Effective Grant Writing at Hampton University

Zina T. McGee, Ph.D. and James B. Victor, Ph.D.
Hampton University Behavioral Science Research Center

Decisions to write grant proposals should be based on knowledge about the competition and funding agency. As you decide what you want to do, consider your expertise, interests, and available resources. Develop proposals that are related to your professional strengths, your current activities, and the strengths of your institution. The first step to preparing a proposal is conceptualization, which will allow you to summarize your entire project. Development of a preliminary or draft proposal depends on your ability to conceptualize your project by considering the following elements:

Several key references discussing the theoretical or conceptual model must be reviewed in preparation for a full proposal. Reviewers will expect you to know the literature pertaining to related research. They are critical of vague constructs and weak background references. Find reliable sources and thoroughly review the published research. Use bibliographies to further assist you in your literature searching. As you develop a budget for your project, be certain to include personnel costs, fringe benefit rates, consultant costs, travel (including staff and consultants), equipment and materials, supplies, and institutional direct cost rates. Allow enough time for your institution to review and approve submission of your proposal at the department, dean and administration levels. Competitions with high probability success rates are usually those where few proposals are submitted, many proposals are submitted, and there is a high ratio of projects funded to submissions.

After you have conceptualized your project, become familiar with funding sources. Spend time reviewing what certain agencies and foundations support, and compare your project with the purpose and objective of the funding source. Utilize your campus resources and be aware of your institution's eligibility for the award. Discuss your project with colleagues, especially those who have been successful proposal writers. Your proposal must be substantive, and should be written in a manner that convinces the reviewers that you have strong theoretical and methodological skills. You must also demonstrate that you have obtained adequate university support for your project. Reviewers want to be certain that you will be able to successfully complete your project at your institution. Include as many letters of support from university officials and external consultants as possible. Finally, you must place your proposal within the context of previous work. Provide as much preliminary data as possible in your initial proposal. Discussions of how your project is supported in the literature are extremely important as you relate the goals and objectives to existing sources.

Remember that the more comprehensive your information, the more you will be able to accomplish as you complete the initial draft of your proposal. Among the more common proposal weaknesses are:

The significance of the proposal will be based primarily on your literature background, context for the problem, and anticipated outcomes. Be persistent. Expect to be successful. After you receive your initial reviews from the funding source, revise and resubmit until you are funded.

For more information on grant writing or assistance with proposal development, please contact:

James B. Victor, Ph.D., Director, james.victor@hamptonu.edu
Zina T. McGee, Ph.D., Co-Director, zina.mcgee@hamptonu.edu
Behavioral Science Research Center
114 Phenix Hall
Hampton University
Hampton, VA 23668
Phone: (757) 727-5100 or 5101
Fax: (757) 727-5131