All documents in this repository are in draft status, and work is expected to continue on improvements, additions, and corrections.

Knowhow: everything you wanted to know about applying for grants but didn’t ask#

Project description#

Description: Collaboratively creating a curriculum and coaching program to ensure that “hidden curriculum” is less hidden, so that funders and potential grantees from different income levels can engage fairly.

Proposed outcome: Project proposal to share with global north philanthropy looking to make a difference in the global south

Value added: Levelling the playing field with regards to access to resources


LMIC: Low to medium income countries
HIC: High income countries
ROI: return on investment
CC: Creative Commons
CC-BY: Creative Commons, attribution
CC BY-NC: Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial
DOI: Digital Object Identifier
RFA: Request for application. Also known as CFP, Call for Proposal.
DEI: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion. Also known as IDEA (A for accessibility), EDI, and JEDI (J for Justice).
Whisper network: similar to hidden curriculum, information shared by an ingroup or clique that is inaccessible to the general population


Yo Yehudi, Laura Ación, Barbara Wilk, Jesica Formoso, Jessica Greene, Kate Hertweck, Tania Allard, Mariana Meireles

Learner personas#

María (she/her)#

Maria is in her early 30s. She was born and raised in Bolivia but works and lives in Argentina. She obtained an undergraduate degree in psychology in Bolivia and PhD in psychology in Argentina. She currently works as a postdoctoral researcher. Maria’s goals are to obtain research grants to perform research, although she can’t pay herself from a grant. In her line of work international grants are preferred, since local funds are more restrictive. Her professional interests are neuroscience, cognitive development and working memory, as well as open science (data sharing and aggregation/interoperability). Maria has received local grants before, but none from other countries. Personal challenges that Maria is facing include a high cost of living in her home city, which is even harder because she sends money home to her family. Her professional challenges: she doesn’t know how to get started applying to international grants, and is not supported by her host institution in applying internationally.

Aleksey (they/them)#

Aleksey is in his early 50s, born and raised in Ukraine, where they also currently live and work. They are a geneticist by training, working with fruit flies. Aleksey is a mid-career, employed as an Associate Research Scientist (a permanent, tenured role) in Kiev/Kyiv. Their goal is to expand into new experimental methods within a long-running research program and receive grants to engage in research (they cannot receive salary from grants). Funding would pay for a PhD research assistant or postdoc as well as pay for resources to undertake research activities. Their professional interests include molecular genetics, cell biology, rare diseases, with computational modeling (but not with open source software). Aleksey has received local grants before but failed at obtaining funding from an international funder, as their proposal was miscalibrated to the solicitation). Aleksey is a person with disability, requiring voice assistive technology, and is also a parent of two teenagers. The challenges related to obtaining an international grant include language (Aleksey’s native tongue, Ukranian, has a Cyrillic alphabet), which presents a barrier to submitting in English and collaborating internationally. Challenges to successfully applying for grant funding include: 1) current geopolitical instability in Aleksey’s home means grants are perceived as risky, and 2) Aleksey is still learning how to engage fully in open science practices.

Mohamed (he/him)#

Mohamed (he/him) is in his mid twenties. He is from Mali where he lives with his parents and several siblings. He has sporadic ad-hoc income and is a freelancer. He is a native French speaker with basic English knowledge. He has completed some undergraduate courses at the university and has engineering background. He leads a citizen-driven grassroots organization that performs investigative journalism, reporting on governmental policies around ecological issues like environmental sustainability and climate change, and social issues like femicides. Mohamed’s goals are to find a way to have the grassroots organisation become sustainable, including paying wages to staff and supporting infrastructure like cloud computing and computers. He would also like to receive travel grants to support additional investigative journalism. Mohamed has never received any grant before (neither local or international). Mohamed doesn’t know where to find grants and lacks familiarity with the administrative process involved; moreover, he has no experience in designing large-scale research projects. Some of the questions Mohamed has are: What are the requirements of a donor? How do I report to them? How can I use the money? How do I pay people?

Learning modules#

Module 1: Scope of the curriculum - who is this resource for and how to use it#

  • Why are we doing this (mission statement)

  • How these materials can be used (teaching material), licensing (CC-BY-NC), attribution

  • Learner personas

  • Overview of problems when applying for grants (challenges these materials will address)

    • The grant does not fit the remit of the call for proposals

    • Writing and grammar skills

    • Persons/Collaborators do not have the skills

    • Unrealistic timeline or budget

    • Application does not show experience with grant writing

  • What this material will NOT teach

    • Comprehensive overview of grant writing (there are other grant writing workshops, and this won’t cover discipline-specific considerations)

    • Complete information about program/project management and leadership (community management, managing personnel), and planning for organizational sustainability

Module 1 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Understand the scope of this curriculum

