1) How much time does it take to prepare a strong grant application?
The time required to prepare a strong application depends upon its size and complexity. Applications to some private funding bodies can take as little as a week to put together, but applications to federal agencies can take up to a month. In both cases, the idea for the proposal needs to be thoroughly planned well ahead of time, and all supporting documentation, such as letters of support and memorandums of agreement, should have been collected. Time also needs to be allocated for the 'walk-through' procedure, or the 'routing process.' One week is usually sufficient for this.
2) What sort of information is required in order to put together a successful application?
Generally, a successful application will include detailed descriptions of:
- Your target population's need for the project, such as the area's isolated geographical location, low-income and/or low-educational attainment, and any other relevant socio-economic factors that describe/impact your target population. A description of need must be tailored to the project, supported by recent research and data, and sources must be referenced in the text. Over-reference rather than under-reference!
- Your objectives. In measurable terms, describe what you aim to accomplish with the project.
- Your project plan. Who, how, where, when, and what will make this project happen?
- The personnel that will be involved in the project, whether or not they are paid by grant funds.
- An evaluation plan. How will you measure the progress of your project toward its objectives? Include qualitative and quantitative means of evaluation. Do you require an internal or external evaluator?
- Your budget.
- Letters from UTB and the community that offer tangible support for your project, and any memorandums of understanding/agreement. Follow agency guidelines as to whether or not these should be attached to the application as appendices, or summarized in the text.
3) How do the Development Research Associate (DRA) and the Principle Investigator (PI) work together in the proposal writing process?
To ensure that UTB submits the best grant applications possible, the proposal writing process should be a collaborative effort from start to finish.
The DRA will review with the PI the requirements of the grant application, its restrictions, and any information such as regional data or supporting documents that need to be included in the application.
The PI will have a clear idea of what is to be accomplished with the grant and therefore is in the best position to write the main content of the proposal following clearly defined and specific categories identified in consultation with the DRA. The DRA will participate in writing and/or research as necessary. Responsibilities should be discussed and delegated as early as possible.
As sections are completed, the DRA will review them to ensure that the writing is focused and on schedule. The DRA will edit completed sections, ensuring that ideas come across clearly and that all of the grant requirements are addressed. The DRA will present the penultimate draft to the PI for review and, after it is approved, will complete the proposal submittal process.
Established programs will have a previously successful proposal, and much of this text can be revised and updated in accordance with the new application instructions. The Director may also have an established relationship with their Program Officer, in which case any communications with the Program Officer (e.g. regarding clarification of the application instructions) should be made by the Director.
4) What are some important factors to note when searching for funding opportunities?
- Eligibility – Does the grant support our geographic area? Does it support public/state controlled Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs)?
- Due date – Do you have enough time to write, gather supporting documentation, walk through, and submit the proposal?
- How many grants will be awarded? Is it worth your time and effort?
- What are the funding limits? Which projects have been previously funded by this grant?
- Are matching and/or in-kind funds required?
5) What are some tips for writing successful applications?
Basic but very important tips for writing good proposals include:
- Leave yourself plenty of time.
- Do not write alone.
- Tailor the need section of the proposal to the project - all information should be relevant.
- Read the instructions thoroughly – at least twice!
- Respond to everything the funding agency requests and suggests.
6) If a grant proposal includes partners, when should signed agreements be obtained?
When writing a proposal that includes collaboration with partners, signed agreements should be obtained before you begin writing the proposal. Public school districts, for instance, usually require authorization by their board which can be a lengthy process. Start early!
7) If an External Evaluator is needed for a grant proposal, how do I find one?
If the application guidelines indicate that an External Evaluator is appropriate, the DRA can provide referrals to eligible evaluators.