Set a personal deadline of one month before the granting
agency's deadline - it always takes longer than you think it will
to polish the proposal.
Verify the deadline, which will be either a "postmarked by" or
"received by" date.
Look at the funding agency's recent grant recipients and titles
of their projects: do they support the type of work you are
Contact individuals (if needed) for referee letters, letters of
support, or letters of commitment as early as possible - give them
time to fit it into their schedules.
Look at successful past proposals whenever possible (call the
program officer or the Office of Grants).
Ask colleagues - including some from other fields - to review
and critique your proposal. Get feedback on the "grantsmanship" of
the proposal as well as the scholarship. Staff in the Grants Office
are more than happy to give you feedback from the granting agency's
point of view.
When in doubt, contact the program officer for answers to your
Do not give up if your proposal is not funded on your first
try; request reviewer comments and apply them to your second
Grant writing is utilitarian, not creative (the creativity is
in the conceptualization of the project).
Limit the use of quotations - they take up valuable space that
should be used to describe the project.
Strive for clarity - your proposal must be understood by
educated laypeople, but also be accurate for any specialist who
might be on the review panel.
Never assume that reviewers will be experts in your
sub-specialty - define your terms, use acronyms sparingly, and
Thoroughly read every word of the program announcement or
request for proposals (RFP), highlight key points, then re-read
Establish the need for your research (particularly if it is in
an area already well researched).
Discuss your proposed research in the context of your overall
Prove the significance of your project (that it has not been
done before is not compelling enough).
Keep in mind that reviewers want to see an "orderly mind" at
work in your proposal.
Address every bullet or criterion in the guidelines.
Demonstrate your familiarity with the current literature
related to your project.
Include a timeline for your work; you want to demonstrate that
the research you are proposing is feasible within the proposed
Set a positive tone by using the active rather than the passive
voice; your writing should reflect confidence in your project and
in the forthcoming funding.
At least one panelist has to be enthusiastic about your
proposal - 50% of proposals are never discussed.
Straightforward, descriptive titles are preferred.
Avoid gimmicks or attempts at humor as these may backfire or
offend the reviewers.
Consider adding descriptions (such as dates or locations) that
will help to clarify your project.
Make certain that the budgeted costs meet the trends/giving
potential of the donor.
Avoid exaggerating costs and tacking on frills.
Be as specific as possible.
Work with the Office of Grants.
Choose your referees very carefully and be sure they are
supportive of both you and your work.
No more than one referee should be from HWS, no more than one
should be a PhD mentor, and, if possible, at least one should have
stature in your field.
A good letter can overcome a weak letterhead; a strong
letterhead cannot overcome a weak letter.
Letters should address your project and your unique
qualifications to carry it out; a discussion of your teaching
ability is generally not very helpful.
Keep in mind that these letters can help address potential
weaknesses of your proposal such as the lack of a track record,
relevance of research, or feasibility of the project.