Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Tips for Writing a Successful Grant Proposal

  • Read Bourne and Chalupa's concise and helpful Ten Simple Rules for Getting Grants.
  • Adhere to the formatting and content requirements laid out on the Web site. These requirements are inflexible. Proposals not meeting these requirements will not be considered.
  • Avoid rhetoric and hyperbole. Illustrate with real instances or examples.
  • For grant proposals in support of meetings or conferences, include a draft agenda, draft list of invitees, and draft letter of invitation if possible.
  • Be specific about outputs and outcomes. The proposal should explicitly state expected practical, tangible outputs (such as number of students whose training or careers are affected, data collected, scientific papers produced) and outcomes (such as new knowledge, institutional strengthening, etc). BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT OUTPUTS OR OUTCOMES WOULD MAKE YOU THINK THE PROJECT HAD BEEN A SUCCESS (big sales of a book, a prize awarded for research, a government grant to continue the project, web traffic, high enrollments, better salaries, etc.).
  • If the effort connects to or benefits other areas of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation interest such as DNA Barcoding, the Census of Marine Life, or the Public Understanding of Science, point this out.
  • Be explicit about the duration of the project (e.g. 12 or 18 months).
  • Be clear about management. Who will do what jobs and who will have what responsibilities, obligations, and powers (both carrots and sticks)?
  • Make constructive use of milestones to the extent applicable (for example, include a schedule of events over time indicating when certain things should be accomplished or happen).
  • Include Letters of Support if a project’s success depends crucially on support of key figures other than the PI.
  • Keep proposal compact in terms of total megabytes and also in terms of files into which a proposal is divided. A proposal should not come in more than 3 files (such as main proposal, appendices, budget), though a single file in .pdf format is preferred. While draft files may be sent as Word files (.doc or .docx format) to make it easy for the Foundation to return comments, finals should be sent in .pdf format.