External Grants Overview

Thank you for exploring the process of seeking external grants for your research or creative work. Here I welcome you to the grants community and share our collective vision for engaging in this work. I provide an introduction to the process: my hopes and goals for faculty, a list of the services I provide, and a summary of the benefits of engaging in this work. Finally, I provide an overview of the grant-seeking process and the resources that exist to support you. I hope to meet with you soon!

- Tess Powers, Director of Sponsored Research

Thinking Ahead: Applying for external research funding may make sense only a handful of times over the course of an individual faculty member's career. Therefore, it’s important to develop an understanding of the process – and the resources that exist to support you – well in advance so that you feel prepared when the time is right to apply.

Tailored Fundamentals: In order to ensure both equal access to critical information and tailored information that recognizes faculty members' individual needs, I have prepared a variety of materials designed to help ensure that all faculty receive similar foundational information appropriate to their stage in the process. In which stage are you?

One-on-One Support and Training: Each person comes to the process with individual needs and experiences. I have found it most effective to discuss the grant-seeking process in one-on-one or small group settings, rather than presenting it in large group workshops.

Strategic Planning: Every CC faculty member is competitive for external funding if they wish to participate in the process. However we need to engage in strategic planning well before the funding is needed in order to position you for success.

Informed Decision-Making: I believe this process can open up opportunities for every faculty member, however I recognize grant-seeking isn't for everyone. My goal is for faculty to have the information they need to make an informed choice based on an understanding of the process, the resources that exist and the potential benefits of engaging in the process.

A Collaborative Exercise: Regardless of the nature of your scholarly or creative work, the process of seeking external funding – as funded scholars routinely share – is a collaborative effort. I am a partner in your grant-seeking process, helping you benefit from a wide range of resources including other successful CC faculty, your professional network, and the funders themselves.


Grant Activity: In the FY13 - FY23 ten-year span, on average 20 proposals have been submitted each year (of all proposals, ~23% in the humanities, ~23% in the social sciences and ~54% in the natural sciences) of which 40% have been funded.

Grant Recognition: Recent grants are typically announced to the CC community via an article on the CC webpage, and through the President’s announcement page shared prior to the faculty meeting. Pre-covid, we celebrated grant applicants with a Grants Recognition Reception for all faculty who submitted a proposal. We would like to expand this to all who consider themselves part of the grants community: those who have active grants, those who have submitted a grant proposal and those who are working toward an application in the future.

Post-Award Support: As of Aug. 1, 2023, 17 CC faculty are principal investigators on 28 active grants and fellowships representing about $2.6M in research funding. The faculty member, his/her staff assistant, Tess, as well as Lori Cowan and Susan Brickell in Finance, work together to support post-award spending and compliance expectations. Please see the College's Grants Manual and the Research Compliance resource page for more.

(developed in 2021)

Because the strength of our engagement in research and creative work is clear and because such engagement enriches our teaching, the pursuit of external funding for our scholarly work enhances our mission to provide the finest liberal arts education in the country. With our time and efforts supported by the College in imaginative ways, we create a vibrant, intentional community of faculty and staff who engage in grants and fellowships activity as part of the broader ecosystem of our scholarly activity and creative work. Recognizing that our research and creative work benefit both from the process of writing thoughtfully about its significance as well as from sharing our written narratives with colleagues and reviewers, we foster a supportive environment for scholarly exchange. Encouraged by tailored, intentional training and appropriate administrative support, we engage in strategic activities that position us well for long-term success, reaping wide-ranging benefits from the process regardless of funding.

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An Introduction

Grants are an exercise in making goals explicit. I too want to be explicit about the hopes and goals I have for faculty in regards to seeking external funding.

#1: for all faculty to be familiar with their key external funders. For any given faculty member, it may make sense to apply for external funding only once every several years.  Therefore, it is important for faculty to know funders’ deadlines & expectations well in advance so that faculty can choose to apply or choose not to apply, as their interest and circumstances allow.

#2: for all faculty to be familiar with the benefits of applying for external funding, including developing clarity on their scholarly agenda, gaining perspective on their research and creative production through reviewer feedback, better articulating their scholarly goals to educated non-specialists, strengthening future internal proposals, strengthening relationships with other CC faculty and strengthening their professional network.

