Seeking Grant Funding for Consumer Health Projects
Reprinted from MLA News, March 2009
By Brenda R. Pfannenstiel, AHIP, Health Sciences Library and Kreamer Family Resource Center, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Kansas City, MO; with contributions from Margaret (Peg) Allen, AHIP, Hmong Health Education Network, Stratford, WI; Kaye L. Crampton, Health Resource Libraries, Gundersen Lutheran, La Crosse, WI; Karen L. Liljequist, Health Science Library, The Children's Institute, Pittsburgh, PA; Karyn L. Pomerantz, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University, Washington, DC; and Donna F. Timm, AHIP, Medical Library, Louisiana State Health Sciences Center–Shreveport
Have you thought about seeking a grant to fund a consumer health or health literacy project? Those who have accomplished this successfully provide some points to consider and some comments to ponder:
- It is important to know the requirements and expectations of the agency that is providing the grant. For example, if you intend to develop training materials, you may be required to deposit your training materials in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Educational Clearinghouse Database.
- Be aware that a percentage of the grant may be withheld until you submit your final report. And you will have reporting to do! Many overstretched librarians have creative ideas for projects but hesitate to commit themselves to the grant-seeking and grant-reporting process.
- Donna F. Timm, AHIP, recommends taking the grant-writing class that is offered by NN/LM. She comments, "I had never written a grant proposal prior to this one, but I have now written a number of proposals that have been funded. I learned that the grant writer must specifically address every question in the request for proposal. If any equipment is requested, there must be an explanation of exactly how it will be used to support the project."
- Kaye L. Crampton says, "Plan, plan, plan! Particularly if working with partners outside of your institution, communication is very important. Pitch your project as something that will benefit all partners." Crampton also notes that planning for a grant should consider the state of the economy. For example, her grant is written to pay for registration for conferences but not travel, and travel money in many members' institutions has dried up. Ultimately, Crampton says, "I'm very glad that we did it; it is very interesting and rewarding, but it is also very hard work."
- If you have a project in mind and perhaps have already performed a needs assessment, your chances of landing a grant improve. Margaret (Peg) Allen, AHIP, advises, "Be persistent—do strategic planning to determine needs and goals, and then keep watching for funding opportunities that are a good fit. It is extremely important to match your goals to those of the funding agency. For federal and state funding, study the ten-year health plans and see where you fit."
- Karyn L. Pomerantz recommends that grant recipients develop their goals, objectives, and activities in a realistic manner so that they can accomplish them by the end of the funding period: "It's important to base your plans on prior work or pilot work. I rarely promise to conduct activities that I haven't tried before or work with organizations that I don't know ahead of time. The administrative work will always involve more time than most of us realize. Build relationships with your intended participants before you write a grant; conduct a literature review or examine the NN/LM list of funded projects for ideas; double the time you think you will need; visit your research office to understand what paperwork is required; and keep your project as simple as possible the first time and expand it in later years. Definitely do it! Make sure that you leave sufficient time to build relationships with people on your project and engage your colleagues in decisions and activities. This is what makes the work worthwhile."
- Karen Liljequist was able to launch a project despite a tight schedule. She says, "[Ours] was a short-term grant with an extremely assertive timeline for implementation and outcome measurement. It was critical for me, as a solo librarian, to obtain buy-in from management for the initiative before we even submitted the application. Tracking finances and resource fulfillment can also be time consuming, so I'd recommend partnering with your financial or accounting department if you can. And . . . don't be hesitant to promote what you've achieved within your organization, especially in this fiscal climate."
- Finally, Timm advises, "Be persistent! Your proposals may occasionally be rejected, but keep trying. The grant writer can learn a great deal from reading the reviewer's remarks and avoid making the same mistakes when writing the next proposal."
Some sources for consumer health or health literacy grant funding include NN/LM, the Pfizer Clear Health Communication Initiative (www.pfizerhealthliteracy.com), and ScanGrants (www.scangrants.com). The following websites, from some of the contributors to this article, may also prove helpful.