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Advice for Grant Seekers

Grant Proposal Preparation in Context

Grant-seeking and proposal development are scholarly activities that can help you focus on the larger context of your scholarly/creative work and encourage articulation of why it matters in that context. Applying for external funding is an incentive to think clearly about your work’s relevance to your field and to articulate your ideas to a broader audience.

It is important to think strategically in the context of grant proposal preparation:

  • Start small. Smaller (and internal) grants can be used for specific purposes, and they help establish credibility for later, larger grants or fellowships.  In grant-seeking, success leads to greater success.
  • Build your profile. Grant applications serve as a way to connect with others in your discipline and can lead to discussions about current work and potential collaborations.  Use grants as another way to be an active part of the profession and to create a greater profile within your field.
  • Practice makes perfect. Some granting agencies expect repeated submissions before awarding funding, making it especially important to plan ahead and vet proposals early.  Some funding agencies provide the reviewers’ comments, which can be invaluable in preparing a resubmission of the proposal.

Suggested Reading

For general advice on approaching drafting a grant proposal, I suggest reading “On the Art of Writing Proposals,” by Adam Przeworski and Frank Soloman.  Although their advice is officially for social scientists applying to the Social Science Research Council, their advice is widely applicable.

I also suggest reading The Art of Funding and Implementing Ideas: A Guide to Proposal Development and Project Management by Arnold R. Shore and John M. Carfora.  While some proposal-writing advice focuses on “being specific,” Shore and Carfora focus on the need to be  “general and encompassing” in order to fully develop the idea behind the proposal.

Specific Advice for Major Funders

There’s a saying in this field: “Once you know one funder … you know one funder.”  Therefore, once you decide to approach a particular funder for support, it is vital to become familiar with their unique application requirements and expectations.  Below is some information to help you help you become familiar with some of the more-commonly approached funders.

American Council of Learned Societies  Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions

Fulbright - Overview of the Core Fulbright Scholar Program

NEH - Summary of NEH Conference Call with Mark Silver

NSF – Proposal Preparation Checklist