Organize Your Grant Writing

It took me longer than it should have to figure out how to plan for writing grants once I finished graduate school. Not that I hadn’t had any experience with writing grant applications before, but my approach was very much by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I was lucky to think about them in time for the deadline. Lucky that they didn’t require letters of recommendation. Lucky that they were simple applications that needed little advanced preparation. To be clear, I’m talking about small grants for humanities graduate students. $3000 to study in the Rushdie archive. $5000 to attend a summer institute.

Now I go after similarly small grants designed for non-tenure-track faculty or “junior” scholars and mainly for the purpose of supplementing my summer income so I can get some research writing done when I’m not having to teach four writing-intensive classes at a time.

When I first joined the faculty in this role, it took a while for me to figure out which internal grants I was eligible for. Then it took longer for me to learn about potential external grants for summer research and how their timelines worked.

Last year, I revamped how I plan my grants to get a better grip on it. I now keep a spreadsheet with the grant, the link to the grant information, the amount, the deadline for the application (for this or next year depending), and how many letters of recommendation are required for it. It’s really quite simple but it’s been a game-changer for me. Now I can forward plan and think about how the grant relates to my research and writing pipeline. I also restructured my digital file system last summer (details forthcoming in a future post), and I’m loving how it works to support my grant writing.

I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on grant writing, but I do have some advice especially for junior/ntt humanities faculty seeking research funding.

1. Keep an eye out for workshops on humanities grants at your institution. Sometimes the grant office, school, or even your department will offer them. They are *often* designed for TT faculty, but don’t let that scare you. Get in there and ask about grants for your role. In some cases being NTT is easier because it means we don’t need the institution to nominate us for the grant.

2. Ask around the department about internal grants. These are great options if you’re new to grant writing as they are less competitive than external grants.

3. Talk to people who have received the grant you want or at least review their application materials. I’ve set up informational interviews in some cases. In other cases, former grant recipients’ materials are easily accessible on the grant funder’s web page.

4. Read the eligibility and application requirements thoroughly. Three times. Make a spreadsheet or take notes about what is required and when.

5. Workshop your narrative to trusted friends and colleagues and/or your institution grant office. Here is also a resource I have used often to help me write grants. Just remember the best grant narratives are the ones that come easy to you – where you have a lot of clarity about the project, you know what your process will be, and you are confident in its value. The best way to get good at grant writing is to practice, practice. Don’t let rejection stop you from trying again.

6. After you receive the grant, don’t forget to add it to your CV, celebrate your win, and make time for whatever the grant funder is expecting as a follow-on activity (a grant report, a talk given, etc.).

I hope that helps! You deserve funding for your research, especially if you are in a NTT role with little to no institutional support for said research.

What other advice would you add to this list for humanities grant seekers?

Stay tuned for more posts this year about teaching, research, and academia. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @litambitions and Instagram: @ecacademic (where I really nerd out about planning). You can also follow this blog (see the email subscribe button on the home page).

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