|Grant Writing Tip - Talking with Sponsors|
|Tuesday, 25 April 2006 06:43|
Ask a diverse group of people what it takes to secure grant funding and you'll likely get answers as varied as the people who gave them. Typical responses offer very sound advice: write concisely, have a solid management plan, use keywords from the solicitation, make sure it's well organized, have peers read and critique your work, and many others. However, one critical answer is mentioned much less frequently - talking directly, either in person or over the phone, with a program director (PD).
Depending upon the agency from which you are seeking funds, there are a variety of individuals who are willing to help you on your way to successful projects. Large federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, provide potential grant writers with one or two lead contacts and several other co-leads. Others, like the Department of Defense, may offer a technical lead and an administrative lead. On smaller state and regional grants, the same types of contacts as above may be offered, but you are more likely to see an anonymous email address where general questions/FAQs can be sent and posted on web pages for all potential summiteers to see.
There are various reasons why this recommendation isn't everyone's favorite. Since the conversation is live, there is the potential to insert one's foot-in-mouth and to be rejected outright. These are possibilities, but are certainly not the norm. To minimize the chances of such a conversation, it's best to set up a convenient time for a discussion rather than cold-calling a PD and hoping for the best. Better still, if allowed, send a one-page abstract to prepare the PD to help steer talking points if the conversation lags. If your idea is discouraged, it is likely not a direct reflection on you. Perhaps the solicitation was unclear in some aspect or the sponsor already had a specific type of project in mind. Rather than feeling slighted, view such an experience as a tremendous time saver and an opportunity to pursue the idea elsewhere or to develop it further.