The CFSR Office assists with proposal preparation and writing for both institutional projects and sponsored research for faculty. We will review proposal guidelines, fine-tune ideas, offer suggestions for things to emphasize, review drafts, proofread and polish narratives, and assemble and mail the final proposal.  But faculty members are responsible for taking the lead and writing the proposal; it is your project—and nobody else is as well-placed to write about the project!

In addition to speaking with your friendly CFSR team, you may find it useful, as you begin the proposal process, to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you researched the funding agency for whom you are preparing the proposal? To whom have they awarded recent grants—and could you contact any of these people for advice? Are you familiar with their funding priorities and guidelines? Do you know if agency staff are receptive to visits or phone calls?
  • Have you made use of every possible resource to develop a competitive proposal? Have you asked a colleague to read a draft? Do you have the necessary institutional commitment for time, space, technology, additional personnel, etc?
  • Is the proposed project significant? To whom? What impact will your project have on your department, the curriculum, the college, or your field?
  • Is there a strong relationship between the identified problem/need and the activities you have outlined and the support you are requesting? Does the budget present a clear picture of the necessary resources for a successful project? Have you asked for too much, or even too little?
  • Have you clearly articulated how your project will be evaluated and assessed? What are your desired outcomes? How will you actually use these outcomes to evaluate, make adjustments and, ultimately, improve the project? What does success look like? Can you not only define success but measure it, as well?
  • Does the very presentation of the proposal reflect the quality of your work? Have you precisely followed the guidelines? Does it make for inviting reading, with good margins and clearly marked sections? Are the appendices appropriate, clearly labeled and referenced? Have you checked for misspellings, rhetorical ramblings, or vague assumptions or statements?
  • If you were teaching Freshman Studies and had to read this proposal for class, what grade would you give it? Is it well-written? Is the thesis coherently stated and cogently argued? Does the introduction provide a roadmap of what follows, and does the conclusion remind the reader of each salient point? Is it jargon-free, succinct, and in the active voice?

One last bit of advice: prepare yourself to be persistent. Funders are very picky, because most funders can afford to be, as they receive far more proposals than they can possibly award.  Many strong proposals get rejected.  On the bright side, it is frequently possible to revise the application and resubmit in the next grant cycle.  In fact, with some funders — notably the federal government — it is almost a given that proposals will be resubmitted at least once before they get funded.

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