Grant Writing Workshop: Writing Successful Grants

The UF Office of Research recently hosted a two-day grant writing workshop presented by Dr. Robert Porter of GrantWinners Seminars. This article summarizes the topic of “Writing Successful Grants.”

Most grant reviewers make a decision about a proposal after reading the first page. In general, the writing style of a successful grant consists of about 80% academic (i.e., formal expository writing) and 20% grant writing style (i.e., persuasive writing). Grant writing style focuses on the sponsor and the service you plan to provide. The language is accessible to a broad audience and sells the reader. You want to emphasize what is interesting to the grant reviewer and what the sponsor wants to accomplish.

Specifically, reviewers are looking for the following:

  • Significance
  • Creativity (uniqueness)
  • Clearly delineated project
  • Research plan (methodology)
  • Outcomes (evaluation)
  • Clear, concise writing

Writing successful grants is a 12-step program. First admit you could use some help. Then follow the strategies provided below.

Here are some common pitfalls and strategies to avoid them:

1. Poor Fit
Strategies

  • Develop your funding search skills.
  • Study program goals and eligibility.
  • Make contact with the program officer before starting the proposal.

2. Poor Organization
Strategies

  • Always follow the guidelines and requirements provided by the sponsor.
  • Be sure your proposal is in the specified format.

3. Weak Argument
Strategies

  • Prove the importance of your project.
  • State your purpose and case for need up front.
  • Build a compelling argument.
  • Cite authoritative sources.
  • Start with the pitch.
  • Layout the problem and solution.
  • Create a vision.

4. Gyrating Jargon
Strategies

  • Assume an uninformed but intelligent reader.
  • Use clear, accessible language.
  • Stick with direct statements and active voice.
  • Avoid insider jargon and undefined acronyms.

5. Murky Goals and Objectives
Strategies

  • Provide a goal statement (i.e., a general statement of the project’s overall purpose).
  • Formulate specific measurable objectives (i.e., a specific, measurable outcome or milepost).

6. Unclear Project Description and Work Plan
Strategies

  • Visualize the overall project with a drawing (e.g., logic model).
  • Specify major tasks and timelines (e.g., Gantt charts, flow charts, calendars).

7. Deviating from Guidelines
Strategies

  • Follow the application instructions exactly.
  • Submit before the deadline.
  • Be sure you meet the required page limits.
  • Follow all formatting requirements (i.e., fonts, margins, spacing)
  • Check that you have included all required sections.
  • Be sure you have the required signatures.

8. Ignoring the Review Criteria
Strategies

  • Pay attention to all review criteria.
  • Read the evaluation standards carefully. Then reference them in the project narrative.
  • Touch all the bases—not just the ones you are comfortable with.
  • Remember reviewers will use the criteria to “score” your proposal.

9. Weak Abstract
Strategies

  • Polish the abstract.
  • Write the abstract last.
  • The abstract must
    1. be intriguing;
    2. reflect the entire scope of the project;
    3. be concise and complete;
    4. summarize the project purpose and method;
    5. convey (a) what you intend to do, (b) why it is important, (c) what are the expected outcomes, (d) how the work will be accomplished.
  • The abstract may be the only narrative that some reviewers will read.

10. Writing Solo
Strategies

  • Ask seasoned colleagues for comments and suggestions.
  • They should be qualified to critique proposal content.
  • Check your ego at the door.
  • Allow time for rewrites.

11. Document Errors
Strategies

  • Find an eagle-eyed perfectionist.
  • Proofreaders read for form not content.
  • Must be someone who has no stake in the project.
  • Learn to love what he or she will do for you.
  • Zero tolerance—no error is too small to correct.
  • Root out inconsistencies in format as well as typos, misspellings, and grammar.

12. Insufficient Editing
Strategies

  • Write, rewrite, and rewrite.
  • Most winning proposals have been polished repeatedly.
  • Let it rest in between; sleep on every rewrite.
  • Fight the evil pride of authorship.
  • Must allow sufficient time.

And finally, here are some additional tips for success:

  • Fit research and grant writing into your job.
  • Find a mentor(s).
  • Read successful grants and attend workshops.
  • Find collaborators; network.
  • Serve on a review panel.
  • Sign up for funding alerts; conduct your own searches regularly.
  • Think big, think small, think different.
  • Submit, revise, and resubmit.

