How to develop a successful proposal information on funding sources
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How to Develop a Successful Proposal & Information on Funding Sources. Dr. Juan J. López Assistant Director, Research Programs College of Arts and Sciences Research Office (CASRO) February 23, 2010. Some General Points .

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How to Develop a Successful Proposal & Information on Funding Sources

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How to develop a successful proposal information on funding sources

How to Develop a Successful Proposal &Information on Funding Sources

Dr. Juan J. López

Assistant Director, Research Programs

College of Arts and Sciences Research Office (CASRO)

February 23, 2010

Some general points

Some General Points

  • ● Read and re-read the Program Announcement (study what the program wants).

    • ○ Follow all the instructions precisely.

    • ○ From the announcement, copy and paste the pertinent comments, instructions andcriteria to the beginning of each part. Make each item into a “bullet”. Use the bullets as a check list.

    • ○ Check your draft to see how well it responds to eachbullet point.

  • ● Do an outline of all the tasks that have to be done to write the proposal before actually writing it.Make timeline with deadlines. Organization is very important in grant writing.

  • ● To prepare a competitive grant proposal takes several months (2-8).

General points cont

General Points (cont.)

  • Have an “elevator” speech.

    • A very brief description of what you want to do – you can say it in one to two minutes.

    • Focus on the problem, the hoped-for results, and why these are important (for scholarship or broader impacts). Avoid details of how it will be done.

    • Make it so clear that your grandmother could understand it.

    • You can use it in the Summary and/or as the lead paragraph in the Project Description section .

    • Reviewers often have to summarize proposals to the rest of the panel – the elevator version of your proposed work is useful to them.

General points cont1

General Points (cont.)

  • NSF applications require electronic submissions via Fastlane.

    • Go to the NSF website and get an account with Fastlane; learn how to use it.

    • Don’t wait until the last minute to submit, things can go wrong.

  • If your first application is rejected, read the reviewer’s comments carefully. It is common. Do not get angry or frustrated.

  • Fix the application and re-apply, respond explicitly to each critique and suggestion. Either make changes or indicate that you consider the critique invalid and why. Don’t ignore any criticism. Add any additional improvements that you have thought of yourself.

Calling a program officer

Calling a Program Officer

  • Find out know how the funder thinks - what they are looking for.

  • Just reading the guidelines in the announcement is not enough. The POshould do most of the talking. The purpose of the call is to collect information.

  • The phone call:

    • Have the name of program officer.

    • Introduce yourself.

    • Give your elevator speech to get his/her opinion about whether there is a match with what the program is looking for.

    • Show that you have researched the organization/program – that you know what the PO is talking about.

Calling a program officer cont

Calling a Program Officer (cont.)

  • Have a number of additional questions to ask, for example:

    • What is being overlooked by other applicants?

    • What mistakes do you see in some proposals?

    • If the RFP doesn’t say: Who will do the review? Discipline specialists? Generalists? What are the evaluation criteria? How are the different elements weighted?

    • Is there anything else I should know to put the proposal together?

Writing mechanics

Writing Mechanics

  • Follow the format requirements exactly, e.g., page limits, spacing, font size.

  • The reviewers will look for things according to where and how the grant announcement requests them. Don’t be creative with the organization or format of the proposal or application.

    • Using headings and subheadings helps to make the text clear- bold it (don’t capitalize it).

    • Do not underline or bold words in the middle of the text.

  • In doing narratives, use all the space allowed – don’t give the impression that you have nothing else to say.

  • Echoing the words of the RFP is a bad idea. Proposal may not sound fresh, innovative.

Writing mechanics cont

Writing Mechanics (cont.)

  • Support letters should be strong – not cookie-cutter letters.

    • Request letters of recommendation with plenty of time.

    • See advice on how to get a good letter of recommendation in:

Writing mechanics cont1

Writing Mechanics (cont.)

  • Style and grammar are very important

    • Write in active voice.

    • Try to use short sentences.

    • Use a positive tone (do not put down scholars: he or she – or a friend – might be reviewing your proposal) – “No good work has been done in this field” vs. “Based on the work of so and so, we are now set to…”

    • Use clear and precise language – avoid jargon. Not all reviewers are specialists in the subject matter of the proposal. Thus, the arguments must be understood by people in different fields.

Writing mechanics cont2

Writing Mechanics (cont.)

  • Style and grammar (cont.)

    • Make it as easy as possible for reviewers to read your proposal. If they have to struggle to understand what you are saying or what you will do, your proposal is not likely to succeed.

      • Each panelist will have a big stack of proposals to read and a short time in which to do it.

      • Often, one panelist will have to present preferred applications to the whole panel and act as an advocate. If it is hard for a panelist to understand the proposal, she won’t be able to be push for it.

Writing mechanics cont3

Writing Mechanics (cont.)

  • Style and grammar (cont.)

    • Parts of the application should fit together logically. Don’t leave out vital information. State what appears to be implicit. Maybe use tables or graphs to clarify or summarize information.

    • Don’t rely on appendices to provide required details; most reviewers don’t get or don’t read the appendices.

Writing mechanics cont4

Writing Mechanics (cont.)

  • Write your entire application. Then, put it aside for a about a week. After that:

    • Edit it for substance – read in different directions, e.g., from the middle to the top.

    • Edit it for grammar and punctuation.

    • Edit it for style.

    • Review the budget.

  • Give your draft to readers (e.g. your advisor, someone who has gotten the grant) to get feedback -- on all parts of the application.

    • Allow two weeks to get critiques and another two weeks to incorporate the suggestions.

    • Don’t waste the readers’ time by giving them a draft that is incomplete or full of mistakes.

Writing mechanics cont5

Writing Mechanics (cont.)

  • Some resources on writing:

  • Literature - two of many books:

    • William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. 1999. The Elements of Style, 3d ed. (New York: Macmillan).

    • William Zinsser. 1980. On Writing Well, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper and Row).

  • Websites:

  •  Charles Lipson’s website:


  • FIU Center for Excellence in Writing:

Sources of funding

Sources of Funding

See file in webpage.

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