Federal agencies, foundations, and other funding sources differ significantly in their research mission and objectives, in agency culture and protocols, and in guidelines for submitting unsolicited proposals. However, the core knowledge base and writing expertise you need to develop a quality proposal include an accumulation of generic strategies, regardless of academic discipline or funding agency.
For example, regardless of whether you are submitting a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), the United Way, or a private foundation, your core competitive strategies will be similar. The most important TIP is to follow the announcement guidelines. Stellar ideas, sound science, and superior writing skills may go unnoticed if, for example, page length, format requirements, or deadlines are not met.
Core Competitive Strategies for Developing a Proposal
Make a Compelling Case- You must make a compelling case for the significance of your research, including its impact on the impact on the field and the value it brings to the agency’s mission.
Understand the Funding Agency’s Mission & Culture- You must understand the mission and culture of the agency sufficiently to explain how your research fits within the context (e.g., goals, objectives, outcomes, etc.) of the agency’s research priorities as defined in the funding opportunity.
Follow the Specific Program Guidelines- You must write a research narrative that fully responds to the program guidelines and understand how your proposal will be reviewed.
- What will you do if funded?
- Why it is important to do it?
- What is the significance & impact of your research on the field and agency mission?
- Why you are the right person to do the research?
- Why you have the capacity, expertise, and experience to perform it?
- Do you have the institutional infrastructure to support your efforts when required?