What You Need to Know about Grants
Every year, tens of billions in U.S. dollars are dispensed in the form of awarded grants. A grant is not free money. Articles out there will claim this to be the case but it isn’t so. A grant is money given to a person or entity for an EXPLICIT PURPOSE; these grants will carry explicit stipulations and compliance requirements. There are grants established for so many laudable purposes, we wouldn’t be able to cover all of them here. This brief synopsis will give you a better idea of what grants are, what their motivations are and more important how to begin the process of writing a grant proposal or request.
First, it’s important to understand where grant money comes from. The usual sources are the government, businesses and charitable/foundation sort of entities. Each carries its own motivation, which is critical to have in mind while you’re writing your proposal or request.
This brief article introduces the two largest shareholders of total grants presented and disbursed: educational grants and research grants. The article ends with suggestions on how to continue and proceed with the reader’s education and research on grants.
In terms of number of grants, educational grants make up the largest share of the worldwide volume of grant disbursements - they likewise present the largest number of grants available to private individuals. It’s because of this dominating share of the grant world that we begin with educational grants.
The 3 sources of grant money are known to disburse educational grants. For governments, almost always, the end aim of a grant is its geography and jurisdiction’s economic health. The government’s likely spotted a sector of the economy that is lagging and needs to temporarily stimulate or prop up that part of society. Like every other practical person and entity, there is a bottom line and economics is typically a government’s and while you write your proposal or request, it’s important to continue to come back to this general context.
For governments, educational grants can mobilize constituents and citizens and reinvigorate parts of cities that were atrophying for whatever reason. Government might issue more of a particular grant that caters to an industry that seems to be offering more promise. For example, if the government wanted to help a natural transition of one city from an and old Industrial Age sort of city to a new city that featured software as its leading industry, then government agencies could start issuing grants to help speed up the transition. For example, DARPA, a U.S. military agency, is a huge grantor of high tech money. Often, cities will encourage its universities and colleges to try to win grants from this agency. Not only will you win grant money but grants from agencies like DARPA make for great bragging rights, they’re prestigious and considered to be awards, like scholarships.
For businesses, one of the toughest recurring problems is stale ideas amongst its ranks. In order to diversify the schools of thought in the company, they’re continually reaching out to the community for new people and consequently, new ideas and a practical way to do this is to issue educational grants. These grants might be written with stipulations that require a requester to work with the company for a number of years after graduation. If the requester is doing PhD work that is of research and development grade, especially in high tech, the company will have strict provisions about confidentiality of any findings or yields from such studies. The bigger business names that you’ll likely have heard of are Intel, Microsoft and Google on the tech side of industry; the oil industry is represented on the roster of educational grants coming out of business, with Shell Oil, ExxonMobil and the like being a couple of the bigger name brands. In order to qualify for these grants, you’ll have to have a strong record of being able to produce results. Comparing educational grants from businesses against those from government entities, businesses will require more in terms of a track record, recommendations; their scrutiny of your overall application package will be a lot more focused on: can this person produce well for our company, as corporate sponsored scholar. Governments don’t necessarily have these yields in mind.
Charities rarely have yields of this kind in mind. Typically, charities and other foundation sort of entities will want its requester to keep a particular grade point average. Academic success alone is the usual aim that charities and foundations have with their educational grants. What they’re after, usually, is promotion of a particular class of people through educational accomplishments. This might be a people with a share affinity by a foundation of a particular cultural leaning. For example, the Bill Gates Foundation has carved out a whole division in its US$45 billion foundation for education alone. At the 2008 TED conference, Bill Gates presented his talk on teaching and advertised new grants that his foundation initiated that year aimed to disburse monies to teachers that fit a particular criteria. Since charities like the Gates Foundation tend subsist on endowments, their interest isn’t in a yield of a kind that will return or produce capital for the charity or foundation. Instead, the awardees of educational grants from charities focused on academic success, solely and purely. When soliciting for a grant from a charity, you’ll want to appeal to that charity’s social causes. You’ll want to know the foundation well enough to appeal to its philosophies and goals in your grant proposal or request package. Often, you’ll need to demonstrate a personal connection or alignment with the charitable entity’s goals.