  • Understand how to use and reuse these materials

  • Recognize the target the audience of this content

  • Identify common issues while seeking funding that this curriculum will address

Module 2: Preparing to apply for grants#

  • What is a grant and what are the types of grants

    • Competitive requests for applications (RFAs)

    • Unsolicited submissions and pitching ideas

  • Meeting and getting to know funders (building trust, learning about program priorities)

  • Building a professional brand

    • Website for lab, organization, or individuals

    • Basic information about goals

  • Reading the RFA

    • How the grant will be evaluated

    • Frame your proposal around the evaluation rubrics

  • What do funders look for in candidates

  • Organizational requirements

    • Connecting with your institution and learning about procedures

    • Finding or learning if you need to create an organization to support you (fiscal sponsorship)

  • Finding supporters that will give you help/feedback for your proposal

  • Templates

    • Collaborator recommendation letters

    • CVs

Module 2 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Identify grant opportunities for which they are eligible

  • Identify key collaborators or stakeholders that need to be involved

  • Understand the basic requirements you need to meet for a grant application

  • Decypher the RFA specifics and translate them into actionable application tasks

Module 3: Preparing a proposal#

  • Preparing a proposal

    • Sections of a proposal

    • Research narrative

    • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement

  • Deliverables and outcomes

  • Letters of recommendation/support

  • Formatting

    • Aims/objectives/goals

    • Questions/hypotheses

    • Methods

    • Deliverables and success metrics

    • Citation/references

    • Supporting materials

    • Lexicon (how to handle acronyms)

  • Timelines

  • What makes a good proposal

    • Consistency

    • Concise but clear (not too specific or too general)

  • Resources at your affiliated institution or organization

  • Institutional approval

  • Listing your collaborators

  • Steps in the application process

    • Letters of intent

    • Full applications

    • Interviews

  • Seek peer feedback

    • From folks within your field and beyond your field - until you are proficient enough to be your own reviewer

Module 3 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Prepare a template to cover text-based grant proposal documents, tailored to the needs of a grant funder and/or grant call;

  • Define a scope of work alongside collaborators, and incorporate it into a grant narrative;

  • Identify and comply to the learner’s organizational requirements for grantmaking;

  • Create detailed and realistic project timelines and staffing estimates

Module 4: Budgeting#

  • Creating your own budget, using a provided template, or using an institutional template

  • How to charge for staff time (salary, contractors, fringe/benefits), adjust for inflation

  • Overheads and indirect costs

  • Budget narrative or justifying your budget

  • Current and pending funding, non-grant income

  • The problems of under budgeting

Module 4 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Create a basic budget with categories and formatting suitable for submission to a funder

  • Avoid under-budgeting by proposing adequate budget for inflation and contingencies

  • Describe current and pending support in a way that is meaningful for grant review

  • Understand indirect costs, including what your organization requires and what a funder allows

Module 5: You got the grant - now what?#

  • Announcing and publishing your award (embargo)

  • Adjusting budget and personnel after the start of the grant

  • Tracking your budget and reporting progress

  • No-cost extensions

  • Acknowledging a funder

  • Finishing the grant period

Module 5 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Identify obligations for communicating with the funder after receiving a grant award notification

  • Approach funder for adjustments to grant budget, personnel, or timeline

  • Track and prepare required materials for reporting grant outcomes to a funder

Module 6: Cross-institution collaboration (pre and post-award), advanced topics#

  • Building a consortium

  • Governance in consortia (e.g., value alignment, publication policies, licencing, code of conduct)

  • Subawards

Module 6 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Negotiate relationships, obligations, and required documentation with collaborators at other institutions as a part of application preparation

  • Coordinate decision-making and synchronization with grant partners while engaging in funded work

  • Administer subawards for collaborative proposals

Module 7: Potential pitfalls and workarounds, more advanced topics#

  • Dealing with rejection

  • Dealing with resubmission/s

  • Explaining to funders/reviewers limitations with your institution/country that they may not know about

  • Knowing your reviewers/funders and writing at a level they can understand your message

  • Copyright, plagiarism, ChatGPT

  • Preparing professional proposals in a second language

  • Accessibility

  • Eligibility and restrictions on personnel and funding (solicitation/funder specific)

  • Venture capital (VC) and/or industry funding (this curriculum’s primary intention is to support researchers and organizations applying for philanthropic or governmental funding; however some knowledge can be transferable to VC and industry funding at your own discretion)

  • Funding to an individual (instead of an institution) such as some fellowships and contract-based awards

Module 7 learning objectives: At the end of this module, learners should be able to:

  • Understand different ways of overcoming adversity while seeking funding

  • Strengthen the ability to effectively communicate with reviewers and funders

  • Overcome some common limitations when applying for funding as a resident of an LMIC or marginalized group.

Further work#

These materials are available under a CC-BY-NC license.

This project will be developed after the workshop by OLS in this repository.