FAQ: Apply for Grants
- Where does it all begin?
A: It begins with a good idea
While all the other steps are important, this first step is key: having an innovative idea that fuels the enthusiasm and perseverance of the grant writer/team.
“A strong presentation cannot make a weak idea fundable… But a poor presentation can take a good idea out of the running.” – Mary M. Licklider, The University of Missouri Grant Writer Network
Your idea might require a specific grant that funds training programs, academic programs, improved services for students, academic research, or equipment. It is important to formulate a clear idea before trying to find grant money.
In the Forms section you will find information on developing a concept paper. Use this concept paper as a foundation for discussion with the Grants Office or supervisor.
Early on, ask yourself the following questions to help formulate a concept paper:
- What is the problem? For example: Many of our students don’t have the computer skills necessary to succeed in college courses.
- Why is it a problem? For example: Students have busy schedules and want to take online courses; however, they don’t feel comfortable with the technology. If they go forward with an online course, many students are unsuccessful and may not return.
- What is a possible solution to the problem? For example: I will create and evaluate a computer skills program for our students to prepare them for online learning.
- How could the research be conducted? For example: I will survey and test student computer literacy before and after the program, use observational techniques, and conduct qualitative interviews of faculty and staff.
- What is new, unique, or innovative about your idea? For example: My program will not only include training on computer literacy, but it will address internet or digital literacy and 21st century skills – the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies (Wikipedia).
- Where do I find funding opportunities
A: There are many resources on this site that can help you find funding.
On this website, you can find sites that identify general funding sources and government funding sources. Many ideas are generated in response to an Request for Proposals (RFP) that a funding source puts out. If you need help finding funding for your project/program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to keep an eye out for any funding that comes available.
- What does the Grants Office do then?
A: The Grants Office at Lake Superior College is a one-stop-shop for implementing your funding ideas and maintaining contacts with external sponsors.
Since every grant commits the College – and not just the principal investigator or projector director – to programmatic, financial, legal and ethical obligations, you will need to contact your supervisor and the Grants Office very early on as you prepare to seek funding. It is a priority for the college to track and support all grant proposals with the LSC name attached.
*With some planning, these requirements should not be cumbersome. Our intention is to work collaboratively with you so that your proposal can be as strong as possible.
- What kind of paper work will I need to fill out in order to apply for a grant?
A: LSC requires you to fill out a Proposal Planning Form, which is a simple document that the Grants Office can help you fill out. The information you enter into this form will also help you prepare your proposal to the funder.
Funding agencies normally provide application forms and guidelines. If you are unsure about the guidelines or whether you have the most up-to-date information, call the Grants Office for assistance.
Read the proposal guidelines very carefully and more than once!
Make sure you understand:
- The Deadline. Does the deadline say “postmarked by” or “received by”?
- The Method of Submission. Can you send a hard copy through the mail, or is an “electronic submission” required?
- The Page Limits and Formatting Requirements. Are appendices permitted and, if so, do they count against the page limit? Must the proposal be single-spaced or double-spaced? Are margins and fonts specified? How many copies must be submitted?
- The Required Elements. Must one include a budget narrative, an evaluation plan, an abstract, a bibliography, resumes of key personnel, a timeline, an organizational chart, or a plan for dissemination? Often, there are various certifications (e.g., non-profit status, lobbying disclaimer) and special pieces of information (e.g., DUNS number, Federal ID, congressional district, results of previous audit reports, enrollment data) that are required. The Grants Office is the source for these kinds of certifications and special information; much of this information can be found on the Grants Office web site.
Three things you should consider accomplishing early on:
- On this website, locate the Grant Feasibility Worksheet in the forms section. Fill it out, and submit it to your supervisor and the Grants Office. After it is reviewed, The Grants Office will set up a Grant Management site for you to use. If your proposed grant project is rejected, it is likely due to one of the following issues:
- The grant’s scope is considered outside the mission of the College;
- The grant would require the use space that is not available;
- The grant requires a commitment of matching funds or staff time that is not available;
- There is a competing proposal for the same grant or directed toward the same funding agency.
