Grant Writing Tips for Success

Good ideas are not enough to get grant funding. Good ideas are fundable when they are developed into comprehensive proposals. Proposal writing is a time and energy consuming process, it is important to be sure that your proposal is eligible, timely, complete, and well written. If you need help with the grant writing process request help from Sponsored Programs early in the process.

Before You Apply

One of the first steps in writing a grant proposal is to choose the appropriate funding opportunity. If your project fits the interest of a funding organization and matches the goals of the grant program, than your proposal has a better probability of being funded.

Contact the program officer or contact person indicated for the funding agency. Explain your project and seek guidance regarding whether it's a good match with the funder. This puts your name in front of the funder and helps clarify your project. Also, if you are considering several funding opportunities, a quick visit with the program officer can help you pick the best option for your project.

Create a timeline toward submittal. Use the deadline and count backward. Keep in mind that you must submit your proposal to Sponsored Programs 10 business day days prior to the due date for administrative review and signatures. Contact Sponsored Programs early in the process for help and to make them aware of your proposal and its timelines. 

Proposal Development

  • Follow the guidelines. If the guidelines list specific categories, use them in your proposal. If there are page limits, follow them. The guidelines can provide a blueprint to help you get an initial outline of your project.
  • Reviewers generally have little time, and they may not be completely familiar with the type of project you are proposing. Therefore your proposal needs to be easily understood.
  • It is vital that your proposal be written using terms that can easily be understood by an educated layperson who will be reviewing your proposal. Do not use acronyms or complex concepts without explaining their meaning. If available look at who makes up the funder’s review committee to gain a sense of their level of knowledge in the subject area.
  • A successful proposal will convince the reviewer of the importance and feasibility of your project. Most funding decisions are made or lost in the first two pages of the proposal. Make it easy for the reviewer to understand in the first two pages what you are going to do and how you will do it.
  • Have a clear work plan. Make sure you define who will do what, when, where, and how.
  • Make a clear and compelling case that your project can be successful. Funders want to select projects that have the best chance of succeeding. 
  • Explain why you chose the activity or interventions you did. Provide the research to back up your proposed intervention. Use data to support your proposed project.
  • Be specific about your deliverables. The proposal should explicitly state expected practical, tangible outputs (such as number of students whose training or careers are affected, data collected, scientific papers produced, etc.) and outcomes (such as new knowledge, change in behavior, etc.).
  • Be clear about what outcomes would make your project a success.
  • Consider your project scope. Is it reasonable to accomplish your planned activities in the time available?
  • Prove your capacity and the capacity of the institution to do the proposed work. Discuss the resources, the collaborations and past accomplishments that convince the reviewers that you will deliver. Demonstrate your success or the institution’s successes in similar projects.
  • Communicate with all stakeholders at the University. This includes Sponsored Programs, your supervisor or department chair, and any co-investigators.
  • Include Letters of Support if a project’s success depends on support of individuals and/or organizations other than the Principal Investigator.


Justify your budget requests and double check figures. Help funders understand how you reached the amounts you're requesting. A well-justified budget will also help you when funded. Consider that funds may not be received until many months after you submit a proposal; a detailed budget will help you remember how you reached amounts and ensure the budget is drawn correctly. 

Before You Submit

  • Spellcheck and avoid abbreviations; be sure to write the complete name for an acronym the first time you use it.
  • Share proposal drafts with colleagues. They can give you excellent feedback on the content of your proposal.
  • Have your proposal reviewed by peers outside of your discipline for clarity and organization.
  • Provide your proposal to Sponsored Programs for review and feedback.
  • Review all aspects of the request for proposals (RFP) to ensure that you have followed all requirements. Observe page limits, font requirements, word or character count requirements, etc. Proposals that do not meet the requirements listed in the RFP may not be read or reviewed.