Funders proliferate mission and vision statements across their communications, which should, in theory, make it easy for grant seekers to strategically align their applications with funders’ expectations. Often, however, mission and vision statements can be too broad to help individual grant seekers determine the goodness of fit for individual projects, resulting in a waste of time and effort.
Web sites can be useful resources if they are kept current, but they, too, are often formal and fairly general, and research highlighted on web sites provides a glance in the rearview mirror—that research was funded years ago, which doesn’t help you necessarily understand what’s winning awards now.
Here at Strategic Grantsmanship, it’s all about efficiency and how to win more grant money in less time. Time unnecessarily spent on the grants treadmill indiscriminately pursuing every opportunity that comes your way and might be a fit for your project keeps you away from what you really want to be doing, whether that’s working in the field or lab, running your business, or running with your dog. So here are six easy online tools I use to efficiently achieve insight into the current wants, needs, and interests of potential funders and accurately gauge if a funding opportunity is worth pursuing.
- Twitter: Follow a prospective funder on Twitter or other social media to receive announcements about new funding opportunities and policies, upcoming webinars, news, etc. Don’t know where to start? Feel free to subscribe to my curated list of Twitter accounts by and about funders and funding opportunities.
- Blogs: Funders’ blogs are a great tool for filling in the gaps found in more formal resources, like web sites. They also operate on a timeline closer to real time, allowing the funder to highlight examples of its current interests and policies. Most major funders, like the Gates Foundation, have blogs.
- Webinars: Funders produce webinars specific to funding opportunities in order to provide potential applicants with specific insight into what they want to see in applications for the opportunity or “how to” information, e.g., how to write a patient engagement plan. They will also provide information regarding technical requirements of the opportunity. If you follow the funder on Twitter, announcements for upcoming webinars will come to you!
- YouTube: Did you miss that essential webinar? Are you new to grants and want a how-to video to help you navigate a process? Then YouTube may be a great way for you to access the information you need, whether you want to delve into the archives or grab the latest how-to video. The Small Business Association (SBA), NIH Grants, PCORI, and Grants.gov channels all provide a great place to start, and you can also explore the list of suggested channels to expand your viewing. If you subscribe to a channel, you will receive notifications when the funder adds new content to the channel, so you will always be current!
- Email subscriptions: Many resources have an option for email subscriptions, so you can receive new blog posts or weekly summaries directly to your inbox. For example, new funding opportunities, policies, and notices are summarized in a weekly email published by NIH (subscribe here), or you can opt to use the NIH RSS feed of funding opportunities (subscribe here).
- Matchmaker: Although specific to the NIH, the Matchmaker function in NIH RePORTER lists similar projects and program officials based on abstracts or other descriptive text you submit. RePORTER has always been my first stop when considering a submission to the NIH because it is the most direct way to determine the uniqueness of a project and the best institute/center for an application based on funded project descriptions. The relatively new Matchmaker function makes that research much quicker and easier.
I configure all of these tools to send information to me—through alerts, emails, or even RSS feeds—and I cull and adjust my lists to keep the stream of information pertinent and to optimize the efficient use of my time. This approach—getting up-to-date information to come directly to you so you can pursue appropriate funding and precisely target your applications to these funding opportunities—will up your grants game and position you to win more grants in less time. Now, what you do with that found time is up to you. I take my dog for a walk.