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NIH Grant Basics

If you're new to grant seeking, this video is a good place to start. It covers the structure of NIH and their approach to grant funding -- including who is eligible to apply, what types of research projects they are interested in, and the types of grants offered.  

Grant Writing Tips

The tips below come from the UMass Chan Office of Advancement and you can find more on their website.

1. Know Your Audience:‚Äč Understanding what private funders are looking for will help you write a more fundable proposal. Find out --

  • their areas of interests;
  • what types of organizations they fund;
  • what type of populations they fund (youth, elderly, etc.);
  • their giving capacity (i.e., many $5K grants vs. one to two $100K grants) and how often (one year vs. multiple years); and
  • who reviews the grant proposals (scientists, volunteers from community, etc.).

2. Relevance: Private funders want proposals to address the project’s merit in relation to their goals and broader impacts (value to society). Your proposal must convey -- 

  • The need. Clearly describe the need your project will meet (in the community or healthcare, or disease relevance, etc.)
  • Differentiation. Tell how your project or research is different from others.
  • How you will make a difference. State how this grant will make a difference, how it fits into the “big picture”
  • Follow the guidelines

3. About 50 to 70 percent of proposals are rejected because they were incomplete. Be sure to:

  • Observe word and page limits and formatting requirements.
  • If the grant guidelines ask a series of questions, answer them in the order in which they were asked. Reviewers will find it easier to confirm your proposal effectively addressed the guidelines.

4. Verbal Accessibility: Put the take-home news up front; don’t make a mystery of your research goals. Emphasize clarity and use language that would be accessible to any intelligent adult.

  • Eliminate jargon. Every industry has its own jargon. Eliminate all internally used acronyms, terminology and buzz words. Tell your story simply.
  • Objective reviewer. After you finish writing a grant proposal, send it to a friend or colleague who doesn’t know anything about your project or is in your field. If that person can understand it and become inspired, you will know it’s good.
  • Remember the 12/12/12 rule. Imagine yourself in the shoes of a program officer. It's midnight and they have been working for 12 hours straight, reviewing grant proposals. Yours is the 12th one in the stack.  How are you going to get their attention? The key lies in the story you tell.

5. Balance: Create a good balance between high-concept generalizations about the proposed project’s goals and impact, and details that demonstrate your ability to execute it.

  • Don't over promise what you can achieve with the funds requested. Check and double check your budget. Surprisingly, quite a number of proposals arrive with math errors that undermine credibility. The budget should add up AND it should to support the logic of the proposal's narrative.
  • Focus on solutions. Your proposal first and foremost, must focus on what you’re going to do about the problem or need.

6. Visual Clarity: When a proposal is longer than one page, break it up into sections. Try putting section headings in bold, and/or using extra spacing to separate paragraphs. Make your charts or other graphics as clear and informative as possible, and only include those that are necessary.

7. Proofreading: As a courtesy to your reviewers, be sure your proposal is error-free. Do your very best to give your reviewers an enjoyable and compelling reading experience.