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Top Tips from Grant Professionals

  1. Develop Partnerships. Let's be honest, developing partnerships can be difficult and take a great deal of time. You should know, however, that the most innovative and successful grant proposals are collaborative efforts. Often, that means you need to put the time and effort into developing partnerships. A collaboration with industry, other universities or other non-profit agencies, and government organizations can enhance a grant proposal a great deal. In some cases, partnerships are required.
  2. Communicate with the Program Officer. The role of the program officer is different in every situation, even sometimes within the same agency. In some situations program officers facilitate the grants process. In other cases, they may serve as your advocate in the decision process. In still other cases, they make decisions on funding. The one major advantage these people have in every situation is that they know more about the particular grant program than anybody else. You need to tap this wealth of information. Sponsored Research Services can help you plan your interaction with a Program Officer. Tip: Put your idea down on paper in a paragraph or two. Program officers often prefer email for first contact and a short clear description of your idea helps them (and you) to get it in front of the right person. .
  3. Be Flexible. Proposal Development is not an exact science. No matter how far in advance you start preparing your proposal, things are going to change, be rushed, not work out, fall apart, computers will crash, people won't respond to your phone calls, someone may get upset, you're going to get nervous about making the deadline, and your e-mail won't work. This is okay, should be expected, and one more reason to plan ahead and work with your Sponsored Research Services rep.
  4. Be Open to Feedback. Constructive criticism can be helpful. Turn to your peers in your department and ask them to read a draft of your proposal. By receiving feedback from more experienced grant writers, you will be able to improve the quality of your proposal.
  5. Be confident. Seeking a grant can be a humbling experience. You need to have confidence in your ideas, in yourself, and in RIT. Remember: grant writing is an iterative process. Sponsors always have more good ideas than they can fund at any given time. Your odds of success increase over time.
  6. Start NOW. The process of procuring a grant can be very lengthy. In some cases the turnaround time from submission to notice is 7-8 months. If you are not successful on your first attempt and this is an annual competition, there is another 4 months until the next deadline, then another 7-8 until you are notified again. If you feel you don't have the time now, odds are good you won't have the time a year from now.
  7. Don't be intimidated by deadlines. It is never going to seem like enough time. For the majority of people, even with knowing about a deadline a year in advance, the bulk of the work will get done in the last month anyway. Keep an open mind when you get a grant opportunity with a deadline that is a month (or less) away. You can't finish what you don't start.
  8. Have fun. Grants are successful because they are innovative, cutting-edge and exciting. Don't let the pragmatics take away from the fun and excitement of doing something new.
  9. Make sure the grant works for you. Only you can decide if a given funding opportunity takes you where you want to go. If a grant is going to take you off course, if it does not interest you personally, then let someone else do it.
  10. Talk to your colleagues. There is probably someone here at RIT who knows something about your research and has experience and insight that can help you. Try to find them through networking or searching.
  11. Review for programs that interest you. Perhaps the best way to improve your proposal writing is to serve as a peer reviewer. Many agencies are in chronic need of qualified reviewers. There is no better way to understand what makes a competitive proposal than to review. Contact a program officer in a program of interest to you and see what their process is for selecting reviewers. A peer review may take two or three days of your time, but it will pay great dividends.
  12. Work with Sponsored Research Services. Get to know your rep from Sponsored Research Services. Come see us, call us, stop by, drop us a line. Once you get a grant you will want to work with us and university accounting. Once you hear your project is funded, contact us and we will begin the process of implementing your grant.
  13. Persevere. You are your best resource and your best advocate. You will need to make pursuing a grant high on your priority list if you are serious, or it will get lost in the business of everyday life. The first grant is always the most difficult, but it gets easier after that. Don't take failure personally. Failures not only provide learning experiences, in this business they also provide some feedback to use the next time around.