Posted by: Ruth Moeller, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context College, RMIT University
At RMIT it’s L&T grant writing season
I have been sitting here contemplating the many grant proposals I’ve seen. As the DSC College’s Learning and Teaching Investment Fund (LTIF) co-ordinator I have seen many proposals, the good, the bad and the ugly. Over this time I have garnered some insights into what makes a successful proposal and would like to share them with you. (My experience and examples relate to LTIFs but the advice generally relates to all L&T grants.)
1. Have an idea, but make sure it’s the right kind
Grants will have a particular focus and to be successful you need to ensure that what you are proposing reflects that.
LTIFs are about learning and teaching and specifically things that “lead to quality learning experiences for students” and “provide students with a cohort experience that makes a difference to their lives”. So the focus here is the student and their outcomes. I have seen many proposals that were thinly disguised research applications, proposals that were focused on course/program development that is really part of normal business, and every now and again an idea that’s put forward just to see if someone will pay for it. These proposals may have merit but not for an LTIF.
2. Let someone know
This is a dilemma, as grants are competitive. By sharing your concept you may feel that you are giving away your idea but it is better to test your plan before you invest in a proposal that may be better placed elsewhere.
I have seen groups put forward similar projects – committees are unlikely to fund proposals about the same thing. If the groups consulted they could have been linked to talk about the direction each were taking and ways they could cooperate or differentiate. Likewise there are the proposals that are similar to ones previously submitted. This means they were successful, so it’s been done, or unsuccessful, and you need to find out why before proceeding.
Talk to the relevant grants co-ordinator to test out your idea before you become too invested in it.
Contacts for LTIFs and Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) grants at RMIT
Design and Social Context College
- Dr Tom Palaskas (LTIF and OLT)
Science, Engineering and Health College
- Meg Colasante (LTIF and OLT)
3. What are the conditions/parameters for the grant? Work within them.
This information will be on the website and presented at information sessions. You need to make yourself familiar with “The Rules” of the particular grant you are applying for and follow them.
I am always surprised that when the criterion says: “Travel and equipment purchases will not be funded unless there are extenuating reasons” there is a request for travel to a conference or the purchase of 25 iPads.
Even if you have applied for many grants, checking the guidelines and going to information sessions can provide you with insights and tips for your application.
Have the people/groups that can make your proposal a reality been consulted and are they involved?
By listing an EdTech group on a proposal there is an expectation is that they will take part but have they been asked? Conversely, proposing a technology dependent idea and not consulting with the experts weakens the application.
Also you need to consider issues of work planning and work load when forming your project team.
5. Be realistic
Ask yourself the following questions before the review panel does:
- What do we actually want money for?
- Could we do it within our current resources?
- Can we really achieve what we are promising in the time allocated?
- Is our budget optimistic/aspirational or realistic?
- Is the idea sustainable? What happens next year without funding?
- Does our idea have application beyond our course/program? When investing money the expectation is broader application
- If it was my money, would I pay for this?
6. Read the form – and then fill it out – all of it
If a box isn’t completed it begs the question are you avoiding or ignoring or not good at proof reading – either way, a quality application is a complete one.
In the LTIFs, you are asked to identify “Which strategic objective(s) does this project address?”. In many of the proposals this is not addressed, begging the question, does it not align/ do you not know or do you not care?
On the matter of signatures, all grants require sign off by various roles with in the university. Make sure you allow enough time to do this and even better, consult before you ask for a signature.
In the LTIFs, your Head of School is required to support your application. It would be politic as well as good manners to tell them what you are proposing before you ask for a signature that shows their support.
7. Have a ‘critical friend’ read the final proposal
Your team members know what you are talking about but will others? Get someone who is not part of the team to read your application, do they understand it? You need to think about who will be reading and assessing your proposal. This can be particularly challenging when you have people from different disciplines assessing proposals.
These are my insights on writing a successful application. The one thing I haven’t mentioned is the element of luck that goes with any completive endeavour as that is out of our control. But I do wish you good luck with your application and if you need further information:
Or contact the LTIF/OLT grants co-ordinator for your college listed in No.2
Do you have any advice/tips/strategies you would like to share on L&T grant writing?