Grant writing

Writing a successful grant proposal requires careful planning, a clear understanding of the grantor’s requirements, the ability to communicate and to execute your project effectively.

Here is a basic road map to guide you crafting a compelling grant proposal. Consider that preparing a competitive grant proposal demands considerable effort, therefore make sure that you have the time and commitment to write your proposal. Otherwise, it might be advisable to postpone it for a future opportunity.

Understand the grantor and the grant program/stream:

  • Research the funding organisation thoroughly. Understand their mission, goals, and priorities.
  • Identify previous projects they have funded to get a sense of their preferences.
  • Read the grant program guidelines carefully.
  • Think strategically – smaller grants, while having a lower impact, play a crucial role in funding preliminary research and pilot studies, potentially enhancing your success in securing larger scale grants; for larger grants, grantors may prioritise proposals with significant impact led by larger institutions or collaboratives.

Follow the guidelines:

  • Adhere to the grantor’s guidelines and formatting requirements (e.g., eligibility criteria, font type and size, page limit).
  • If available, utilise the provided template for your submission.
  • Ensure that you submit all required documents and information.
  • Each grant application is unique, so tailor your proposal to the specific requirements of the funding opportunity. Additionally, be prepared to adjust your proposal based on previous feedback or when applying to different grantors with diverse priorities.

Define your project:

  • Clearly define your project, including its goals, objectives, and expected outcomes.
  • Highlight how your project aligns with the grantor’s mission and goals.
  • Collaboration will increase your chances of being successful (e.g., with advocacy groups, umbrella organisations or consumers). Describe your partners.

Craft a compelling summary:

  • Write a concise and compelling summary that captures the essence of your project.
  • Clearly state the problem you are addressing and how your project provides a solution.
  • Grant readers often form subconscious judgments after reviewing the initial pages of a proposal.

Outline your proposal:

  • Describe the problem and strategies to address it. Provide background information along with supporting data, such as epidemiological data.
  • Incorporating preliminary results from focus groups, consumer engagement, and consumer needs assessment can enhance the strength of your proposal.
  • Aims should offer a broad direction or goal without specifying measurable outcomes, emphasising a more visionary and conceptual approach. On the other hand, objectives are meant to be specific, measurable, and concrete statements.
  • Clearly articulate the impact your project will have on the target population or community.
  • Describe the methods and strategies you will employ to achieve your project’s objectives.
  • Prove that your organisation can execute, disseminate, and advocate for your work. Share your organisation track record and previous success stories.
  • Tips to redact your track record: Include your academic publications and their measured impact (e.g., field-weighted citation impact, citation in guidelines, changes in practice); describe your engagement in other similar projects; describe your reliability and capability of conducting these projects.
  • Provide a detailed operational plan of how the grant will be used and how the project will be executed, including your strategies to recruit participants.
  • Provide a timeline for project milestones.
  • Risk management: demonstrate that you thought about potential adverse events and how to overcome them even if they are unlikely to happen.
  • Provide details on governance teams, advisory boards, and data and safety monitoring boards as applicable. Explain the composition of these groups, the roles of participants and how often they will meet.

Develop a Budget:

  • Create a detailed budget that clearly outlines how the grant funds will be utilised.
  • Justify each expense and ensure it aligns with the project’s objectives.

Demonstrate sustainability:

  • Explain how your project will be sustained beyond the grant period.
  • Showcase plans for securing additional funding or community support.

Review and revise:

  • Think and rethink your choice of words. Do not exaggerate. Avoid excessive use of adjectives.
  • Stick to the active voice. It promotes clarity, transparency, and enables you to specify the individuals responsible for executing the tasks in your project.
  • Have others review your proposal for clarity, coherence, and completeness.
  • Revise and edit your proposal multiple times to ensure it is polished and error-free. Keep in mind that every instance a grant reader pauses to decipher your message is a missed opportunity to highlight the merits of your proposal.
  • Limit the use of acronyms to a minimum.
  • Ensure you submit your proposal before the deadline.

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The only grant-writing book you’ll ever need by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox. Fourth edition. 2014. New York: Basic Books. ISBN: 9780465058921

Sohn, E. Secrets to writing a winning grant. Nature. 2019, 20 Dec.

Przeworski, A & Salomon, F. Some Candid Suggestions on the Art of Writing Proposals. Social Sciences Research Council. 2012.

Medical Research Council (UK). How to Win Funds and Influence Panels | Securing Funding from MRC.

Proctor, E.K., Powell, B.J., Baumann, A.A. et al. Writing implementation research grant proposals: ten key ingredients. Implementation Sci 7, 96 (2012).

Kallestinova, E. How to Write a Compelling Grant Abstract. Graduate Writing Lab, Yale Center for Teaching and Learning.

Sample Grant Applications. NIH: National Cancer Institute (US).

Sample Grant Applications in Implementation Science (UNC, US).