Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Grant-writing advice(2): Grant proposals as an example of teaching over distance

As the author of a grant proposal, is this the process you're hoping will happen?
1. Two or more people working for the funding program separately read your proposal
2. A day or more after reading it, the group discusses a big stack of proposals. Buried in that stack is yours. One of them says to the other(s), "Which proposal are we going to talk about now?"
3. Someone replies, "Oh this is the one that (and they summarize it in only 2-3 sentences, concluding with what they like about it, compared with the others in the stack.)
4. The first person replies, "Oh yes, I remember that one now! Here's what I think."
5. Hopefully the discussion advances your proposal toward funding.

Focus on step #3. How likely is that to happen? Is what you're proposing so clear and compelling that a day later, your 'distant learner' will remember what they liked about it?

Try an experiment. Give your draft proposal to a stranger who knows nothing about it (tell them nothing except that this is a grant proposal), have them read it, give them a day, and then ask them to summarize briefly what you've asked for and what they think of the proposal. If they can't do it to your satisfaction, consider rewriting the proposal.

If you like this idea, don't do what most people do -- don't let the writing process lag so near to the deadline that there's no time to get this kind of review and then (if need be) reorganize and rewrite the text. Hint: if you have time for nothing else, focus on the title and the abstract.

If you like this note and would like to see more on how to write successful grant proposals, please let me know!


If you missed Advice #1, here it is in a nutshell: Don't use the saying I invented, "So far as I know, no one has ever done this"),

1 comment:

  1. Try an experiment. Give your draft proposal to a stranger who knows nothing about it (tell them nothing except that this is a grant proposal), have them read it, give them a day, and then ask them to summarize briefly what you've asked for and what they think of the proposal.

    This is excellent advice and very similar to what we sometimes tell clients. To implement it, however, the writer should remember that he or she is telling a story, and that story should answer the who, what, where, when, why and how of whatever is to be done; we elaborate on what that entails in a post on the subject.

    Journalists know that every story they write should answer the 5Ws and the H, and grantwriters should do the same.

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