What is Grantsmanship ? and why is it important?
Definitions Formal Grantsmanship. Noun. The skill or practice of obtaining grants-in-aid, especially for research. First known use: 1961. -- Oxford Dictionary Informal Grantsmanship. Noun. Skills and practices that are usually not taught, but that researchers & program directors are expected to have mastered fully and early in their careers. -- Anonymous grant administrator
FEDERAL AGENCIES National Science Foundation National Institutes of Health United States Department of Agriculture United States Department of Transportation U.S. Dept. of Human & Health Services National Endowment for the Humanities
STATE PROGRAMS OCAST (Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology) State Council for the Humanities EPSCoR
FOUNDATIONS Howard Hughes Medical Institute American Cancer Society Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation American Heart Association W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Foundations & Non-Profits http://www.foundationcenter.org/ “ Established in 1956, the Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide.... The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank... It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level.”
Drilling Down Agency organizational structure Agency policies & programs Agency funding mechanisms Program Officers
Department of Transportation Mission Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future. http://www.dot.gov/about
Department of Agriculture Mission USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/FY12budsum.pdf
Know Your Agency Visit agency websites, blogs, & twitters... Official Blog of Secretary of Transportation http://fastlane.dot.gov/2013/04/index.html Look for abstracts or news items about projects similar to your proposal – find out which program funded them and how.
The Perfect Match: Agency Your Proposal What is the Mission mandated for an agency or organization? What are their goals and how do they want to advance towards those goals? Your proposed research, program, or project must align with their goals and objectives. You must convince reviewers that your work advances the funder’s objectives.
Mission Matching Are you planning on asking the Rush Limbaugh Foundation to fund Feminists for the Spotted Owl? hmm...
Mission Matching For each funder, carefully study: o Mission Statement of the agency o Purpose Statement of a program o Criteria set out in RFP o All applicable guidelines for submission
Funder’s Money Funder’s Mission Remember that the funder seeks to support programs or research that serves their mission and their organizational goals – first and foremost. Always craft your proposals to reflect this reality.
Do Your Homework! Know yourself Know the opportunities Know the competition
Know Yourself What are your long-term goals? Do they align with the funder’s? Does the project represent an essential step that advances long-term goals or fills a clearly defined need? Are you eligible? Can you and your team meet all the required criteria? Do you have the skills, experience, and resources needed?
Know the Opportunities o Learn as much as you can about a potential funding agency and how its programs work. o Ask colleagues familiar with the funder for input and opinions. o Look at projects they have supported lately and/or leadership’s public statements regarding agency priorities. These change!!
Know the Competition What are others doing in the same program area? What agencies have demonstrated the most interest, most recently, in addressing the need you wish to fill? Locate funded proposals to study.
Federally Funded Projects Request a copy of a specific funded project proposal in your field of interest directly from the proposer... or Submit a FOIA request to the funding agency for a specific funded proposal.
FOIA The Freedom of Information Act... is a federal law that establishes the public's right to obtain information from federal government agencies, subject to certain exemptions. Instructions for submitting FOIA requests can be found at every federal agency website
FOIA Dept. of Transportation http://www.dot.gov/foia/ Under the statute, all federal agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This time period does not begin until the request is actually received by the FOIA office of the component of the Department of Transportation that maintains the records sought. An agency is not required to send out the releasable documents by the last business day; it can send you a letter informing you of its decision and then send you the documents within a reasonable time afterward.
Grantsmanship Success What makes a proposal competitive? An excellent first impression A convincing case for a critical need An innovative, credible response to that need A well-articulated set of outcomes and wider benefits to both the field and to society A Project Director or Researcher with the right qualifications and the right environment to do the job
Grantsmanship Failure What makes a proposal non-competitive? Failure to read the funder’s instructions Failure to understand the funder’s instructions Failure to fully commit to the process Failure of preparation and doing the ‘homework’ Failure to develop a competitive concept Failure to present a well organized, articulate, logical, and convincing set of goals, aims, outcomes
Read the Solicitation! o READ the Request for Proposal (RFP) o Then re-read it! o Keep re-reading as you write Solicitations are written with precision to state clearly what the funder is looking for and why; how to construct the proposal and what criteria are essential.
Decoding the RFP One of the most common mistakes is a proposal that did not follow the rules or understand instructions. Be sure to note terminology and use the same language.
Outline the RFP Identify every section required, in order. For every criteria, assign headings and subheadings. The outline will organize the proposal and be a checklist for completeness.
Construct the Proposal Gap/Need Significance Goal and Objectives Work Plan & Activities Expected Outcomes Impact of Project Evaluation Budget CV
Mind the Gap Identify and describe clearly and succinctly the need or gap in knowledge that exists. Why is it important to fill the gap or Identify a solution?
Fill the Gap What is your idea or solution? What is your project objective? It should be a clearly defined, measurable answer to the gap or need outlined above – not an open-ended activity.
