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Grant Writing Tips

When submitting a proposal, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Contacting the Program Officer:

If you want to know what was happening five years ago, go to a textbook with a current year copyright.
If you want to know what was happening one year ago, go to a referred journal.
If you want to know what was happening two weeks ago, go to a conference and hear about works completed and in progress.
If you want to know what's going to happen, go to the program officer (their agencies are funding it).

The program officer provides a wealth of information. Although no two agencies operate in the same manner, it is to your benefit to explore possibilities with the program officer or contact person identified by the funding agency as soon as you have identified the agency you want to target - start early. Each program officer may assist you in a different manner. Ask for information and assistance that seems reasonable, based upon your conversation. In many instances the program officer may:

a) Tell you whether or not your proposed program fits within their guidelines/priorities.

b) Provide information as to what they think the success may be based on the idea.

c) Have a voice in determining what gets funded.

d) Provide feedback of draft proposals or concept papers.

e) Recommend strategies, such as cutting back on costs, that may enhance the success probability.

f) Provide copies of previously funded proposals for the competition you're applying under.

g) Tell you how firm the dollar limit is.

h) Tell you how proposals are reviewed and who reviews them.

i) Tell you what the most common mistakes are.

j) Give other valuable insights and recommendations.

Use the information you obtain from the program officer to enhance your proposal and success probability.

2. Follow the Guidelines

Many say there are three keys to a successful proposal: read the guidelines, read the guidelines, and read the guidelines.

As you prepare your proposal, pay special attention to the guidelines and follow them closely. The guidelines specify who is eligible, areas that are eligible for funding, deadlines, contact person, and other key elements. Often, agencies restrict margins, type size, lines per vertical inch, appendices, and length. In addition, information regarding funding limits, format for the proposal, eligible budget line items, etc. are included in the guidelines.

Your proposal may be returned without review if you deviate from their guidelines.

3. Have Others Review Your Proposal

Ask your colleagues, individuals who have served on review committees, those who have been successful in obtaining grants, and those who have received funding from the agency you're targeting (or others) to review your proposal and/or provide tips, insights, guidance and recommendations.

Use information you receive to strengthen your proposal.

4. Talk to People Who Have Been Successful

Ask successful investigators about their experience and insights. Ask reviewers for their advice. Ask them about their strategies, tips, suggestions, etc.

5. Review Successful Proposals

Obtain copies of successful proposals to the agency and program you're targeting. Review their format, style, budgeting strategies (if provided), how the plan is put together, etc.

How to get copies:

a) Program officers may provide copies of previously funded grants under the same or similar competition;

b) Many federal agencies have abstracts of funded projects on the www; call investigators you identify and ask them for a copy of their proposal;

c) Contact ORSP.

6. Other Sources of Grant Writing Assistance

The following links provide basic grant writing instructions:

Proposal Writing Guide written by Janet S. Rasey, PhD:

The following links provide instructions and sample proposals:

Guide for Writing a Funding Proposal written by S. Joseph Levine, PhD:

Non-profit Guides: Grant writing tools for non-profit organizations:

Tips On Writing a Grant Proposal - Environmental Protection Agency:

Index to Sample Proposals provides several educational services proposals:

NIH Grant Writing Information

NIH Grant Writing Tips Sheet:

How to Write a Grant Application

A sample successful R01 proposal submitted to NIH by Dr. Mark Smeltzer:

NSF Grant Writing Information

A Guide for Proposal Writing:


Grantseeker Toolkit from HealthLinks:

Researchers Toolkit from HealthLinks:

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