News from the Conservation Lab — Reflections on Grant Writing from Home

By Caroline Roberts, Conservator

Greetings, Kelsey Conservation blog readers! I welcome you all to my home office/kitchen table, where I have spent the past several weeks writing an application for a federal grant.

Woman at computer looks at baby in high chair.
Carrie’s son Jamie offers constructive feedback while sampling graham crackers.

There is a method to my madness. If we are successful, we’ll receive funds that will support research at the Kelsey. But even if we are not successful, the ability to put together a grant and write a compelling narrative is a major skill for any researcher. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Once you’ve found the grant you want to apply for, read the solicitation/funding notice a few times. Pretend you are making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon from scratch, and follow the instructions carefully. Otherwise … catastrophe.
  2. Read successful project narratives from past grant cycles. This is especially important if this is your first time writing a narrative (also see step 3).
  3. The first narrative draft you write is not going to be your best. Do NOT plan to submit the first thing you write! Ask someone to read your proposal. Get their honest opinion. Things will become clearer (and more intelligible to reviewers!) as you write.
  4. Remember that the people reading your narrative aren’t you. They are probably in a different field than you and, unlike you, they are reading a lot of proposals in addition to yours. Make it easy for them.
  5. Don’t overlook your budget. Planning it out can help solidify your thinking around how your project is going to work.

I’ve got Suzanne to thank for a lot of these insights, and for helping me shape my ideas into a story someone might want to read.