. Click here for a pdf of 3 good samples of successful “Specific Aims” pages.

Establishing Rapport with Program Officers

Initiating early contact with program officers (this applies to almost all agencies and sponsors) is a key component to ensuring your grant proposal has the best shot at being funded. This article by Robert Porter, published in the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) Research Management Review provides insights and advice for making initial contact with a program officer. Additionally, this article by Michael Spires published in The Chronicle of Higher Education offers straightforward tips and guidance to ensure your initial contact with a program officer makes the best impression.

The Real Impact of Seeking Review and Feedback on your Proposal

The strongest proposals have been reviewed (and often reviewed again) by mentors, peers and other professionals (like OSP offices!). Consider the review period (at least 2 weeks, but ideally 3 to 6) as a critical phase of your proposal development timeline. Plan to have a substantive draft completed weeks in advance of the deadline to, at a minimum, allow a trusted colleague or two (and your OSP office!) time to review and provide you with feedback. This article, written by a board member of a grant-making foundation, gives some valuable insights from the grant proposal reviewer’s perspective on several aspects of a successful proposal, including why seeking review of your draft proposal is such an important step, and how obvious it can be when it’s been skipped.

Program Evaluation: Using Logic Models to Effectively Describe what your Program will Deliver and Why

You have an idea, perhaps a brilliant idea, that has the potential to resolve a major challenge or advance a key initiative. Unfortunately, no matter how transformative your concept might be, if your grant proposal doesn’t clearly and concisely describe and substantiate how and why “x”program will deliver “y” results, reviewers might not be entirely convinced to recommend your proposal for funding. The following articles released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences give brief but informative descriptions of the essential components of effective logic models and how they can provide a useful framework for program planning and the development of a compelling narrative description. Click here for Guide 1 and here for Guide 2.

Key Differences Between Academic Writing and Grant Proposal Writing

Recognizing some key distinctions between writing a scholarly publication and writing a successful grant proposal can mean the difference between receiving a funding award and receiving a rejection letter. Author Robert Porter, Ph.D. writes about some key differences between the two in this article, which is cited by program officers across several federal agencies as a “must read” for investigators looking for strategies to maximize grant proposal success.