Chronicle: How to Write an Outreach Grant Proposal

In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Karen M. Markin (director of research development at the University of Rhode Island’s research office) offers guidance on writing a successful outreach grant application:

  1. Identify the problem or need;
  2. define general goals and specific objectives;
  3. provide a road map for how the objectives will be achieved;
  4. explain how will you organize and manage the activity;
  5. describe the process whereby you will evaluate outcomes.

Excerpts here:

Writing a grant for community or “outreach” activities is different from writing a research grant. In a scientific grant proposal, it is understood that researchers are exploring new realms and cannot know exactly what they will encounter. That’s the definition of basic science, and delving into the unknown is what makes it exciting.

In contrast, an outreach grant proposal represents a road map for a project in which the applicants know where they are going and how to get there, and anticipates bumps in the road.

Foundations and agencies that support outreach programs want to see their money make a difference. . .

Establishing the need for the work you propose is an essential first step. While a scientific-research project usually doesn’t have to identify practical applications for the work, an outreach proposal must show the existence of a problem that needs to be remedied. A strong “statement of need,” as it is sometimes called in the application, lists specific problems and supports those claims with documentation. It is akin to the significance section of a research proposal. The U.S. Department of Education’s Web site provides several examples of successful proposals that include detailed need statements. . . .

The terms “goals” and “objectives” may seem interchangeable, but there is an important distinction between them in a grant proposal, particularly in a results-oriented outreach grant.

A goal is the situation you want to achieve in the long run. World peace is an example of a lofty goal. But no one will give you money to pursue world peace. Instead, you must identify some concrete results you can achieve during the grant period that will take the world a few steps closer to that ideal. . . .

The next component common to outreach grants is a work plan. That is a detailed description of the activities that will lead you to your goals and objectives. It is similar to the methods section of a scientific-research proposal but more detailed with regard to what you will do and when. In a scientific proposal, you need not explain each standard laboratory technique in detail. But an outreach grant often involves describing unique and innovative activities. . . .

Who will do the recruiting and training? Who will reserve the space? Those questions need to be answered in a section usually called the management plan. Here again, you will need to provide more detail about the project leadership than you would in a scientific proposal. . . .

Outreach grants are about results. Careers of individual program officers as well as future support for a given program can depend on how well current grantees perform. Most likely you will be asked to include an evaluation plan in your proposal so you can document whether you have been successful.

Evaluation conducted at the end of a project is called “summative evaluation” in education-related grants. Demonstrate your success by showing your achievement of the measurable objectives listed at the beginning of the proposal.

The full article is available on line to subscribers.


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