What’s the Problem? Identify the root cause or problem that has created a need (or an opportunity!) that your proposal will fill in a way that serves the funder’s mission. The statement of need is the core of any program proposal – it MUST be compelling, convincing, specific, and as well written as possible.
Statement of Need Demonstrate that you have a thorough grasp of your specific, unique problem or need; Show that addressing this problem is important – not ONLY to your community but also to the broader society; Prove that the need is immediate and why it MUST be addressed now; Show how your project or work links with other organizations / activities in your community or region.
Answering the Need What is the problem? What are the causes of the problem? Who is affected? What is the impact? What are the costs? What are best strategies or solutions? What are the main obstacles/issues?
Answering the Need What solutions have been considered? What programs elsewhere might serve as models or templates? What is your group’s experience and expertise in addressing this problem?
Goals & Objectives Long-term goal ≠ the goal of the proposal A long-term goal aligns with a continuum of activities working towards a future endpoint Goal of the proposal = to “fill the gap” identified Have measurable goals (to build, to develop, to identify)
Outcomes & Output Each aim should have a measurable outcome or expectation, or a definite endpoint. Outcomes are specific, measurable alterations in knowledge or behaviors that result from project outputs Outputs are quantifiable items or units of service resulting from the activities proposed.
Rationale & Significance Rationale: What will become possible after the work is accomplished? Why do this project? Significance: Why / how is the work important to advancing Mission? Justify the project.
Outline the Proposal Proposer’s long-term goal(s) Gap in knowledge or Need Proposal goal/objective – to fill a specified gap Rationale & Significance PI /team’s skills, expertise, ability to do the job well Aim 1 Activities/Outcomes Pitfalls/Problems Aim 2 etc.
Limit Your Aims Have no more than 3 aims -- more are viewed as unrealistic Each aim should be measurable - do not confuse aims with activities !!
Draft an overview Draft a one page overview (aka white paper) based on your outline, with reference to the program’s key criteria Share it with colleagues for honest input to help you “get it right ”
Communicate Program Officers (PO’s) represent a valuable resource. Always email first with a courteous note & ask if you may email your (well-edited) one pager and follow up with a call, if necessary. Some POs will bend over backwards to be helpful; others may be less communicative.
Be Concise & Courteous Don’t be a nag! Be specific and precise in your questions Do not dump unnecessary details about your idea into the one pager white paper No jargon! Do your homework first
Assembling Your Team Developing and planning a project is often a team effort... BUT, the final proposal must reflect a unified “voice” – it cannot be written by committee. One person must be responsible for pulling together & vetting ideas, shaping the proposal, making last minute edits, and shepherding it out the door.
Assembling Your Team Assign “duties” and deadlines early in the process! Someone must be the leader in assembling the parts of a proposal. Only one person should communicate with a program officer. Establish a timeline for meeting and accomplishing goals for the process.
Make Time (not excuses) Successful proposal development takes time. TIME to develop the ideas TIME to write TIME to review TIME to get reviews from others TIME to re-review
Grantwriting Resources GUIDE FOR WRITING A FUNDING PROPOSAL http://www.learnerassociates.net/proposal/ TWELVE STEPS TO A WINNING RESEARCH PROPOSAL http://xsrv.mm.cs.sunysb.edu/300/lectures/proposal.pdf THE ART OF GRANTSMANSHIP http://www.hfsp.org/funding/art-grantsmanship Getting Funded: The Complete Guide to Writing Grant Proposals. Susan Howlett & Renee Bourque. 5 th edition. Word & Raby Publishing, 2011.
Learn the Review Process Find out how the proposal will be reviewed. The more you understand about how the process works, the better your chances of success. You will be writing to the Reviewers – you need to know who they will be!
The Reviewers Do not assume: That reviewers of your proposal will be as enthused about your idea as you are. That reviewers will all have the same degree of familiarity with your focus field. That reviewers will have time to carefully read every line of your proposal.
Write to the Reviewers Reviewers are typically from various backgrounds within a field - most may not be experts in your specific field of research, operations, or expertise. Therefore, a proposal must be written so that it is easily reviewed and understandable to an educated lay reader to the extent possible. Do not assume familiarity with environment, context, or specific challenges – describe these conditions succinctly, but in detail.
Never Assume...that all reviewers will be familiar with special terms or jargon you may take for granted! Even specialists and experts don’t have the mental energy to spend remembering what unusual terms or acronyms mean. Make the reviewer’s life easy – keep it simple and straightforward.
Re-read the RFP Always check back on the instructions as you write! This ensures that no criteria or instructions, however minor, are being overlooked.
Don’t Do This! Be too ambitious – over-promising and under- estimating time and resources required are cited as one of the most common pitfalls of proposals. Keep scope within limits. Be internally focused – align your rationale and focus on the funder’s mission and wider society, not your group’s internal issues.
