1. Where does one look for grants?
Federal agencies: Dept. of Energy, Dept of Educ. (FIPSE and K-12 curriculum programs), NSF, NIH, NASA. (other than Dept of Ed, all support researchand curriculum projects)
Private foundations: Exxon, IBM, etc.
2. The structure of the proposal.
Although each of these agencies and each program will have somewhat different solicitations and formats for proposals, there are enough commonalities that there are some general guidelines that pertain to all proposals. However, always follow the format and requirements of the grant solicitation, do not leave out sections and do not simply write for one program and repackage for another without revising and responding to the call.
Guidelines: stay within page limits; don't use super small fonts or cut down on margins to get more in, it is clarity and substance that counts not quantity; attach appendices if allowed but do not make them a continuation of the narrative, these should be supplementary materials; check grammar and spelling as the last thing you do; be clear and concise; get someone else not connected with the project to read a draft and comment; take advantage of submitting pre-proposals if allowed. Talk to a grants officer about your ideas during the development stage.
3. Factors that make the difference.
The idea must be innovative and something the reader will feel "I wish I had thought of that" or "I wish that I could do that." It also must fit the program. Show departmental and institutional support. Show that you have the right individuals or teams to carry out the project, that you are qualified. Present a reasonable plan to implement the project or carry out the work. Show that you are knowledgeable in the field (education or research), that you know what has been done along similar lines and how your idea is different or an improvement.
4. Suggestions for getting in the grant writing business. Work with a seasoned faculty person in order to establish your own reputation and credibility. Get someone to review your proposal for you. Read the announcements of awards so that you can determine if your ideas fit the thrust of the program and you are not reinventing the wheel; you will need to establish how your project adds to the field of knowledge and how it makes a difference. Include a bibliography and refer to other projects/results within the body of your proposal. Don't give up or become discouraged if at first you do not get funding. Many well known people have written more unfunded proposals than funded ones. In fact, if you know of someone who has lots of grant money you can bet they had proposals rejected as well. Read reviewers' comments carefully, don't reject out of hand that they did not understand you. Consult the program officer if you don't understand the reviews.
5. Always look at proposal writing as a growth experience in itself.
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Kennesaw State College, GA.
Former Program Officer, National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education.