INSIDE Chico State
0 April 26, 2001
Volume 31 Number 15
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




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Sponsored Programs

You, Too, Can Get Federal Funding

What is the key to receiving federal funding for a research or education project? On February 25 at a new-faculty workshop, Lisa Churchill (Physical Education), Kristina Schierenbeck (Biological Sciences), and Gordon Wolfe (Biological Sciences) answered that question: Write a good proposal! While each presenter articulated insights about how to do that, all agreed that it is important to do the following:

  • Carefully read the Request for Proposal (RFP) before and during the writing process and follow the directions explicitly. Reviewers look for anything that reduces the number of proposals they have to read, and technical errors provide them the opportunity to toss the proposal.
  • Contact the funding agency's program director to discuss whether your proposal concept fits the program's mission. If it doesn't, ask if there is another program at the agency your concept might fit.
  • While the science in the proposal must be excellent, how the proposal is written is crucial. Divide the proposal into clear and consistently headed sections that reflect the structure of the RFP; include specific details and examples; and make sure the pertinent information is in the text, not the appendix.
  • Write with confidence and enthusiasm. Show how it will provide excellent experiences for students, solve a critical problem, or develop a model program.
  • Don't be intimidated by big research institutions. Instead, emphasize the strengths of CSU, Chico: its strong commitment to undergraduate education and student inclusion in research projects, its reputation for distance education, and its excellent resource centers.
  • Check out agency programs specifically targeted at undergraduate institutions, such as the National Science Foundation's "Research at Undergraduate Institutions" and "Research Experiences for Undergraduates."
  • Make sure the budget reflects the work you intend to do. Asking for too little can be as problematic as asking for too much, so it is important that the budget be carefully developed to include everything you'll need to complete the project, without exceeding the amount allowed.
  • Become a proposal reviewer. This is one of the best ways to get to know the funding agency and for them to get to know you. Usually agencies require you to have obtained funding from them before you are invited to review proposals, but it doesn't hurt to let them know you're interested regardless.
  • Be persistent. It often takes several submissions to get a project funded, but careful revision in light of reviewers' comments nearly always pay off.

The presenters' enthusiasm, along with their track records for obtaining federal funding for their research and educational projects, was inspirational. While they didn't say the proposal process was easy, they made it clear that proposals from CSU, Chico can be competitive at the federal level.

If you're interested in submitting a proposal to a federal agency (or to any agency), contact your development specialist in the Office of Sponsored Programs. We can help you get started.

Diane M. Johnson, Sponsored Programs

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