- Perfect your concept paper (see: Where does it all begin?) – try your pitch out on a few colleagues and try to grow support. The more people are interested in the project the more support you will find in the proposal writing process.
- When a proposal requires active collaboration with another entity – another college, another faculty researcher, or a community-based organization – you should begin the process of approaching possible partners as early as possible. Try out your “elevator pitch” -The ideas must be discussed, financial arrangements worked out, and expectations clarified long before a letter of support or commitment is due. Getting partners excited about the project will help keep it on their radar. If you need support with finding or reaching out to partners – contact the Grants Office for help.
- How do I write a grant proposal
A: Follow the grant guideline directions.
Once you have contacted the Grants Office and your Grant Management site set up, it is time to start writing! The most important guideline is: follow the instructions of the funding agency. Usually, the funder wants a description of the need for the project, a listing of goals and objectives, a description of activities or action plan, and a plan for measuring the outcomes. Each RFP is different.
The funder has a reason for awarding the grant, so be sure your proposal is in line with their needs and priorities. Your language should be concise, consistent, persuasive, and grammatical.
Experienced grants writers know to:
Edit often and have someone else edit;
Talk over your basic idea and any major questions with a funder’s program officer if permitted);
Review past successful proposals (ask the Grants Office to find copies);
Refer to websites that provide hints on successful grants writing; available on the Resources Page
Begin ASAP so there is time before the deadline for proofreading and final steps.
- What about the proposal budget?
A: It is important to discuss a number of budget issues with Grants Office staff as early as possible.
Matching Requirements: Some grants require or encourage the commitment of matching funds from either the College or a partner.
Indirect Costs: Otherwise known as “Facilities and Administration,” or F&A, different grants allow differing amounts of F&A to be charged against the award to cover the College’s costs; these change from grant to grant.
Recovery: the College has expectations about the costs that must be “recovered” by a grant proposal.
Standard Costs: The Grants Office can help grants writers in correctly budgeting items that have an agreed-upon cost throughout LSC (e.g., mileage, per diem, faculty release-time, fringe benefits).
*Because of these details, all grant proposal budgets must be reviewed by the Grants Office before a grant can be submitted.
- How do I submit my proposal?
A: You ask the Grants Office to do it.
Your goal should be to provide a final copy to the Grants Office a full week before the deadline. The Grants Office may suggest some changes to strengthen the proposal. The Grants Office will approve the budget and secure the necessary signatures. The Grants Development Office can also make copies and submit the proposal to the funder (mail, fax, or e-submission, etc.).
- What should I do when my grant is awarded?
A: Celebrate! And then talk to the Grants Office.
If you receive notification that your proposal was successful – contact The Grants Office. If we hear first we will do the same. Sometimes the funding agency comes back with questions or seeks changes before a grant is awarded.
If a grant is awarded, the Grants Office will assist the PI (Principal Investigator), or program director with post-award administration – how to access grant funds and track spending, how to hire personnel, how to purchase equipment.
Once the award is received, the project budget must be put into the accounting system and account codes assigned. It is important that the program manager communicate with the Grants Office as soon as the award is received. The Business Office will need copies of the award documents and approved budget.
The Grants Office will set up the post-award SharePoint Site for budget tracking and managing reporting requirements (data collection, program calendars, end date, etc.)
If the grant is unsuccessful, the Grants Office will help those involved understand why. Usually, reviewers’ comments are available. Frequently, unsuccessful grants are resubmitted after making changes suggested by the reviewers or become a template for use with different funding opportunities. Good ideas are never wasted.
Grant projects are time sensitive, with a start date and an end date. The date on the award document is the date you are committed to start the grant project. Contact the Grants Office right away to get things set-up.
*This information was adapted from LaGuardia Community College Grants Office.