Don’t Do This! Be careless about details – make sure a specific need is carefully discussed and detailed, do not spend time talking about “general” issues or problems. Ex: Don’t talk about how bridges are crumbling all over -- why does a particular bridge need to be replaced urgently?
Don’t Do This! Ignore RFP directions about how to frame narrative sections. Example: Most RFPs state that an abstract or summary must be written in the third person.
Don’t Do This! Be inconsistent in discussing goals, aims, and outcomes. Be casual about who is impacted: Don’t say “everyone” will be served by a project – who exactly will benefit? How? Why? To what extent? Be careless about syncing budget and proposed activities. Make sure your budget matches what you say will be done and based on actual costs.
Be Confident! o Use confident terminology; avoid weak words like: if, hope, try, believe, might, could or should, may, etc.. Better to say: We expect to demonstrate. o Use several paragraphs per page Keep each paragraph focused on a key idea
Be Active, Not Passive o We will build a new bridge and employ approximately 20 engineers. instead of o A new bridge will be built (by whom?!) and 20 engineers will be employed (by whom?!)
Use Your Space Use all the space allotted for a grant. If the limit is 15 pages, do not turn in 12. If you have skimped on criteria, you will have no excuse and the reviewers will assume you just didn’t care enough.
And etc... Do not use “etc.” in grant proposals. Either specify or end with a general reference to “similar instances.”
First Impressions Even before reviewers begin to read a proposal, the review process has already begun. Reviewers see and assess a few immediate criteria: Title Presentation Formatting
First Impressions Poor initial impressions can be hard to overcome – so take time to focus on a few key elements Title – this should be both descriptive and interesting, even catchy - it should capture the reviewer’s interest and positively incline him/her towards the proposal. Don’t settle on a title until the end of your proposal writing – when it has all come together.
First Impressions Reviewer – Friendly Presentation This phrase refers to a document that is easily and quickly read with optimal comprehension. This is achieved by a variety of stylistic and format techniques, many of which are incorporated quite specifically in the rules for submission provided by funding agencies.
Second (final?) Impressions A proposal that is quickly and easily read, with optimal comprehension, is reviewer-friendly and thus more competitive than one full of dense text, jargon, tiny font, and no subheadings. Why? This is your reviewer
Presentation Size matters! Read the RFP carefully. Arial 10 font may be “allowed” as a “minimum” size, but that does NOT mean it is the optimal size. Reviewers much prefer 12 font TNR or Arial
Presentation o Use headers that key to the RFP criteria MAIN SECTION Subsection Sub-subheading o Do not overuse Bolding, CAPITALS, or redundancies LIKE THIS.
Presentation o White space enables reviewers to easily find essential criteria and form a holistic idea of your proposal – and of your grasp of the issues. o Do not justify right margin – it is easier to read quickly when text is not justified.
Presentation o Never let a grant go out the door looking like a product of “scissors and glue.” o Blend all sections into one unified proposal.
Presentation Visuals - Do not rely on color to distinguish your graphics! Make sure they are readable in black and white. o color printers are not always available to reviewers o some reviewers are colorblind!
Worth a Thousand Words? Charts, maps, and other graphics are good ONLY if and when they add informative value.
Legends that fall ………………………………….on the next page! o Do not let legends fall on different pages than their graphs! Reviewers will have no time or interest in flipping back and forth to figure out a visual. Do not make fonts teeny tiny either
Spelling is Important!! o Using the correct word in the correct way is very important!! A principal is not a principle Rationale is not rational Led is not lead Data are plural, datum is singular
Proofreed, proofried, profere o Challenge buddies in the English department to find mistakes! o Always strive for perfection. o Rewrite as often as you can stand it to improve clarity, eliminate repetitions, refine style, and sharpen logic.
Grammar Resources The only book you’ll ever really need to craft a well-written grant is the brief but brilliant, Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. This book provides guidance on grammar, spelling, syntax, common errors, and what to watch out for most often.
Reviewer’s Checklist Is the title interesting? Informative? Who is this from? What is their institution or affiliation? What is the basic idea? Is this what the rfp asked for? Is this proposal easy to read, understand, and get excited about?
Standard Evaluation Checklist Significance – how important is this proposal? Applicant(s) – how well prepared and qualified are the applicants? Do they have experience? Approach – how well organized/planned is this? Environment – how many resources and what kind of facilities will be available to support this plan? Innovation – how unique or imaginative is it?
Best of All... Ask knowledgeable colleagues, mentors, and friends to review your proposal and to provide feedback and editing advice.
Last Steps... Submit PLAN to submit EARLY – Allow plenty of time for submission glitches and electronic meltdowns. Life happens. Don’t lose sight of details at the end. Check one more time. Make sure your package is complete!! Send it. Relax... win or lose, you’ve got a proposal template for the future. If you get reviewer notes back, even better!