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Writing a compelling grant application. Trish Lowney osp.syr.edu plowney@syr.edu X2882 Spring 2011. Understand why…. You want to apply for a grant A sponsor should fund you and your project. The grant application process. Time/resource intensive

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writing a compelling grant application

Writing a compelling grant application

Trish Lowney




Spring 2011

understand why
Understand why…
  • You want to apply for a grant
  • Asponsor should fund you andyour project
the grant application process
The grant application process
  • Time/resource intensive
    • YOU: Writing /compiling materials takes time..
      • Involves lots of folks
    • Sponsor: Selecting applications takes time..
      • Involves lots of folks
the grant application process1
The grant application process
  • Time – most precious & limited resource
  • Be smart & strategic in writing efforts
so what is a grant application
So, What is a grant application?
  • Marketing tool
  • Application for “investment” of $$  outcomes to benefit the public
    • Low risk  high yield?
    • High risk  high impact?
  • Description of or story about
    • why are you and your project are worthy of investment
what is a grant application
What is a grant application??

Document or packet of materials that

  • COMMUNICATES in its entirety clearly, concisely and according to sponsor’s guidelines..
    • Great idea!!!
    • Significance and benefits to sponsor or society
    • Use of best approach to realize the idea
    • The availability of all resources essential for success i.e., team, expertise, experience, management skills, track record, etc.
    • Cost effectiveness
what a grant application is not
What a grant application is not
  • A Lottery ticket
    • Random
    • Long shot
    • Same chance for all to ‘win’
  • Be smart and strategic - your application won’t be a ticket to the lottery
key considerations
Key Considerations
  • Preparation
  • Time management
  • Relationship building
    • You are not alone…
  • Determine if your project is a good fit for the sponsor / funding opp
    • Do homework and learn:
      • The Sponsor’s mission, goals, objectives
        • Website; annual report; white papers…
      • Who/what have they funded recently?
        • Know any awardees? Contact to get application
        • Don’t know any awardees? Contact to get application
          • In both cases – view as a possible future collaborator…
  • Is your project a good fit for the sponsor?
    • Confirm you’re eligible for program
      • Citizenship, years since PhD, Field
      • Funds to SU: institution of higher ed or 501 (c )3 eligible?
    • Map out why there is significant match between your project / interests and the sponsor’s goals, funding objectives etc
  • Is your project a good fit for the sponsor?
    • Once you’ve ‘settled on’ a sponsor program / funding opportunity 
    • Contact program manager EARLY
      • Check website for contact preference
      • Meet at professional annual meetings
      • “Cold call” or email a concept paper
    • Confirm project focus, scope, approach, duration and cost are good fit.
  • What’s a concept paper?
    • Brief (1 paragraph  1 page) summary
      • What you want to do (research question)
      • Why it’s important
      • Objectives / approach
      • Expected outcomes
      • Expected collaborators/investigators
      • Total project duration / cost
    • See also – OSP presentations
      • http://osp.syr.edu
time management
Time Management
  • If all indicators are positive
    • Tell your “boss” (Chair, dean, supervisor) your plans…
    • Provide OSP the solicitation, url, application, deadline, etc
    • Get organized:
      • Read instructions!!
      • Understand the review process and who will review
      • Make an outline
time management1
Time Management
  • Read the instructions again
  • Review your outline
    • Clarify any questions
      • Program officer
      • OSP
    • Determine who will be responsible for what components (e.g., you, other researchers, dept support, OSP)
  • Identify any resources needed
    • Talk to your boss… (space, equipment, workers, graduate student tuition, etc)
time management2
Time Management
  • Using your time wisely
  • Working back from SU internal deadline - develop timeline with milestones
    • To OSP: complete application & signed OSP routing & review form 3 business days before sponsor’s deadline
    • Budget, justification, draft narrative: 7 days before deadline
  • Consider non-SU collaborator’s schedules and their institutional deadlines
    • OSP requires written commitment & other materials from OSP equivalents
time management writing
Time Management & Writing …
  • Block time every day…
  • Follow instructions – for the organization of narrative andthe complete proposal
  • Creative ideas, NOT creative presentation…
writing understand the selection process and review criteria
Writing … Understand the selection process and review criteria
  • Clearly & concisely convey
    • What you want to do
      • First two paragraphs/first page
        • Context of work (big picture)
        • Overarching goals
      • Specific objectives 1stpage
    • The importance or significance of what you want to do
      • First couple of pages
        • State of knowledge, needs assessment
        • Significance of project outcomes clear?
writing understand the selection process and review criteria1
Writing … Understand the selection process and review criteria
  • Clearly & concisely convey
    • Howyou are going to do what you want to do
      • Why you have chosen to use the specific approach selected (rationale for methods / approaches)
        • Describe any weaknesses or limitations to proposed strategies, how you plan to address any barriers encountered and alternative plans to achieve objectives
    • Expected results & interpretation
      • Describe how you know you are successful
  • “So What?”
    • Once the project is complete, so what??
    • Circle back to original idea and discuss how met/addressed; address the sponsor’s need
writing format format format
Writing – Format, Format, Format
  • Readable font
  • Informative headers (review criteria?)
  • Judicious use of white space
  • Illustrative materials
    • Pictures / Tables / Figures Make the reviewer your advocate!
  • Follow format instructions
    • Proposals get return unreviewed for format non-compliance
budget value
Budget - Value
  • Financial Expression of the work plan
    • Work with OSP or budget manager early
  • Funds available can limit amount of work done
  • With work plan & timeline – major determinant of project feasibility
relationship building
Relationship building
  • Plan ahead!
    • Take advantage of all resources available to distribute the load
    • Give yourself and others adequate time
  • Engage the sponsor / program officer early & be respectful of their time
  • Have lots of different types of folks read your application early!
  • Work with OSP in advance – we can do our best work when we’ve time to work with and support you
summary a compelling application conveys
Summary – A compelling application conveys
  • A great idea
  • Significance to sponsor
  • The rationale for the activities / approaches to be used
    • Speed bumps/alternative routes
  • What success looks like (expected results and interpretation of ‘other outcomes)
  • The team is qualified and capable
  • All resources needed for success!
  • Good value!
wrap up
Wrap Up
  • Persevere!!
  • Try to get feedback from sponsor (always available from federal awards)
    • Revise based on comments
  • If at first you don’t succeed – try try again.
Resource -

Happy to read drafts!

Trish Lowney, PhD

Executive Director, Sponsored Programs

113 Bowne Hall

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY 13244-1200

315-443-2882 (ph)

315-443-9361 (fx)