Please look for additional summaries of workshop topics in upcoming issues of the Research Bulletin.

Session recordings are available online. Those who require copies of the handouts for any/all sessions may request them by emailing Jenn Hubbs at hubbsj@ufl.edu with their name, on-campus PO Box, and session(s) of interest.

Submitted Projects for February 2014

College of Education – Submitted Projects – February 2014
Principal Investigator: Kevin Jones – Materials Science and Engineering
Co-PI: M. David Miller – SHDOSE, Mirka Koro-Ljungberg – SHDOSE
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: Increasing the Social and Technical Literacy of Freshman through an Integrated Course on the Impact of Materials on Society
Requested Amount: $25,848
Principal Investigator: Richard Lind – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Co-PI: Pavlo Antonenko – STL
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: STRATEGIES: Augmenting Hands-On STEM Education with Model-Based Approaches for Predictive Design of Systems
Requested Amount: $231,556
Principal Investigator: Kent Crippen – STL
Co-PI: Margaret Kamman – SESPECS
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: Collaborative Research: Strategies: AGILE: Accessing Game-based Inquiry Science through Leveraging WISE Elements
Requested Amount: $599,568
Principal Investigator: Albert Ritzhaupt – STL
Co-PI: Kara Dawson – STL, Lisa Anthony – Computer and Information Science and Engineering
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: Strategies: Florida Computing Camp for Kids: An Informal Computing Learning Curriculum for Summer Camps for Upper Elementary Students
Requested Amount: $1,057,074
Principal Investigator: Pavlo Antonenko – STL
Co-PI: Kent Crippen – STL, Lynda Hayes – P.K. Yonge, Gregory Kiker – Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: STRATEGIES: Arguing to Learn with Technology (ALT): An Innovative Strategy to Stimulate Interest in Water Sustainability Practices and Careers
Requested Amount: $996,231
Principal Investigator: Mary Brownell – SESPECS
Co-PI: Paul Sindelar – SESPECS, Erica McCray – SESPECS
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/OSEP
Proposal Title: Project STEEP: Studying Teacher Effectiveness, Education, and Policy
Requested Amount: $1,250,000
Principal Investigator: Cynthia Griffin – SESPECS
Co-PI: Joseph Gagnon – SESPECS, Kara Dawson – STL, Albert Ritzhaupt – STL
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/OSEP
Proposal Title: Project SEMTECH: Special Education, Mathematics Instruction, and Educational Technology
Requested Amount: $1,241,808
Principal Investigator: Diana Joyce – SESPECS
Co-PI: Nancy Waldron – SESPECS
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/OSEP
Proposal Title: Project PRIME: Preparing Researchers in Intensive Interventions and Multi-tiered Educational Systems
Requested Amount: $1,250,000
Principal Investigator: Holly Lane – SESPECS
Co-PI: Nicholas Gage – SESPECS
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/OSEP
Proposal Title: Project ExSELERaTE: Exceptional Special Education Leaders in Experimental Research and Teacher Education
Requested Amount: $1,248,895
Principal Investigator: Diane Ryndak – SESPECS
Co-PI: Hazel Jones – SESPECS, Kristen Kemple – SESPECS, Tina Smith-Bonahue – SESPECS
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/OSEP
Proposal Title: Project PIECE: Prevention and Intervention in Early Childhood Environments
Requested Amount: $1,249,479
Principal Investigator: Thomasenia Lott Adams – OER
Co-PI: Carolyn E. Mitten – STL
Funding Agency: Mathematical Association of America
Proposal Title: Preparing School Counselors to Encourage Young Women in Mathematics
Requested Amount: $6,000
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert – Lastinger Center for Learning
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc.
Proposal Title: Professional Services Agreement PSA 13-126
Requested Amount: $31,000
Principal Investigator: Donald Pemberton – Lastinger Center for Learning
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Alachua County School Board
Proposal Title: Alachua County Professional Development
Requested Amount: $65,000

NAEP Releases The Nation’s Report Card

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has released The Nation’s Report Card results of the 2013 Trial Urban District Assessment, measuring the educational progress of fourth- and eighth-graders within 21 urban districts around the United States.

