- Know Your Audience
Know your audience – the institute from which you are applying for a grant. Your project should address their areas of interest. To identify these areas, check the institute’s website, review the study section description, and look at the rosters of previous meetings as well as previous awards made.
- Create Bite-Sized Pieces
Plan your research strategically by creating bite-size pieces. Define a singular, focused goal that encompasses the research aims under a single concept. The research can also be divided into several distinct proposals, submitted either simultaneously or one-by-one.
- Find the Middle Ground
Innovation is a double-edged sword – pioneering work can significantly advance a research field, but involves a lot of risk. Review groups tend to be conservative, and so to win, you need to find the middle ground. Your research should be novel but also grounded with supporting literature.
- Establish a Reputation
Your name should be synonymous with the research at hand. Publish your work, attend conferences, establish networks with others in the field and working relationships with relevant laboratories and institutions.
- Assemble Experts
Reviewers need to know that you can undertake the proposed tasks, even if unforeseen snags arise. Choose collaborators to complement your capabilities; if necessary, recruit a consultant, collaborate with a laboratory, or subcontract a CRO. The governmental grantor itself may be available for collaboration or contribution of human or laboratory resources.
- Dedicate the Time
Writing a grant proposal is a complex process that requires a significant time commitment. Set aside several weeks or months for the process; depending on the size of the project and level of preparedness. It will require several drafts, and the more you review the drafts, the more you can edit, and the better your final proposal will be.
- Ask for Help
It is always best to turn to others to review your application and offer unbiased input. These can be colleagues, supervisors, current or former employees. Consultancy firms, such as the FreeMind Group, with years of experience writing grants, familiarity with funding agencies, and the benefit of an unbiased view, are a valuable source of guidance.
- Get Their Attention – and Keep It!
Your proposal will likely be read at 10 PM, after a full day’s work and along with seven other 80-page proposals. Of a 20-30-member panel only 3-4 will read your application in full, while others skim it for important points. Write the proposal in a reader-friendly manner: break the text into sections with informative titles; stress important points; keep paragraphs short; and change sentence structure. Pictures, figures, graphs, and flowcharts are also helpful.
- Details, details, details
A grant proposal should paint the most complete picture possible of the research. The reviewers must understand exactly what you want to do and how you intend to do it. You need to guide them through the preliminary data, hypothesis, research design, methods, interpretation, and future directions. Any gap will have the reviewers doubting your ability to complete that step.
- Have No Fear
Don’t fear rejection; it’s in your best interest to submit as many high-quality applications as your research will support. It’s not easy money, but it is an excellent source of funding. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.