Preparation is Key
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States
I may have said that the 1 pager, written for the Program Officer last February, was the first step that we took in preparing for our October grant submissions but that's not true. PREPARING that 1 pager was the first step and it took some time. That is because the summary of the entire grant idea into 1 or 2 pages is not an easy task but if done right, it is the beginning of the entire grant narrative. At least, that is the take-away I got from Tony DePass in his grant-writing workshop a few years ago. He spent a full day on writing the first two pages of the grant narrative and most of that time was spent on the first paragraph.
I now call it the DePass method but it really is based in good journalism. You start by capturing the reader's attention. You build tension. You relieve the tension. You conclude or in the case of a proposal, you make the ask.
Many scholars that I work with do what journalist call "bury the lead." They try to provide the reader a lot of facts up front to justify what they are going to ask. However, if you want to keep you readers engaged, they will need more than facts...you will need to present your facts in a way that gets them to choose you.
Another issue that I have found with my students is that they don't use outlines. For grant narratives, the basic structure of an outline is provided by the RFP and by the guidelines given to the reviewers. The NSF reviewers will be looking how the proposal speaks to Intellectual Merit and Broadening Impact. You should make it easy for them. The best training tool for writing a good proposal is to read and discuss one and the way to do that is serve on a review panel. Since our proposal is due in October, we will focus on the next best training tool- using a template. Here's one that includes some of the same information that I learned from Tony DePass so I'll be referring to this template and other sources as we continue our Journey to Submission. However, I highly recommend bringing Tony to your institution and then you can get the DePass method straight from DePass! In the meantime, you can ride along with us on our website. We're developing a page for Resources We Endorse scroll down to "Grant Submissions" for a look-see. Eventually, this will be the page for all of our scholarly products. We are not there yet but we do want you to see what we are doing each step along the way of our Journey to Submission. So, for starters, I've included the opening paragraphs of each of our planned proposals here. Once the grant is funded, we'll provide the entire grant narrative and budget but for now, we want to focus on the process. We hope that you feel that these opening statements are compelling and make you want to read more. Feel free to comment and of course, let us know if you wish to join the effort.