I’ve joked that writing grants is a mix of speculative fiction, jigsaw puzzles, and math. To that end, here are a few resources that help with the process of writing and developing proposals for grants in the humanities.
Grants are a very social process: Try to start talking with your institutional grant office as soon as possible. They may be able to help you in many ways, including in the relationships your organization might have already with funders and foundations. They can often help you craft a letter of inquiry (LOI) before the grant proposal stage, saving time & focusing your efforts. At most national funding agencies and foundations, the program officers will be invaluable sources of advice, feedback, and encouragement. Consult their websites and CFPs closely. Seek out examples of previously funded proposals. Part of the program officer’s job is to help people secure funding — they are there, after all, to give money to people doing great work.
I have co-authored more than a dozen grant proposals in the last few years, and I’m always happy to talk shop, share examples, etc. I may also be available for workshops or consultations on the slow art of grant writing.
Workshop slides for Princeton Center for DH Spring 2018 workshop
Table of Contents
1. Crafting grant proposals
2. External grant opportunities
3. Additional Resources & Guides
Crafting grant proposals
At least 3-4 months before deadline
brainstorm ideas for grant-funded activities
identify funding source requirements
3 months before deadline
draft proposal and budget
coordinate with internal/external partners
6 weeks before deadline
share proposal for feedback
Read the call for proposals carefully
Read their mission statement
Seek out examples of successful proposals
Anticipate the reviewer’s rubric from the CFP
Study the guidelines in the CFP carefully
Incorporate the language of the CFP into your proposal
If the CFP has section, use those section headings
Start with the budget as early as possible
Making the case
What is unique about your proposed activities?
What are we going to learn that we do not know now?
Why is it worth knowing?
Why will over-worked reviewers care?
Drafting the proposal
In the opening section:
Establish the importance for non-specialists
What is unique or original about this project?
Why is this project needed?
If useful, why hasn’t this project been attempted before?
Details to include in the proposal
Where are you going to do this work? (Fields, places, ideas)
What, specifically, are you going to do during the grant period?
What will you produce in outcomes?
Why are the funds crucial?
How are you going to do it? (Methods, collaborators, etc)
How do you know the scope & ambition are appropriate?
Who is going to do this work? How are they qualified?
Who and how will the project be sustained? (E.g. data management plans)
Tips for proposals
Title should describe your project to a lay audience
Write in the future tense “I will…” or “We will…”
Short paragraphs, succinct sentences, skip the jargon
Share a prototype or early samples
Avoid just creating a to-do list
Where useful, try posing questions instead of assertions
Don’t explore, ponder, or meditate — do it!
Be realistic & enthusiastic
When in doubt, use a hero narrative
External grant opportunities
National Endowment for the Humanities
- Match your project to NEH programs: http://www.neh.gov/grants/match-your-project
- Office of Digital Humanities: http://www.neh.gov/grants/odh
- Digital Projects for the Public: https://www.neh.gov/grants/public/digital-projects-the-public
- Humanities Collections and Reference Resources: https://www.neh.gov/grants/preservation/humanities-collections-and-reference-resources
- Collaborative Research Grants: http://www.neh.gov/grants/research/collaborative-research-grants
- Federation of State Humanities Councils (56 state & jurisdictional humanities councils): http://www.statehumanities.org/about-us/
- CLIR Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives: https://www.clir.org/hiddencollections
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
- Grant opportunities: https://www.archives.gov/nhprc/announcement
- Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records: https://www.archives.gov/nhprc/announcement/literacy.html
- Public Engagement with Historical Records: https://www.archives.gov/nhprc/announcement/engagement.html
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: http://www.sloan.org/apply-for-grants/grant-proposals/
- Mellon Foundation: http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs
- Lilly Foundation grants: http://www.lillyendowment.org/guidelines.html
- John Templeton Foundation: https://www.templeton.org/grants
- Henry Luce Foundation Theology Program Grants: www.hluce.org/theologyrecentgrants.aspx
- Kresge Foundation: http://kresge.org/programs/education#title0
- Samual H. Kress Foundation: http://www.kressfoundation.org/grants/main/
Additional Resources & Guides
Writing Effective Grant Proposals for Individual Fellowships in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Susan Stanford Friedman
Some Candid Suggestions on the Art of Writing Proposals
Adam Przeworski and Frank Salomon, Social Science Research Council
See also: https://www.ssrc.org/publications/view/7A9CB4F4-815F-DE11-BD80-001CC477EC70/
Taking public history for granted: A grant-writing guide for public historians
Over 300 examples of funded grants in the humanities
Published in the University of Florida Institutional Repository
Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing (lists several great books)
UW Madison Writing Center
How To Write a Grant or Fellowship Proposal
Janice McDonald, Office of External Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards, SUNY Binghamton
Dr. Karen’s Foolproof Grant Template |
The Professor Is In, Karen Kelsky
Many articles & guides on Graduate Scholarships & Fellowships
Compiled by Jon Harrison, Michigan State University Libraries