Preparing a successful application for a program grant
Grants supporting programs
are often easier to get than research grants. Fewer people apply for them, and the review tends to be less dependent on the track record of the PIs.
Well-written proposals describing well-designed programs can get funded, even if the PIs have little experience.
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Once you have identified the grant you want to apply for, try to get a copy of a proposal to the program that was funded
First, look up which institutions have been successfuly funded through the program, contact the PI of the funded grant and ask if they will share with you the project description of their proposal.
PIs of program grants are often willing to share because every institution is different, so each program is unique, even if the elements are identical to a program at another institution.
In addition, directors of educational program grants have an obligation to spread their approach if it is effective.
The key to writing a good application for a grant to fund a program is to clearly describe every element of the program in detail.
Most reviewers for program grants are PIs of similar program grants. For an application to be rated highly, reviewers need to be able to visualize themselves implementing the program, so the application needs to be as detailed as possible about the program.
To develop that level of detail in your application, you need to describe your program like you are going to implement it tomorrow. When you write your program plan, try imagining that you are writing instructions for a program coordinator to implement the program in your absence.
Grant proposals should always include citations of the literature, even if you are seeking funding for a program.
You would not think of writing a proposal for a research grant without including a bibliography citing previous work in the field.
Treat program grants the same way.
Every kind of program that can be proposed has been tried before somewhere (or something similar has).
Search social science, educational databases and Google Scholar to find reports and case studies about similar programs that have been successful. Cite those studies in the "Background" and/or "Rationale for the approach" sections.
Your application must be very clear about what participants will experience in your program and how they will benefit.
For an application to be rated highly, reviewers need to understand how participants will progress through the program.
Timelines and explanatory graphics are really important to help reviewers understand the trajectory of participants. In a competitive proposal the services that the participants will receive, the timing of when they will receive them, and how they will be delivered are clear and described in detail.
Find a mentor or senior colleague to read over your proposal
Always get other people to read over your proposal with a critical eye, ideally this is someone who has grant writing experience themselves. If there is no one like that at your own institution, reach out to colleagues at other schools.
Give them the review criteria for the program and ask them to judge how well your proposal fits the criteria.