Grant Writing Suggestions

The Research Committee suggests the provision of funds for researchers to the Research Foundation Board of Trustees, and supports only the best quality applications. The members of the Committee are experienced grant reviewers and recognized independent investigators. All applications will receive a thorough and critical review and applicants will receive the verbatim review comments whether or not the application is funded.

The following information should provide some helpful suggestions for grant applicants. The comments below from the Research Committee are based on many years of experience reviewing grant applications. 

Planning and Writing the Grant Request

  • Start early and meet the deadlines. 
  • Allow plenty of time to put the application together.
  • Follow the instructions carefully.
  • The Research Committee likes to see thoughtful writing and planning. Grants that are hastily put together, have grammatical and spelling errors, or don’t make sense are not funded.
  • A common rule of thumb for many experienced grant writers is to have a final draft of the grant completed at least a month prior to its deadline. Ask for a respected colleague who is not involved in the work to critically review and proof the grant prior to submitting.
  • Write the grant application so that it is readable. Make the font large enough to be comfortably read. Make the content understandable for someone who is not an expert on your topic. The more understandable the grant application, the better the review will be, and if everything else is equal, it will more likely be funded. If you take excerpts from a paper, make sure the tenses match. Make sure the separate excerpts flow well.
  • Read carefully and avoid typos; these create concerns that your work is sloppy.
  • Don’t copy another person’s grant. It usually shows. If you must take excerpts from another grant, make sure the fonts match.
  • Tell us why this work is important and what it might lead to.
  • Have a specific overall hypothesis that asks a specific question. There should be a hypothesis for each specific aim. Clearly identify your hypothesis.
  • Provide preliminary data if allowed. Preliminary data can be of two types: data that supports the hypothesis or data that may not be relevant to the grant but shows that you can perform a technique (especially a difficult one). Tell the reader how the preliminary data supports your application, and don’t make the reviewers figure it out.

Letters of Support

  • Read your letters of support if possible. Make sure that you get the pertinent letters of support from the colleagues involved in the study and appropriate mentors as required.
  • Make sure the letters have your name and the title of your project correct.
  • Make sure the writer knows something about the project and that the letter reflects that understanding.

Timeline, Resources, Budget, and Results

  • Make a timeline of the study grant to go along with the proposal.
  • Make sure the project is feasible, including the funds, the time period and the personnel. The methods section is very important in this regard.
  • Make us believe that you can actually do the work you say (show how you have the resources, the track record, the expertise and the time).
  • Make sure the budget is appropriate for the grant.  
  • If your proposal will cost $40,000 and the grant is only for $30,000, explain where you are going to get the extra $10,000 (department funds, for example) if you are funded.
  • Make sure the budget is reasonable. The review committee has an idea of what things cost, so embellishing the figures is not wise.
  • Tell the reader what you expect the results to be.

Help the Reviewers Understand Your Grant Request

  • Don’t assume reviewers are thoroughly familiar with the literature in your specialized field.
  • Don’t assume reviewers are familiar with the validity of all of your experimental techniques as they pertain to the area being studied. Cite literature that supports that your technique will reliably answer your question.
  • Help the grant reviewers understand the significance of the grant proposal. Why is your project so important to fund? Do not assume the reviewer will understand. Make it crystal clear.
  • Think like a reviewer. Identify the challenges, limitations, and biases, and then address them as best as possible. The more these issues are addressed, the better.  Tell the reader what alternatives you will try if your proposed experiments don’t work.

Animal Subjects and IRB Approval

  • When using animals in experiments, a chart that shows the animal groups is often helpful.
  • When using animals, make sure that you accurately count how many you will need based on the experiments proposed.
  • Have the appropriate animal or IRB approval that the instructions request (some grants require approval; some grants accept “pending approval”).
  • Don’t forget that animals have housing and shipping costs in addition to purchase.
  • IRB approval for human studies is important; unapproved studies can cause delays.  To that end, the absence of an IRB at the time of submission will be taken into consideration by the Research Committee during the grant review.

Resubmission of Your Grant Request

  • When submitting a revised grant, make sure the changes that are made in response to the critiques are absolutely clear. Use the comments of the reviewers to strengthen your rejected grant for the next application cycle.
  • Note on the revised grant that it is a resubmission.

Finding the Right Grant-giving Organization

  • Do a thorough check of granting organizations to arrive at one likely to be interested in funding you.
  • The Research Committee is anxious to help applicants succeed, however all decisions are final.  Applicants are welcome to resubmit their applications for the next application review.

Suggested Reading

  • Consult the book “Grant Application Writer’s Handbook” by Liane Reif-Lehrer, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, International, Boston, London. It is a well-written, clear and concise guide to grant writing.
  • Read "The Grant Application Writer's Workbook — Guide to a Successful Proposal" for the NIH. The authors are Stephen W. Russell and David C. Morrison, of Grant Writers' Seminars and Workshops, LLC. 


If you have additional questions, we are here to help applicants be successful.

Research Foundation Contact Information:  [email protected]