According to the report, significant progress has been made in closing gaps in achievement in urban districts:

  • Black, Hispanic, and white students in Los Angeles scored higher in 2013 than in 2011 in math at grade 4.
  • Black, Hispanic, and white students in the District of Columbia scored higher in 2013 than in 2011 in reading at grade 8.
  • Students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches increased their average scores from 2011 to 2013 in at least one subject and grade combination in eight districts (Atlanta, Baltimore City, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, District of Columbia, Fresno, and Los Angeles).

In addition to providing detailed information about academic achievement, the NAEP offers valuable Resources for Researchers to assist with research activities and grant proposal preparation including the following:

  • The NAEP Data Explorer helps build custom tables using years of available assessment data on students’ academic performance.
  • A technical documentation section provides information about the technical procedures and methods of the NAEP organized by topic area from Instruments through Analysis and Scaling.
  • Research support includes training, seminars, and conferences for users of NAEP information and data.
  • The NAEP e-Library serves as a centralized archive of available reports, working papers, and assessment history, among other resources.

The NAEP conducts periodic assessments and publishes The Nation’s Report Card to inform the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. The NAEP is a congressionally authorized project of the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.

NSF Issues New Guidelines

The National Science Foundation has issued a new version of the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), (NSF 14-1) effective for proposals due on or after February 24, 2014. The PAPPG consists of (a) the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) for guidance on the preparation and submission of proposals to NSF and (b) the Award and Administration Guide (AAG) to guide, manage, and monitor the award and administration of grants and cooperative agreements made by NSF.

A summary of the significant changes by chapter to the GPG and to the AAG is available at the beginning of each document to assist with identifying the changes.

MyinvestiGator Phase II Deployed on January 27

Phase II of myinvestiGator went live on January 27, 2014 introducing several new features to enhance the functionality of the application, along with a new “look and feel.” All of the features and functionality of Phase I remain intact.  Some of the newly added features in Phase II are as follows:

  • New, more responsive interface
  • Expanded search functionality
  • Enhanced payroll and job information to better see who is getting paid on your grants
  • Effort commitment data for increased compliance and monitoring
  • Graphical analysis displaying burn rates and expense trending to more easily track your grant spending

Navigation to myinvestiGator is through myUFL > Main Menu > myinvestiGator, or via direct access at https://myinvestigator.erp.ufl.edu. More information about the myinvestiGator features is available in the IT Service Catalog. Help is available in myuflToolkits under the Training header. Staff needing assistance with data in myinvestiGator should contact their research administrator in Contracts and Grants at (352) 392-1235.

The Division of Sponsored Programs, Contracts and Grants, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and UFIT partnered to build myinvestiGator designed to increase accountability, transparency, and efficiency in UF’s sponsored activities.

Research Event in February

Faculty and doctoral students are cordially invited to attend:

American Universities and Teacher Preparation:  A Long and Uneasy Relationship
Professor Chris Ogren, University of Iowa

Monday, February 10, 2013
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Terrace Room

Bring your lunch. Refreshments and cookies will be served.

In this brown-bag lecture, Professor Chris Ogren will discuss the evolution of approaches to preparing teachers, as well as who enrolls and how their characteristics and broader societal issues affect teacher education. Dr. Ogren will also explain how a better understanding of the history of teacher education is essential for understanding more broadly the history of underrepresented groups of students in higher education.

The nation’s foremost authority on the history of teacher education in the United States, Christine (Chris) A. Ogren is Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies at the University of Iowa.

Awarded Projects for January 2014

College of Education – Awarded Projects – January 2014
Principal Investigator: Suzanne Colvin (STL)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Greater Cincinnati Foundation (Procter & Gamble Fund)
Project Title: Transforming Higher Education Teaching and Learning for the 21st Century
Project Period: 1/1/2014 – 12/31/2014
Award Amount: $9,350.00
Principal Investigator: Lynda Hayes (P.K. Yonge)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Florida Department of Education
Project Title: Technology Transformation for Rural School Districts
Project Period: 10/1/2013 – 6/30/2014
Award Amount: $43,315.00
Principal Investigator: Patricia Snyder (CEECS/SESPECS)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Mathematica Policy Research
Project Title: Evaluation of Preschool Special Education Practices
Project Period: 11/23/2013 – 11/22/2017
Award Amount: $222,859.00

