Grant Writing Tips
by Rosalind Farnam Dudden, MLS, FMLA, DM/AHIP
Director, Retired, Library and Knowledge Services and Tucker Medical Library
National Jewish Health, Denver, CO
- Have a good idea; a focused idea; an innovative idea; need the money.
Successful grant applications have these elements:
- An attention getting project - Grant providers look for projects that will not only maximize the use of the grant but also get them noticed. They want funds to be instruments of social change.
- Cooperative partnering - Funders are more likely to finance projects that involve several organizations working together rather than a single company moving on its own.
- Project commitment - Funders are looking for applicants to prove their commitment to the project, usually with matching funds.
- Benefit to the community or a show of community support - Projects supported by the community that they intend to benefit get noticed.
- Grant track record - Grant providers are more comfortable funding organizations that can document successful grant projects.
- Life after funding - Funders need and sometimes require assurance that the project will remain in force once the grant money runs out.
To write a cooperative grant:
- Have the idea of the project focused and call for participants or have an idea of what you want to do and call for participants to develop a project from that idea.
- Make sure all participants understand the rigors of the process, i.e. many meetings and then wait.
- Set a deadline for participation and require an institutional commitment from the administration of that institution.
- Have parts of the grant written and typed by the participants, (i.e. biographies, description of facilities, budget justifications, etc.) It then appears more cooperative than if the PI types it all.
- Get team members to proof read and/or write parts of the project description and budget justification.
The submission process:
- Get permission from your institutional grants or development office. These people also might know sources of funding that would be appropriate to your project.
- Get help from your institutional grants or development office on all technical details of the submission. Most grants require institutional signatures and are handled by a specific process.
- If your institution has no grants office, collaborate with someone who does have one.
- Know your NLM or other grant program. Read the call for proposals and use the same words they do.
- Talk to the grants officer at the funding agency.
- Work closely with them if your institution has no grants office.
- Have your funding agency grants officer review drafts.
Tips on the actual writing of the grant:
- Read the application form and follow directions.
- Name the project: a named entity takes action and speaks in the active voice.
- Review successful (i.e., funded) grants similar in scope, often supplied by the granting agency.
- Get assistance from other grant writers and key personnel who handle the grant application process for tips on the submission process.
- Set down the goals and objectives early and repeat them in each section because readers skip around and may not remember them. Keep saying "the Project (named) will do this," "...will accomplish that," "...coordinates this," etc.
- Use numbers and outline-like format, if possible.
- Use a Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Chart.
- Include a map of the city or state.
- For technical projects have an understandable technical map.
- Edit: watch typographical errors; use an active, not a passive voice; have an editor read it who knows English grammar; have a person unfamiliar with the project read it; use a spell-checker
- Use word processing or desktop publishing techniques to make the grant well-designed but not too flashy.
- Use an easy-to-read type/font.
- Details: How are you going to accomplish it; and WHY!!
- Make sure the methodology to accomplish the task agrees with the aims and objectives.
- Always keep the end user of the result of your project in mind as you write.
- Be prepared to wait.
Possible time line of a successful grant proposal:
||Call for Participants. Preparation begins
||Review and favorable score received
||Approved for funding, but not funded
||Notified that grant was funded
||Funds available for use after contracts were received -- (1.5 years)
||The two year grant might take three years to accomplish -- (4.5 years)
If you get the grant:
- Be prepared to work!
- Be prepared for paperwork.
- Be prepared for change if a technology grant.
Looking for funding? See the Resource Page on Grants and Funding Resources.
Partially taken from:
Dudden, Rosalind F. "Position Yourself for Outreach: Write an NLM Grant," a paper presented at the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., May 8, 1995.
Also published in:
Dudden, Rosalind F. "Grant Writing Tips List," NetLink, newletter of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Midcontinental Region, July-Aug, 1995, 2-4.
Dudden, Rosalind F. Grant Writing and the Hospital Librarian. Journal of Hospital Librarianship. 2001;1(3):25-39.
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