The Art and Craft of Writing Successful Proposals(& how to find funding sources!) Donna Martin NIU Office of Sponsored Projects
Grants vs. Gifts • Sponsor requires progress reports • Sponsor expects deliverables (technical report, evaluation) • Award restricts use of results or publications • Sponsor includes “Terms & Conditions” of award • Donations • Gifts • Support for a particular activity, program area or purpose. • May have no expectation of outcome or deliverable. Office of Sponsored Projects NIU Foundation
Days before agency submission deadline Business Days 90+ 60 30 14 7 5 3 0 Life Cycle of a Grant Proposal 5 days before a deadline, OSP should start the routing process: Routing Forms for University Approvals: PIs, co-PIs, Chair, Deans, Directors, VPs, OSP OSP finalizing agency forms Idea/RFP Narrative—draft, get feedback, revise Draft budget (get permissions if needed) Narrative finalized Budget finalized OSP Submits proposal to Agency Contact Office of Sponsored Projects RDS
Finding Funding Opportunities - IRIS/GrantForward (as of July 1) - GrantSearch Foundation Directory—Library
Finding Funding Sources Use Databases (www.niu.edu/osp -- Funding Databases) to locate information regarding: • Foundations • Federal agencies • Corporate foundations • Professional organizations Listservs (Federal, state, Foundation Center RFP Bulletin) Facebook (yes, Foundations have FB pages) RSS feeds (the Foundation Center’s Philanthropy News Digest, for example). LinkedIn
Finding Funding • Federal info: www.grants.gov • 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)
Finding Funding • 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 Directory • Federal info: www.grants.gov • State—by agency
IRIS, Illinois Researcher Information Service,will be GrantForward on July 1, 2012 • 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
IRIS/GrantForwardAlert Service • 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.”
Writing a Grant Proposal is like Playing a Game • You have to play by the Rules • Get the (most recent) guidelines • Read the guidelines • Follow the guidelines
Clear Writing • Avoid fuzzy or inappropriate use of words: The intrinsiclabyrinth of wires must be first disentangled. The liquid contents of container should then be disgorged via the spout by the operator. What is the writer really saying? From Grant Resource Training, 2006
Academic vs. Grant writing • Scholarly pursuit: • Individual passion • Past oriented: • Work that has been done • Theme-centered: • Theory and thesis • Expository rhetoric: • Explaining to reader • Sponsor goals: • Service Attitude • Future oriented: • Work that should be done • Project-centered: • Objectives and activities • Persuasive rhetoric: • “selling the reader” Academic writing Grant writing From: Porter, R. (2007). Why academics have a hard time writing good grant proposals. The Journal of Research Administration,38, 161-167.
Academic vs. Grant writing • Impersonal tone: • Objective, dispassionate • Individualistic: • Primarily a solo activity • Few length constraints • Verbosity rewarded • Specialized terminology • “insider jargon” • Personal tone: • Conveys excitement • Team-focused: • Feedback needed • Strict length constraints: • Brevity rewarded • Accessible language: • Easily understood • (who are reviewers?) Academic writing Grant writing From: Porter, R. (2007). Why academics have a hard time writing good grant proposals. The Journal of Research Administration,38, 161-167.
A grant proposal is a selling document written to: • 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
Proposal writing resources • OSP website: www.niu.edu/osp • Go to the “Proposal Preparation” section and click on Writing Guides • Agency Guides • Foundation Center Proposal Writing Short Course • Corporation for Public Broadcasting • Courses and Workshops • a Proposal Writing Seminar at the Foundation Center (includes a free online course)
Proposal writing resources www.in4grants.com 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 available. Note: We’re also using the In4grants site (or InfoReady) as a collaborative website for large, interdisciplinary projects.
Additional resource: • Jargon Files: • Words whose once-precise meanings got watered down through trendy misuse: Impact, Strategy, Parameter, Extrapolate. • Some that never had a clear meaning to begin with: Comprehensive • Buzz words: at-risk, capacity, empowerment, proactive • Online at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation at: http://www.emcf.org/publications/other-resources/
What are “Guidelines?” • 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.
Guidelines usually include: • 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!)
Components of a proposal • 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 requirements.) • 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
Narrative, Project Description • Read the guidelines! • Length: # pages, single/double spaced? • Determines how much space to use for the literature review, description of need/problem, explanation of methodology • 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)
DeKalb County Community Foundation guidelines for the narrative (2-3 pages): • 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.
Goal • Overall concept, more abstract • Broad statement of what you want to accomplish
Objectives • S – Specific • M – Measurable outcomes • A – Achievable, attainable • R – Realistic • T – Time-bound, achievable • in a specified time period
Activities, Action Steps • Should be mapped to the Objectives • Explain how project will accomplish the objectives • Discuss ONLY those actions that support an objective • Fully describe the work to be done in the project
Activities or Action steps, cont’d • 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
Evaluation • 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 planned? • How effective were the activities in achieving the objectives?
Writing Issues • 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
Successful Writers • Research skills • Sales capabilities • Written and oral communication skills • Ingenuity and flexibility • Administrative capabilities (from leadership to accounting) • 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 • http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/grant_proposals.html • Grant writing process • Timeline examples
Letters: (IF allowed by the agency) • Letter writer advocates for your project • Referred to in the text, put in appendix • How does the project fit with the mission/goals of the organization • Presents type of support • Evidence of interest in the project from participants • If the project is funded, they are ready with their contribution • What they will contribute • They will participate at the time you need them Letters of Support Letters of Commitment
The Abstract • It may be short, but it packs a punch… • Reviewers read it first. You need to grab their attention • Should be brief—200 words/1 page • It appears first, but it should be written LAST
The Abstract should answer the basic questions: • 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?
The Abstract should answer the basic questions, cont’d • Who: Target population, group served or studied • When: Project dates, duration • So what: Significance, outcomes expected
You have an Idea or RFP • 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.
Create a template • 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
Sequence for Proposal Development • 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
Beginning the writing process • 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
It’s not how much money you want, it’s how much the project costs.