by Bert Bast
Ideas are crucial and brain work is essential, but soon or sooner, money is probably needed to achieve our goals. Here I try to provide some tips for applying for (and getting) money from outside agencies.
Major university-based research groups typically do know how to apply for funds from their governments very well. These may include Governmental institutions (like the US NIH or NSF) or private charities; those large, mainly national, funding agencies will not dealt with here. Rather, we should envisage new ways to obtain international funding; apart from general principles (see below), we have also to discern funding for scientific research vs. funding for public information or advocacy.
Suffice to say that this fundraising “tip sheet” aims to add some extra points for hopeful funding applicants:
- ·Do realize that even having a brilliant idea is far from sufficient for getting funded. Confounding factors, such as home institution (or whether you are affiliated with one), the policies of the granting agency you apply to, and yes, your credentials to make good use of the funding are crucial.
- ·Do realize that in getting new money, new, rather unusual granting agencies might need to be explored. In the same vein, small requests of major agencies such as NIH are unlikely to be funded – typically, less than 8 percent of very well-qualified applicants receive funds from them.
Funders want to know that money will be well spent and you need to document this beforehand. For this reason, individuals are less likely to receive support than organizations. Any grant-requesting organization should be able to concisely document:
- ·its policy plan (mission statement, plan of organization); possibly extended with a communication plan (how will you reach your intended audience?)
- ·regular internal SWOT assessment (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) procedures; often this is part of a group’s strategic plan
- ·financial statements, including recent year-end retrospective reports; in many cases, you will need to provide evidence of charitable, not-for-profit or tax-exempt status.
- ·The importance of the subject (though important) is by no means sufficient for a productive proposal. You must be persuasive – why is your project important and why should it be a priority for funding?
- ·Structure the proposal so that it aims to enable the granting agency to fulfill its own policy; in other words – how does your proposal meet THEIR mission statement?
- ·Thus, do read all about the group to which you are applying for funding and (if available) consult examples of successful proposals.
- ·Prepare a clearly written, consistently organized document that follows a typical format (abstract, introduction, what is known about your problem space, what do you propose to do, why other alternatives will not suffice, a specific methodology, alternative plans in possible cases of failure, the project’s short vs. long term results, reasonable and well-explained budget. These components should be self-evident, but these are the first obstacles – and ways of consultants to disregard the proposal.
- ·To show professionalism, but also to keep the proposals as short as possible for busy grant reviewers, use hyperlinks within a proposal to obviate lengthy explanations. If there are format requirements (text size, margins, length) observe them faithfully.
- ·Not uncommonly, success rate in scientific projects is as low as 15%. Do understand that consultants’ first job is indeed to disregard the majority of proposals, enabling the very best to survive. Make sure that you emphasize why your proposal is important and what important problem it can help to solve.
- ·Consultants tend to be older researchers; don’t make reading your application difficult by using a font of less than 11 pts, preferably 12 pts at least. If your target agency or group has format requirements for application font, length, margins, etc. OBEY THEM. Funding is competitive and people who don’t seem to listen to rules will not receive funding support.
- ·Short, shorter shortest! Whenever possible, do refer to other sources (see above).
- ·Include pictures and schemes; more helpful than 1000 words.
Examples of granting agencies
- ·European Union. Several research programs are supported, varying from bottom-up (very competitive) to top-down (less so); see e.g. http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2018-2020/main/h2020-wp1820-health_en.pdf.
- oThe European (anyway international) aspect must prevail. In many instances, EU-related counties such as Israel, Norway, can be part of an application, and often also paid. I don’t have experience with US connected research within EU programs, though.
- oEU money generally does not enable new, self-sustained research. Rather, it enables a group to extend running research by giving it an EU extra influx of money.
- oAlso, generally, only programs with a track record get funded. Your program may require some scientific venture capital, as is sometimes provided by groups such as Kickstarter these days.
- ·World Health Organization. As such the WHO is not a granting organization. Rather, it is a large beneficiary of private money. When applicable, however, the WHO may act productively as co-grantee. I’ve got good contacts to that end, if you’d like some assistance.
- ·Canada has several programs that involve partnerships with other countries. Although the majority of those are related to proposals in the areas of science and technology, some of them do allow for topics that might include research on fluency disorders. An overview of multilateral collaborations can be found here: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/51104.html
- The Bill Gates Foundation (https://www.gatesfoundation.org/) got its money from communication. Its scope includes global health and development. It is an important source of money for the WHO, mentioned above.
- Also Google is about communication, and is helping programs in that field. See e.g. https://newsinitiative.withgoogle.com/dnifund/apply-for-funding/. Many (but not all!) projects are technology-driven, but technology is a broad and expanding concept that has been applied to fluency management programs, for instance.
In all cases, do try to get personal contact with a program officer during the application process. Write for clarification and additional information as you need to to create a strong application.
After writing this, IFA President Nan Bernstein Ratner contacted me, saying that, together with Professors Soo-Eun Chang (Michigan) and Shelley Brundage (George Washington University), they had given courses in ‘Maximizing grant application success’ and ‘How to maximize success in academic employment, promotion and tenure’ at the 2018 Joint World Congress in Hiroshima. These courses present very precise and experienced help intended mainly for young researchers, and mainly, but not solely, in the US setting. I wouldn’t dare and I can’t incorporate these extensive courses within this short paper, but the hyperlinks are here:
Click on the following links to download PDF files of the two presentations:
- Maximizing grant application success
- How to maximize success in academic employment, promotion and tenure
Bert Bast 7/22/2019