Community-engaged research (CEnR) projects have unique features that impact the grant proposal development process.
Before you start writing a CEnR grant proposal, you must first assess where you are in your relationship with your community partner. The stage of development with your community partner may determine not only what kind of funding is available to you but also what level of CEnR you will conduct.
- Consider where your project is in its lifecycle when writing your proposal; be realistic about what you can accomplish in the timeframe of the grant. CEnR comes with additional time and collaboration challenges compared to other kinds of research.
- The Community Review Board (CRB) is available to community-engaged researchers at VCU. Consider engaging the CRB early on, prior to submitting your proposal.
Grant Writing Basics
- Be concise and understand what kinds of proposals your funder usually accepts.
- Choose appropriate investigators for the size and prestige of the grant.
- Clearly understand the budgeting constraints (not just the amount of money) for every grant you apply for.
- If possible, review previously funded applications.
- Understand your audience. Research your reviewers when possible.
- Clearly outline and understand the evaluation expectations after you are awarded a grant; upfront strategizing to meet these expectations is essential.
- Ask if a foundation or funding agency will award grants for capacity-building.
- Build a relationship with the program officer.
There are several resources available to help find intramural and extramural funding for CEnR projects.
- Division of Community Engagement offers CEnR Partnership Development Grants with awards up to $10,000. These grants are intended to support new or potential academic-community partnerships in CEnR.
- The Office of Research and Innovation offers a list of grant search databases as well as internal, federal, and foundation funding sources. A variety of workshops for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students aid in the development of competitive proposals for external funding.
Understand the RFP
Just as each team member tends to speak their own discipline-entrenched language, each funding agency tends to speak its own language. Understanding the expectations outlined in the funding announcement is essential to a successful proposal.
- Does everyone understand what the funder is expecting? Ensure that entire team understands the vocabulary that the funder uses. Educate the team on how to interpret the Request for Proposal, Program Announcement, Funding Announcement, etc.
- Sometimes there are no explicit references to CEnR in a funding announcement. Consider other keywords and clues that you should look for to identify funding opportunities.
- Understand the appropriate scope of project that the funding announcement expects. To find out if you are starting too big or too small, try reading abstracts of funded projects and contacting previously funded principal investigators.
Coordination of Interdisciplinary CEnR Projects
CEnR is inherently interdisciplinary. At a minimum, CEnR projects share knowledge among academic researchers and community partners. Adding to its interdisciplinary nature, the academic research team may consist of multiple disciplines. Because of the complexity of interdisciplinary team coordination and the time and effort required of CEnR, it is especially important to leave plenty of time at the end of your writing process for peer review and revision.
Other coordination efforts might include:
- Clearly defining the roles of each team member in the grant writing process
- Developing specific timelines to choreograph the multi-stage efforts demanded in CEnR
- Regularly scheduled team meetings to track and report progress
- Considering the value of each team member’s time (and possible financial) investments into the grant-making efforts