Planning is the first step in the proposal process. This is where to figure out the purpose of the grant. Why are you looking for funding and how will you use it? Grantseeking is very competitive and preparation is essential when approaching funders. We will start by looking at things to consider whether applying as an individual or an organization.
You can apply for a grant as an individual if you are not directly affiliated with an organization. Many of these applicants are students, early- and mid-career researchers, and post-doctoral researchers. The grants could be used to support education, research, or other projects. There are many aspects to consider when looking for grants as an individual. In this section, we’ll explore some of the more common considerations.
Funders vary as to what level of study they will support. Some funders will support undergraduate students, while others only support dissertators or early-career researchers. Still others will provide support for graduate students in general or those already established in their fields.
What makes you so unique? Why should funders invest in you? Mapping out your demographic characteristics may be useful, not only in researching funders, but also in writing your proposal. Think about aspects of your identity, like race, ethnicity, gender, whether you are a returning student or single-parent, a student athlete, and other affiliations you may have. Do you or any family members belong to service organizations or professional affiliations? How about religious affiliations or military background? Reaching out to your affiliations will also help to increase your funding opportunities. As a student, this is also a great time to join a professional association in your field. Membership fees are much less as a student and you will join a network in your field.
Another aspect to consider is citizenship. Some funders will only give grants to U.S. citizens. However, there are grant search tools that allow searching by country of citizenship in order to locate grants for which you qualify.
How does your project or funding need fit into your long-term plans? For example, how does attending a conference to present a paper help advance your educational career? How does getting a degree fit in your overall plans? This is much like a personal essay for college applications. Not only will this help with proposal writing, it will also assist with identifying more broad keyword terms when searching for funders.
Where are you doing your work? Do you need to travel? Some funders are geographically bound so location can make a difference. Some funders may fund travel for research or study abroad, while others are required to keep their funds domestic.
What do you need funding for? Here are a few things that tend to be funded for individuals:
Is fiscal sponsorship an option for you? We covered Fiscal Sponsorship in Lesson 1. If so, consider exploring these resources to learn more:
Next, we will explore aspects to consider if applying for a grant as an organization.
If applying as an organization, either through your own nonprofit or via a fiscal sponsor [link to Fiscal Sponsorship section in Lesson 1], there are some things that differ from applying as an individual. Instead of considering what makes you unique, you will be exploring facets of your organization.
What kind of organization are you seeking funding for (laboratory, hospital, nonprofit, etc.)? This is mostly important for the research process, as some funders may not support specific types of organizations (e.g. hospitals or laboratories), and may tailor their funding to other types of nonprofit organizations. Therefore, it can be important to identify what type of organization you are supporting within grant search tools.
Who benefits from the work of the organization? Many funders have their own mission and vision that define their support. For example, does the organization work to help support low-income populations? Find a match with a funder who also cares about supporting this population. Consider the characteristics of the people who benefit from the work of the organization, and how those might be represented in the search tools.
Where are you doing your work? Where is your organization based? Does your organization focus on a population in a specific region? Some funders are geographically bound and may only fund organizations or projects in specific regions.
Finally, consider how the money will be used. Here are a few things that tend to be funded for organizations:
Ultimately, attempt to match both the mission and vision of the organization with that of potential funders. The closer the match, the higher the change of receiving funding. Think of this as a mutually-beneficial partnership. How will helping you or your organization advance the funder’s goals and mission?
Whether applying as an individual or an organization, consider the specific details of the project. Think about who may be interested in your work. Specifically, consider your topic or subject, technology or technique, population groups you may work with or who will benefit from the work you do, future applications of your work, and immediate and long-term outcomes. Knowing this will help vet potential funding partners and ultimately help organize your proposal.
Whether applying as an individual or an organization, there are some important communication points in the planning step. As an individual, who will be writing letters of recommendation? Communicate with those individuals, especially your advisor, to ensure your project fits within their scope as well. Additionally, they may know of potential funders to contact. Always notify your academic department that you are looking for funding. As an organization, circulate your plan internally to ensure you have buy-in from other staff and volunteers. Establishing internal buy-in is an important first step which will help to keep funding within scope. You may need to run this by your organization’s board as well. Not only will this help with scope, but board members tend to be connected with funders and may know of potential leads. Funding is a networking game.
Here are a couple of sample plans to help you envision what this looks like in action.
Now that you have completed preliminary planning, you can begin to identify keywords to use while researching potential funders. In the next section, we will explore strategies for conducting this research.