Grants are available from many sources, although most granting agencies, from the government to small family foundations, have some guidelines they follow. You will need to do some sleuthing to find out where you might qualify for funds and how to submit a proposal for those funds. Sometimes this is as simple as a letter, and more often it is a fairly robust written proposal and considerable supporting documentation.
The two major sources for grant funding are private sources, such as corporations and foundations, and government sources. Each has pros and cons, and your organization should probably explore both, partly because they tend to support different types of needs.
The private sector makes monies available to organizations for several reasons. Private organizations may have a tax advantage or a charter requirement in doing so. Corporations may wish to counteract the effect of some negative attention they have received, or may simply be good corporate citizens interested in supporting community involvement.
There are several advantages to seeking monies from the private sector:
- The applications are typically short.
- The funding cycles are typically fast.
- The private sector often privileges simple criteria, such as geographical location. They often choose to fund projects in locations where they have a business interest or a large employee base.
- A private organization may well grant funds because of a personal connection, such as a board member or employee having an affected family member.
- Private-sector sources are a good source of funding for infrastructure, such as copiers or other equipment.
- While the amounts may be small, private-sector sources can be a great way to fund pilot projects to gather information or establish questions information you can then use for a larger grant application to another source.
The private sector isn't an all-purpose answer, though. The amounts available are usually smaller, for one thing. Also, factors like geography can work against you if you're in an area that is home to lots of nonprofits seeking funding, or a remote area. Corporations may only fund organizations whose agenda closely matches their own, and their definitions may be arbitrary.
The stock market isn't helping, either; many funding sources rely on market portfolios to generate income, and as the market has contracted, so have their grants. This has created a tremendous crisis for arts organizations. The silver lining for genetic advocacy organizations is that organizations representing health and science issues are more likely to receive funding.
Finding these organizations: You may already know of corporations or foundations you can approach, and you can generate a list using the Yellow Pages. There are several resources for identifying funders, too:
- The Foundation Center - The Foundation Center offers a weekly email bulletin and courses. If you only have time to pursue one resource, this is a good one.
- Community of Science - Community of Science also offers a weekly email update, and its results may overlap with those of the Foundation Center.
- Sponsored Project Information Center (SPIN). Available through public libraries, this resource usually requires a librarian to run a search for you, but it searches several databases of funding opportunities.
- Your local public library. Librarians are specialists in questions just like this (and this is a common one, so the answer is at the tip of their fingers). They can point you to indexes and run searches, like the SPIN search, for you.
- The World Wide Web. Web searches through engines such as Google can offer more information than you can sift through, but if your queries or terms are very specific, or if you are getting a sense of the landscape, they certainly offer access to a wealth of information.
- You can also hire someone else to find, and write, grants for you. We'll talk more about this later.
Communicating with them: Private-sector sources can be accessed relatively informally, although as with any funding source, you should research their process and follow their directions. Your approach will depend primarily on what they tell you about how to tell them your story and whether you have personal contacts in the organization. You may simply have an employee forward a letter of intent to an internal office, or you may fill out a formal application.
Whatever the approach, the information you give them will not vary. You need to tell them:
- The goals of your project
- Why it is important
- How the research is relevant to them, their employees or community, or their mission
- How the research will benefit them
- Estimated costs (a single number, not a detailed budget)
- Any special advantages your organization or project has, such as location
This could take the form of a two-page business letter, and will usually receive some kind of reply (from "Not our issue" to "Here, fill out our application") in two to four weeks.
An application for private-sector funding is typically longer, and may include a couple of pages of the statement of need, a couple of pages of project description, a budget page, and a page describing your organization bookended by a one-page summary and a brief conclusion. Applications can sometimes benefit from an appendix, which may highlight the qualifications of project staff or show the results from a previous or related effort. They are usually acted on by the funding organization in about six to eight weeks.
As prepare your story for a potential sponsor, remember:
This audience is not expert in your area. Tell your story in a compelling, accessible way.
Some kind of personal contact can be a tremendous advantage, so consider attending events by local organizations that offer funding or that are funded by a source you'd like to get to know better. Introduce yourself; start a connection.
It's OK to send your proposal to several potential sources simultaneously. Especially in an environment where fewer dollars are available, this could enable you to efficiently pull together complete funding from several sources, rather than feel strapped by inadequate funding from one source.
Larissa Golden Brown, a grantwriter, discusses grantwriting at her website.
Elizabether Brunner, another grantwriter, offers tips at her site.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the American Association for the Advancement of Science maintain a site that specializes in training grants for individuals in degree or postdoctoral programs, but it has some good general information as well.
The skills involved in winning government grants have the same foundation as those for foundation grants, but there are different protocolsand a few idiosyncratic requirements. This is a large subject and can have strong connections to research activities and advocacy efforts. We'll add more about this later. In the meantime, we invite you to share your organizations experiences with obtaining grants from government agencies firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should I Hire a Grant Writer?
There are two answers to this question: Yes and No. Which answer fits your organization depends on your size, your funding requirements, your funding resources, and the funding environment. We'll add more about this later. In the meantime, we invite you to share your organization's experiences with grant writers email@example.com.
I found this to be an interesting article to take away the fear of grant writing. Demystifying Grant Seeking
ScanGrants is a free online listing of grants, scholarships and other funding opportunities in the health sciences. We are a project of the Center for Health Research and Quality of Samaritan Health Services, a nonprofit network of Oregon hospitals, physicians and senior care facilities.
Our aim is to enable medical researchers, those involved in public and community health and those seeking to locate scholarships in the health sciences to efficiently find potential sources of funding so that they can work hard on science and health matters and not have to devote unproductive amounts of time searching for funding. ScanGrants has been adopted by various medical, public and academic libraries and offices of research administration in university settings. We strive to serve those who do not have access to expensive, for-profit databases of funding opportunities.
A bit of background. I am the Web administrator of ScanGrants and work very hard to apprise those in the library, research and clinical research fields of its existence so that a larger number of potential applicants can learn of opportunities for funding. The immediate goals are to generate interest in clinical research among novice researchers, to enable funders to be able to pick from a wider pool of applicants and to apprise experienced researchers and health science students of grants, fellowships and scholarships that they might never have heard of but for ScanGrants. The ultimate goal is to advance science by connecting researchers and funders more efficiently than has heretofore been the case. This is a win-win for everyone. We attempt to list funding opportunities that are often listed in few other online databases.
To that end, we welcome news of any grants or scholarships in the health sciences. If you are a disease advocacy organization, professional/scholarly society or foundation and wish to spread the news of grants to as wide a pool of potential applicants as possible, please feel me free to email with news of such opportunities for listing on ScanGrants.
Thank you for your trouble.
Hope Leman Grants Coordinator Center for Health Research and Quality Samaritan Health Services 815 NW 9th Street Suite 203A Corvallis OR 97330 Telephone (541) 768-5712 firstname.lastname@example.org www.scangrants.com
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