Submitted Projects for January 2014

College of Education – Submitted Projects – January 2014
Principal Investigator: Nicholas Gage (SSESPECS)
Co-PI: Ashley MacSuga-Gage (SSESPECS), Timothy Vollmer (Department of Psychology)
Funding Agency: UF Office of Research
Proposal Title: Project ENGAGE: Evaluating the Relationship Between Classroom Management and Student Engagement
Requested Amount: $99,814.00
Principal Investigator: M. David Miller (SHDOSE)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Veterans Administration
Proposal Title: IPA for David Miller
Requested Amount: $23,752.02
Principal Investigator: Rose Pringle (STL)
Co-PI: Andrew Thoron (Dept. of Agricultural Education & Communication), Kate Fogarty (Dept. of Family, Youth, & Community Sciences), Heidi Radunovich (Dept. of Family, Youth, & Community Sciences), Julia Graber (Department of Psychology), Glenn Israel (Dept. of Agricultural Education & Communication), Katie Sofer (Dept. of Agricultural Education & Communication)
Funding Agency: UF Office of Research
Proposal Title:Examining and Mobilizing the Underlying Factors that Shape High School Students’ STEM, Educational, and Career Aspirations – A Holistic Approach
Requested Amount: $99,620.00
Principal Investigator: Albert Ritzhaupt (STL)
Co-PI: Pavlo Antonenko (STL), Linda Lombardino (SESPECS), Kara Dawson (STL), Andreas Keil (Department of Psychology)
Funding Agency: UF Office of Research
Proposal Title: Converging Behavioral and Psychophysiological Measures: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Multimedia Learning Conditions with Dyslexic Learners
Requested Amount: $98,206.25
Principal Investigator: Albert Ritzhaupt (STL)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: University of North Florida (NSF Subcontract)
Proposal Title: Supporting iGeneration Teaching and Learning in Prekindergarten Classrooms
Requested Amount: $52,489.00

Summary of COE Faculty Accomplishments in 2013

We want to congratulate the COE faculty for their accomplishments in 2013 and look forward to continued success in 2014. We are constantly on the look out for opportunities for external funding to share. Contact us—we are here to help! Listed below are some noteworthy statistics from the 2012-2013 fiscal year:

  • COE faculty members in all schools and centers submitted a total of 66 proposals, requesting $66.8 million. Proposals were submitted to over 27 different agencies or organizations including:

18 to the National Science Foundation
9 to the US Department of Education, 5 of which were to the Institute of Educational Science
10 to the Florida Department of Education
2 to the Spencer Foundation

  • Research funding per faculty member totaled over $426,000, representing a 39% increase from the previous fiscal year.
  • COE principal investigators and co-principal investigators received funding for 22 proposals totaling over $30 million in new awards.
  • Of the newly funded awards, 89% were funded by federal agencies or organizations.
  • The COE experienced a 17% increase in the total dollar amount of newly funded awards as compared to the previous fiscal year.
  • COE schools and centers have 67 currently funded projects totaling over $77.7 million.
  • Of the currently funded projects, 73% were funded by federal agencies or organizations.
  • The COE experienced a 39% increase in the total dollar amount of currently funded projects as compared to the previous fiscal year.

Grant Writing Workshop

The UF Office of Research recently hosted a two-day grant writing workshop presented by Dr. Robert Porter of GrantWinners Seminars. Session topics included the following:

  1. Writing Successful Grants
  2. Strategies for Success in Sponsored Research
  3. Building the National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Proposal
  4. Career Development Grants for Pre- and Postdocs

Look for summaries of the workshops in upcoming issues of the ORB. Session recordings are available online. Those who require copies of the handouts for any/all sessions may request them by emailing Jenn Hubbs at hubbsj@ufl.edu with their name, on-campus PO Box, and session(s) of interest.