#3: for all interested faculty to have an “External Grant Plan,” to be initiated after our first one-on-one conversation. The purpose of this document is to capture the role external grants could play in an overall professional development plan for the next ~5 years. For many faculty, this plan may include the goal to apply (and possibly reapply) to a particular funder in 2 to 4 years, as well as the strategic steps they can take to become more competive for that funder.

#4: for all interested faculty to be familiar with the resources available internally to support their success, including being familiar with internal financial sources and policies, being familiar with the services and programming Tess provides, being familiar with the Pivot grants database, and being familiar with which CC colleagues may be available as a resource.  

#5: for all interested faculty to be familiar with resources and opportunities available externally to be successful, including webinars and grant workshops offered by target funders, opportunities to serve as a grant reviewer, the availability of successful sample proposals, information on grants awarded to ~100 peer institutions, and external colleagues with expertise.

#6: for all interested faculty to feel excited by the prospect of success, for faculty to know that they have prepared well and that the external grant or fellowship will be recognized and appreciated internally by peers, their department, and college leadership. And finally, they will know that they will be supported on the post-award side in managing the grant.

I want to be your partner on the path to seeking and obtaining external funding. Below are a variety of ways that I hope to assist you in the process.

Initial Strategic Planning

  1. Helping you identify projects of interest that might have external funding possibilities
  2. Helping identify funders for your key projects or sabbatical leaves using a variety of prospecting resources, including the College's Pivot grants database
  3. Sharing a variety of resources for you to use to identify potential funders
  4. Staying informed on new funding opportunities, and sharing information when there’s a potential fit with your scholarly interests
  5. Staying informed on internal funding opportunities so that I can provide advice on when external funding should or should not be pursued
  6. Helping you develop a strategy for applying for funding based on available funders, their deadlines and your schedule and funding needs
  7. Discussing the College’s SEGway program and how it could help you become more competitive for a target funder

During Proposal Development and Submission

  1. Reading proposal guidelines carefully to ensure the proposal meets all technical requirements
  2. Developing a detailed budget, when required, and drafting language for the budget justification
  3. Reading early drafts of proposal narratives for structure, tone, message, clarity and comprehensiveness and providing suggestions to improve its competitiveness
  4. Helping your identify and support external readers of proposal drafts
  5. Drafting language in cases where institutional information is requested
  6. Arranging for a letter of support from the Dean of Faculty, when appropriate
  7. Helping arrange for a commitment of internal match money in cases where it would improve the proposal’s competitiveness
  8. Ensuring that internal approval for the grant submission is obtained and documented
  9. Proofing final drafts of narratives and other proposal components (such as CVs)
  10. Contacting the funder’s program officers with questions (or letting you know under what circumstances it would be best for you to contact them)
  11. Tracking whether recommenders have submitted their letters (and communicating with recommenders when appropriate)
  12. Submitting proposals online

Once Submitted

  1. Toasting you when it’s funded or discussing whether or how to resubmit if it's not
  2. Helping you negotiate the post-award process. (More on that later.)

Articulation of Significance of One’s Work – Many faculty report that engaging in the writing of grants and fellowships helps them develop clarity on the significance of their scholarly work, which in turn helps them better articulate its significance.

Strengthening of One’s Professional Network – Faculty who have been successful with grants and fellowships uniformly describe the proposal development process as highly collaborative – regardless of the nature of their scholarly or creative work. They have shared numerous drafts with colleagues within and often beyond their own field, whose engagement with the proposal, through comments and questions, help strengthen both their professional relationships and the proposal itself.

Development of One’s Professional Network – A few strategies for becoming more successful with grants and fellowships involve expanding one’s network, including reaching out to a program officer to discuss one’s work, serving as a grant reviewer for the funder one seeks to approach, reaching out to a colleague in one’s professional network to request a copy of a funded proposal, and requesting that a funded colleague read and provide suggestions on a draft proposal. While there are nuances to these strategies, which we can discuss, ultimately they knit together to broaden and strengthen one’s professional network.

