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Grantsmanship 101 Impact

Grantsmanship 101

Do you have great ideas for projects, programs, and/or equipment but aren’t sure how to find the resources to make them a reality? You have come to the right place! Whether you’ve never written a grant proposal, or you need a quick refresher, OGSP’s Grantsmanship 101 is designed to provide information to help you write a winning grant proposal to get the funding you need.

The grant funding process unfolds according to one of two scenarios:

  1. Funding is sought for projects that have already been conceived; or
  2. Projects are developed in response to a grant opportunity.

The first scenario is preferred as it ensures that institutional needs drive the process rather than the funder’s goals

Step One: Develop a Project Framework

The first step is to develop a framework around your idea. This process should mirror the questions most often asked in grant applications. This basic framework doesn’t need to be a fully developed grant application, but should include rough ideas of the following:

  1. An explanation of your project, including:
    • A Statement of Need, which explains the issue or problem your project will address. By providing detailed facts regarding this need, you demonstrate a requisite level of understanding.
    • A Project Description, which usually includes five sections:
      • Objectives – the measurable outcomes of your project
      • Methods – the specific activities that will yield these outcomes
      • Staffing/Administration – who will be involved in the project
      • Evaluation – how you will determine whether or not the project succeeded
      • Sustainability – how the institution will continue the project or provide for future funding needs
    • SMART Goals, which help clarify your idea and establish an action plan.
      • Specific – define the goal in quantifiable terms. Avoid broad statements; rather, establish a specific area to concentrate on.
      • Measurable – define what evidence will be provided to show progress is being made.
      • Attainable – make sure the goals can be reasonably accomplished within the time frame of the grant.
      • Relevant – goals should align with the mission and purpose of the grant and funding agencies.
      • Time-bound – Grants will have set performance periods, so ensure that the project can be completed within the given time frame and create deadlines for each objective within the proposal.
  2. Identification of:
    • The type and level of institutional support needed. Does your project require support from IT, the Physical Plant, University Relations and Marketing, or other institutional offices to successfully implement? Also, be sure to run your ideas by your dean, chair, or direct supervisor to garner their support. Their approval will be required during the internal proposal review process (Declaration of Intent to Apply for Funding and Proposal Certification forms).
    • Stakeholders, allies, and partners needed to implement the idea.
  3. A basic budget:
    • This will inform the type and amount of funding needed and any institutional commitment required.

When developing a framework for your project, be realistic in identifying your needs. If you are seeking funds for a piece of equipment for your lab, consider what additional costs or needs may be associated with the purchase of that equipment. For example:

  • Is training required to use the equipment?
  • Are there consumable supplies needed in using the equipment?
  • Are there modifications needed to the space intended to house the equipment?
  • Is additional technology needed to utilize the equipment?
  • Do you need additional personnel?
  • Are there any recurring or annual expenses for upkeep?

As you identify all the project's needs, consider which require a commitment by the institution versus those which could fall under grant funding. Remember to also consider future funding needs associated with your project, program, or equipment.

Step Two: Seek Funding Opportunities

Once you have a basic framework for your idea, it’s time to look for grant funding opportunities that fit the nature and scope of your need. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are found in a variety of ways, including:

When looking for grants, the goal is to find a solid match between your vision and the funder’s priorities. The following steps will help you identify a funding opportunity that is a good fit:

  1. Read the RFP thoroughly to determine how closely the funder’s process suits your project.
  2. Review the eligibility requirements and ensure that you, your affiliations, and your project align with them.
  3. Look at past grant recipients to gauge the suitability of your project.
  4. Look at the funder’s timeline:
    1. Identify the deadline for proposal submission and determine whether you will have enough time to prepare a quality proposal while securing the needed institutional support.
    2. Note the dates for funding notification and award payment and decide whether they are compatible with your project timeline.

    5. Review the required documentation and attachments needed to complete an application.

Once you have identified a suitable grant opportunity, complete the Declaration of Intent Form and submit it to OGSP.

Step Three: Draft the Application

Grant applications are often submitted online through the grantor’s website or portal. If needed, be sure to register well in advance of the application deadline on the funder’s website. Additional steps are required for federal grants, so check with OGSP to determine whether they will submit the application via or whether you will need to submit it yourself.

If the granting agency requires submission through their own system, copy the application sections into a word processing document so that you can more easily draft responses and make necessary edits prior to submission. Note any word or character limits so that you are easily able to tailor your responses.

As you draft your grant application/responses, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • While describing your project, communicate the impact this project will have rather than the need for funding.
  • Seek to communicate the relevance of your project to the funder’s mission.
  • Mirror the verbiage found in the request for proposals.
  • Ensure that all your responses are accurate and complete.
  • Allow enough time for review by partners, stakeholders, and OGSP staff.
  • If a draft proposal review process is offered by the funder, take advantage of this.
  • Begin preparation of additional documents as soon as possible.
  • Cement institutional commitments needed while in the draft phase.

Format your proposal, including any attachments, exactly the way it is defined in the RFP, including but not limited to line spacing, font type, font size, margins, page numbering, and file format. Pay special attention to the order of the specific proposal sections.

Once you have a working draft of your grant, file a Proposal Certification Form with OGSP at least 10 days prior to the grant deadline. This form needs to be accompanied by a draft of the application, a budget, and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval if needed. OGSP staff will review your proposal, budget, and other application materials for compliance to institutional guidelines and policies, to offer suggestions to strengthen your proposal, and to make sure all aspects of the funder’s application process have been adequately addressed. Please note that OGSP’s written approval is required prior to submitting any proposal or application for external funding.

Step Four: Submit the Application

Upon completion of the Proposal Certification Form and the internal review process, the OGSP will give notice that you are approved to submit. Take care that your submission is made in the manner requested by the funder. If your submission is through a portal, you can likely copy and paste your responses into their online form and upload all required attachments. Some grant makers request applications to be emailed in separate documents or all in one. Your ability to submit the application as requested weighs on how the grantor evaluates your ability to be successful in carrying out the grant.

After Submission

If you are notified that your grant is not being funded, take the opportunity to contact the funder and ask for their feedback. They may have been overwhelmed by strong applications, it may be that the project as described doesn’t meet their criteria, etc. Regardless, the information gathered in a post-application feedback discussion will help you strengthen the narrative for future applications.

If you are notified that your grant is being funded, take a moment to celebrate! Then, look at all the fine print associated with the grant award. Take note of deadlines for reports, look for agreements that require signatures, etc. Before funds can be spent or transferred from any grant, you must work with OGSP and submit a Grant Budget Creation Request form.

Meeting the grantor’s deadlines for reporting makes you more likely to receive future funding and is important in cultivating a good relationship with them. Communicating with the grant maker when things go wrong is critical. Should a situation arise where you cannot complete the project as promised in your application OGSP should be contacted immediately, and OGSP staff will work with you to prepare for notifying the granting agency.

From beginning to end, transparency and honesty are critical in the grant seeking process. The OGSP is here as a resource every step of the way.