Grant Writing

Appreciate the Instructions: Things You Need to Know Before Writing a Grant

When you plan a wedding, a great deal of time and effort is put into the invitations. The wording is just right and the overall feel and tone of the invitation has to match the couple’s style and the theme of the wedding. The Request for Proposals or Funding Announcement is the funding agency’s invitation, and I promise a great deal of time and effort is put into the wording. The RFP often expresses the motivation of the funding agency, describes the final selection process, and highlights those areas which they are most interested in funding.

  • Get all current instructions for your proposal, this usually includes an application guide which can be generic, and any agency-specific or RFP-specific instructions.
  • Spread the word that you intend to submit a research proposal.
    • Tell Medical Research what you would like to do as soon as possible, and work closely with your Grants Specialist.
    • Establish a group of colleagues who will help you focus your idea and explain it clearly.
  • Pay attention to details! Your good idea will not be funded if you do not follow the RFP’s directions.
    • Note the Formatting Specifications: page limits and sizes, typeface, font size, type density and line spacing, page headers and footers, color, and margins.
  • Understand the mechanics of the proposal. Knowing what forms to fill out and how to fill them out correctly by fully understanding the purpose each form serves in achieving the agency’s mission is integral to your success.
    • Contact the Funding Program Officer. Send them a copy of your one-page specific aims, tell them the RFP you plan to apply for and ask for their advice and opinion if there is a better RFP within the agency where your idea may be better received.
    • Once you have verified the RFP, ensure that you have all the forms and ask the Program Officer if you have any questions on the purpose of each form or for instructions on how to fill it out. Your Research Administrator can also help with this.
    • Stop and Consider:  The program officer is likely one of the only people who can be your advocate during the reviewer process, ensure to keep their good opinion.
  • Understand your writing style, is it helping or hurting you?
    • Grant writing is similar to writing a short story, with a compelling plot that has supporting details along the way and brings the reader to a clear and vivid conclusion. Write in simple, declarative sentences and avoid complex, compound sentences. Remember, you want the reviewer to enjoy reading your application. Avoid metaphors, clichés or empty words, make the most of the space that you have and write plainly.
  • When the Instructions are hard to understand:
    • Occasionally instructions are difficult to understand, shaped with contract language, loaded with complex requirements that perhaps even the funding agency doesn’t understand, or conflicting requirements with changing regulations, it will become increasingly important to foster a good relationship with the Program Officer to help decipher key elements.

Further Reading

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