As a professional working to promote student health, you may find that a big part of your job is securing grant support for your programs. If you′re new to the field or have only limited experience in development, the grant application process can be especially daunting.
MyStudentBody was developed and research–tested with a series of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and this month, we asked our own Emil Chiauzzi, Ph.D., the principal investigator on 34 NIH SBIR grants, to share his tips for successful grant writing.
Following are 8 tips that may help you figure out what you should prioritize:
1. Read program announcements carefully. This advice may seem elementary, says Dr. Chiauzzi, but “it′s incredibly important that you understand, and convey to the reviewers that you understand, the specific needs that the granting organization is targeting. Don′t hesitate to make explicit reference to these needs in your application.”
2. Identify the criteria that will be used to judge your proposal. According to Dr. Chiauzzi, a proposal should be structured so that reviewers can easily find the information necessary to determine whether it meets the grant criteria. “Clearly identify for reviewers where they will find the answers to their questions, using headers, etc.,” he says.
3. Tell a story. “Don′t underestimate the power of narrative,” says Dr. Chiauzzi. “Describe what the problem is, how other people have tried to solve it, what the limitations have been to these approaches, and how you propose to fill the gaps. State clearly what your solution is and show the reviewers why you, your program, or your school are the right choice for the job.”
4. Make sure the story is cohesive. To make your proposal more persuasive, “follow a thread through the proposal, from the issues in the background to your solution, to how you propose to test the solution,” advises Dr. Chiauzzi. For example, if your goal is to help students reduce specific risky behaviors, describe how your intervention will address those behaviors, and make sure that you have a way to measure these behaviors in your field test.
5. Give the specifics of your procedures, and justify your choices. When you define your procedures, reviewers will want to know the “who, what, why, how, and where,” says Dr. Chiauzzi. They will also expect you to “justify what you do, based on the current methodologies in your field,” and to provide references as needed.
6. If your approach is novel, give additional support for your rationale. Proposing a new approach to addressing a problem will require you to explain in depth your reasons for departing from conventional approaches, says Dr. Chiauzzi. “The riskier your approach, the less likely that your proposal will get funded, so your reasons for taking a new approach need to be defensible.”
7. Ensure that your team has the necessary expertise, and budget appropriately. “Reviewers will be looking for a team with all the required areas of expertise represented,” says Dr. Chiauzzi. “Your team is critical, so if you require more expertise in a particular area, make sure that is reflected in the budget for personnel.”
8. Clearly define your metrics for success. Finally, says Dr. Chiauzzi, clarify how you will measure the efficacy of your program. “The importance of explaining clearly how you will measure your program′s efficacy cannot be overstated,” he says. “Without this piece, an otherwise promising proposal will be rejected.”