Research grants types:
• Biomedical and health sciences
• Information technology
• Physics and cosmology
• Aerospace and aviation
In terms of cash values, research grants make up more than 90% of the grant disbursements worldwide. Much of the larger grants as well as much of the volume/number of grants are issued by government entities. The medical sciences and military sciences (mostly technology) are often either number 1 or 2 fields in terms of total disbursements. The competition for grant monies in these areas is super competitive. For cancer research, just as an example, a grant could be in the tens to hundreds of millions in U.S. dollars; though on the government side, agencies such as the NIH, the National Institutes of Health issues the most grant money in the United States, often appropriate and pledge grant monies is in the hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars. Huge research firms subsist almost entirely on grants from the NIH. Such grants are awarded to entities that show promise for forging progress forward toward such pressing and urgent causes as a cure for cancer or a vaccine for the AIDS virus. Grant stipulations come under extremely high scrutiny, not just by the government agency that awards the grant but from politicians organized tax payers and other civilian entities. The grant might be so large as to warrant a hearing at the Senate regarding progress on the work. Typically, these grants are engineered by large research staffs. Research grant proposals require, not necessarily investigator class summaries or abstracts but, executive class summaries of, particularly, where the funds will be used and how. Typical of research grants are timely requirements, i.e. an expiration of access to a particular sum. This oft employed mechanism within research grants is a controversial piece to the bureaucracy that is entangled in the grant writing dimension to research. The problem is the interest is in to exhaust the capital while the research firm or team has access to it. For example, a research team might purchase unneeded equipment that could then be liquidated at a later point, when grants are particularly hard to win, such as in a bad economy or be used for a different project completely unrelated to the grant. This occurs with government grant money, as the availability of these funds depends on the political climate of that government’s fiscal year.
Grants are an extremely critical piece to businesses in science centric industries, such as the medical sciences. Pfizer for example has a portal dedicated to grants (grants and lobbying, actually). Genentech and a whole host of other bioscience corporations have these portals set up as well. Intel, as mentioned and Microsoft are examples in the IT industry that also have grant portals that proposers seeking grant monies in this field should visit. In the defense and military sciences, Boeing and Northrop Grumman are examples in that industry. Like educational grants, research grants will tie the awardees to the company for a time. What often happens is, research takes place at the University level as an almost completely academic and scientific pursuit, almost because, a corporation might be, for example, sponsoring the facility or equipment; the arm or division of the university might be endowed by a corporate donation or corporate shares of a particular class of stock. And then as soon as a research project begins to show commercial promise, the team and its products are granted funds to finish or continue research as an unofficial shoe in to buying up the research. Such grants, especially in IT (especially at tech centric universities such as Stanford in Palo Alto, California) are under extremely strict legal agreements. Confidentiality terms are very explicit with these grants. At Stanford University, for its computer science researchers, there’s an entire building and department dedicated to legal matters that help guide research through this grant process, even a patent office there, as the timing of patents is critical in this industry. What businesses are after with such grants is quite self-evident: they’re after commercial product, which begins with the ownership of the research. Why universities like Stanford opened up a law office to help research teams through these processes is: countless computer technologies based on research at less equipped universities never make it to market due to the researchers getting entangled in messy legal predicaments, because, for example, the team was awarded or subsisted on grants that violated each other’s agreements. Consequently, the ownership of such technologies is disputed in the courts, before the technology’s even allowed to mature through further research. If for whatever reason your university does not have the wherewithal to support your research at this legal level, you should consider trying to pursue your research aims at another university.
Charities will also grant monies to researchers. Unlike governments and businesses, though, charities will rarely carry such high stipulations or demands for yields. Instead, charitable entities will often issue a so called passive grant, where the monies are used to aid the progress toward the achievement of a particular social aim: such as a cure for cancer through further research. The proposal process is still a critical process here; it just isn’t as technically involved as a grant from government agencies. Subsequently, these grants are a good deal smaller, in terms of cash values. Charitable entities account for less than 1% of total research grant disbursements. Even the exceptionally endowed Gates Foundation does not award as many grants a single division of the NIH (medical and health research) or DARPA (military research).
Your research into winning grants and writing grants has just begun. The absolute best resource to start with is Grants.gov. Grants.gov is a government agency which was established out of the E-Grants Initiative of 2002. This is the ultimate grants portal. Here, applicants can create centralized profiles and grantors can create profiles and be matched by the government agency’s system. The portal features a blog that’s updated throughout the day with events and developments related to grants in the United States. The portal is extremely efficient and succinct, as well as easy to follow. But there are a few stipulations that should be noted:
• Grantors and applicants must be based in the United States, as the sponsored activity will need to take place domestically
• The site does feature and match private sector grantors with applicants but most of the approved grant programs are of governmental origin