Tips for Successful Grant Applications

Experts Point You in the Direction of Success

In a recent Roundtable discussion, NISO brought together four information community members to discuss grants and how best to navigate and provide support for the grant application process. 

Contributing their thoughts were Gillian Harrison Cain, Director of Member Programs, Atla; Bess de Farber, author of Creating Fundable Grant Proposals; Mitch Fraas, Senior Curator, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania; and Carly Strasser, Program Manager for Open Science, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. 

Serving as discussion moderator was Todd Carpenter who asked each of our participants for a final set of tips that might add up to a sort of Checklist for Success. The following recommendations may be useful.

One - Building a relationship with the funder and speaking with the relevant program officer. Talk to them to see whether your idea is a good fit and in alignment with their stated mission. What is the purpose behind your grant application? Does it match up with the purpose of the funder and what the funder might be trying to accomplish with their specific grant program and their call for applications?

Two - Take advantage of both external as well as internal resources, whether it be free information accessible through a Libguide (such as this one at the University of Florida) or the knowledge network represented by your colleagues. One of our speakers characterized this as an asset-based, community development approach, where you deepen awareness of other people in your community.

Understand and keep track of their strengths, their resources and the networks, connections and the knowledge that they may have at their fingertips: Doing so can be key to creative innovative grant applications that stand out

Three: Establish some best practices internally. Maintain a set of needs or desirable activities that might be well-served by a grant application. Also, keep updated information that may be asked for during that process - cost estimates, salary percentage support, and overhead costs called for in your university’s grant guidelines. 

Four: Build up your grant support network, some of whom may not be people that you speak with regularly. It could include your university development office, your financial team – those individuals who may sit in a different building but with whom a relationship can be really useful  when you start to think about moving forward with grants. 

Five: Look for the unlikely funder.  Check out membership organizations of which your institution may be a member – a specific niche society, a community group, or perhaps a state association. They may be open to some creative and clever kinds of projects. Don’t limit yourself to just a single large funding foundation but, look for that unlikely funder.