Submitted Projects for December 2013

College of Education – Submitted Projects – December 2013
Principal Investigator: Keith Miller (Health Outcomes and Policy)
Co-PI: Albert Ritzhaupt (STL)
Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health
Proposal Title: A Master Course on Power for Multilevel and Longitudinal Health Behavior Studies
Requested Amount: $90,728.00
Principal Investigator: Hajar Kadivar (Health Outcomes and Policy)
Co-PI: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (SHDOSE)
Funding Agency: American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation
Proposal Title: fPAIR UP: Family-Provider Asthma InteRvention for Underserved Populations—Phase 1
Requested Amount: $2,000.00
Principal Investigator: Joseph Gagnon (SESPECS)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: Collaborative Research: Universal Access for Students with Mathematics Difficulties (USMD)
Requested Amount: $138,549.00
Principal Investigator: Timothy Jacobbe (STL)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Proposal Title: Informal Virtual Experience in Statistics for Teachers (INVEST)
Requested Amount: $2,829,858.00
Principal Investigator: Timothy Jacobbe (STL)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Loyola Marymount University (Subcontract)
Proposal Title: Collaborative Research: Project-SET: Increasing Teacher Preparation and Student Learning in Statistics
Requested Amount: $1,140,725.00
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: The School Board of Miami-Dade County
Proposal Title: M-DCPS/Kellogg i3 Match
Requested Amount: $74,026.59
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: The School Board of Miami-Dade County
Proposal Title: Miami Dade VPK Academy
Requested Amount: $750,000.00

How to Win Government Grants in Tough Times: Part 4

Using Data to Win Grants

Providing data is critical to writing a successful proposal. Data can be used to demonstrate a need, demonstrate results, and show an impact.

Demonstrate a Need

Sources of data… can be used as shown in the sample table:

  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Florida Department of Education

For example, poverty data can be used to show that the target population is experiencing poverty at a higher rate than average poverty rates.

Table X
Data on Students Served by the Project (by School)

Attribute School #1 School #2 State U.S.
Enrollment 324 120
National School Lunch Program 66% 64% 49% 45%
Title I Eligible Yes Yes
Poverty Rate 23% 18% 12%
Per Capita Income $12,440 $16,477 $21,587
Unemployment 6.1% 5.1% 5.3%

 

Demonstrate Results

Evaluation data are used to demonstrate results:

  • Recommended to use a database if applicable
  • Implementation of results guided by proposal
  • Useful to track all activities and measure all objectives
  • Must adhere to evaluation plan
  • Relevant for reports and continued funding

Show an Impact

  • Data show you are reaching desired target populations.
  • Data show you are reaching the neediest, highest-risk populations.
  • Data show positive results and illustrate the extent of your impact.

Excerpted from The Chronicle of Philanthropy Webinar, August 13, 2013

Awarded Projects for November 2013

College of Education – Awarded Projects – November 2013
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Duval County School Board
Project Title: Duval County Professional Development
Project Period: 10/12/13—06/01/14
Award Amount: $86,000.00

Submitted Projects for November 2013

College of Education – Submitted Projects – November 2013
Principal Investigator: Lynda Hayes (PK Yonge)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Florida Department of Education
Proposal Title: Technology Transformation Grants for Rural School Districts
Requested Amount: $43,315.00
Principal Investigator: Ruth Lowery (STL)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Spencer Foundation
Proposal Title: Voices of Jamaican Immigrant Parents and Students’ Perspectives on Their Experiences in a New Educational System
Requested Amount: $16,550.00

New Policy on Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs

An important announcement regarding IDC rate for funded projects is that the university will no longer allow a reduced IDC rate without a published policy from the funding agency indicating a restriction in IDC rate.

Here is an abbreviated version of the announcement from the UF Administrative Memo October 2, 2013

F&A Costs, also known as indirect costs (IDC) or overhead costs, are fixed costs in support of research and other sponsored activities. F&A costs provide reimbursement for actual expenses that support extramural activities but cannot be directly charged to a project.

F&A costs result from shared services such as libraries; physical plant operation and maintenance; utility costs; general, departmental, and sponsored projects administrative expenses; and depreciation or use allowance for buildings and equipment.

Further, OMB Circular A-21 Section G. 1.a.(3). states “Each institution’s F&A cost rate process must be appropriately designed to ensure that federal sponsors do not in any way subsidize the F&A costs of other sponsors…”

Appropriate recovery of F&A for all activities is a necessary means to support those projects and to support compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. Under-recovery of the costs for any individual project places a disproportionate burden on UF rather than the sponsor of the activity.

Significant reductions in the state appropriations for the university’s activities have made the recovery of F&A costs on sponsored agreements more crucial to UF’s ability to provide the research infrastructure required for excellence in research and scholarship.

To this end, the university is reiterating its policy to budget the full federal negotiated F&A rate on all applications and awards unless that sponsor has a published policy restricting recovery or is a public entity listed on the Division of Sponsored Programs F&A Rates webpage.

Any questions can be directed to Stephanie Gray, Director, Division of Sponsored Research at 352-273-4062 or slgray@ufl.edu.