Strengthening Internal Grant Proposals – For many years I have joined the Research and Development Board in their review of Summer Research Proposals such as Benezet and the Dean’s Summer Research Grants.  I have found that faculty who have worked on external grants and fellowships have developed very clear language on their scholarly and creative goals, making their internal proposals highly competitive.

Financial Resources – Last but not least, grants and fellowships can provide the necessary financial resources to accomplish your scholarly and creative goals. Some funders can support your time, some funders can support the expenses associated with the work. Once we have identified possible funders, let's discuss them to ensure that we are approaching the best funder for your needs.


Whether you are new to the grants process or a faculty member with grant or fellowship expertise, we invite you to be a part of the grants community this summer. Learn more here!

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Overview of the Process

This phase begins with a conversation. In this hour-long session we focus on the resources that exist to support your research or creative agenda. We will discuss

  • any experience you may have with external funders
  • recent grant activity at the College, to provide perspective
  • internal funding opportunities (in depth for new faculty)
  • my hopes and goals for all faculty interested in applying for external funding
  • the services I can provide in the application process
  • ways for us to explore funding opportunities

You will leave with a few near-term recommendations. If you haven't already, I will invite you to complete a brief  Top Priority Questionnaire , which I will use as a starting point for our next session, a one-on-one External Grant Planning session.

Resources discussed & shared:

During this phase we focus on setting priorities and a timeline for the grant-seeking process. It begins with your completing the Top Priority Questionnaire, which I use to review funders in the College's robust grants database, Pivot. We then sit down for our second one-on-one session, the External Grant Planning session.

We will discuss:

  • Your research interests in depth, your top priority projects, and your anticipated funding needs
  • Possible funders, beginning to identify the best fits
  • Tools and resources at your disposal for seeking additional potential funders
  • Possible goals for a future grant application (in 1 to 5 years), keeping in mind that resubmissions will likely be necessary
  • Strategic activities that might help you become more competitive for those funders, such as serving as a grant reviewer

You will leave with an early version of a 5-year External Grants Plan, which we can update over time.

The ultimate goal is for you to develop confidence that taking your time, engaging in these strategic activities and being persistent will lead to success.

Resources discussed & shared:

During this phase you will begin working toward a deadline in one to five years by

  • Developing clarity on your project by writing a one-pager summarizing its significance
  • Familiarizing yourself with your "target funder"
  • Engaging in strategic activities that could support your eventual proposal
  • Reaching out to the Program Officer (may depend on the funder)
  • Adjusting the timeline as needed
  • Reaching out to potential "friendly" readers of draft narratives
  • Reaching out to a potential external reader of a nearly final narrative

During this phase I am always available to support you. Please reach out with questions.

Resources available:

  • Funder's guidelines
  • Funders' webinars, when available
  • Sample successful narratives (available through a variety of methods)
  • Webinars on NEH, ACLS, Ford Foundation, & CAREER featuring winners from small liberal arts colleges 
  • In-house trainings available on NEH, ACLS, Fulbright
  • In-house trainings on strategic activities (serving as a grant reviewer, talking with a Program Officer)
  • In-house training on the Nuts and Bolts of the application process

During this phase we begin actively working toward the proposal deadline. Together, we

  • Hold a proposal kick-off meeting four to six months before the deadline to revisit funder requirements
  • Discuss your draft narrative
  • Begin preparing drafts of all other proposal components (budget, if applicable; CV, etc.)
  • Discuss availability of internal matching funding
  • Share draft with an external reader (recommended; ideally two months before the deadline)
  • Notify your chair, the Dean and others via the Authorization to Submit form (one to two weeks before the deadline)
  • Submit the proposal!

Resources available:

Resources available for National Science Foundation applicants:

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Now Let's Connect!

Whether you have a quick question or want to dig in, please reach out anytime.

Quick question?

Ready to meet? please text or email to schedule a time

If you have a range of possible projects, let's discuss them! 

If you have one top priority project on your mind, completing this optional form a week in advance would help me seek potential funders prior to our meeting.

I'm looking forward to working with you! ~ Tess

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