• Grants Office
  • Applying for Grants: Step by Step

    Step 1

    It Begins with a Good Idea

    While all the others steps are important, the first step remains the key: having an innovative idea that fuels the enthusiasm and persistence of the grants writer.

    Your idea might require a grant to fund a new training program, a new academic program, improved services for students, academic research, or equipment - in short, anything you would like to work on as a faculty or staff member.

    Early on, it is good to ask yourself the following questions:

    1. What kind of program would you like to fund? What kind of research are you looking to do? For how long?
    2. What do you need to run the program or do your research (e.g., personnel, release-time, equipment, stipends, travel)?
    3. What do you estimate the annual budget will be?
    4. In the case of a new program, how many students or clients will you serve (directly or indirectly)? How will they benefit?
    5. What is new, unique, or innovative about your idea?


     Step 2
    Funding Opportunities

    You need to identify one or more potential funding sources. The Grants Development Office can help. All CUNY employees have access to a comprehensive and searchable database of funding opportunities at http://www.cos.com. Elsewhere on this website one can find online sites that identify general funding sources, government funding sources, and sources organized by topic areas (e.g., the arts, computers and technology, the environment). Many ideas are generated in response to an RFP (Request for Proposals) that a funding source puts out.


     Step 3
    The Grants Office

    You should think of the Grants Development Office at LaGuardia Community College as a one-stop service organization for implementing your funding ideas and maintaining contacts with external sponsors.

    Since every grant commits the College - and not just the principal investigator or projector director - to programmatic, financial, legal and ethical obligations, you will need to contact the Grants Office very early on as you prepare to seek funding. It is the College's policy that all grant applications secure:

    1. Preliminary approval by the Executive Council and the College President at an early stage by means of a Letter of Intent. A fillable form for a Letter of Intent can be downloaded from the Grants Office website. It is an easy form to complete.
    2. Approval for its budget and narrative by the Grants Development Office before submission
    3. Final approval from the President, whose signature is normally required by the funding agency.

    With some planning, these requirements should not be cumbersome. Our intention is to work collaboratively with you so that your proposal can be as strong as possible.


     Step 4
    Forms & Deadlines

    Funding agencies normally provide application forms and guidelines. If you are unsure whether you have the most up-to-date information, call the Grants Office for assistance.

    Read the guidelines very carefully and more than once. Make sure you understand:

    1. The Deadline. Does the deadline say “postmarked by” or “received by”?
    2. The Manner of Submission. Can you send a hard copy through the mail, or is an “electronic submission” required?
    3. The Page Limits and Formatting Requirements. Are appendices permitted and, if so, do they count against the page limit? Must the proposal be single-spaced or double-spaced? Are margins and fonts specified? How many copies must be submitted?
    4. The Required Elements. Must one include a budget narrative, an evaluation plan, an abstract, a bibliography, resumes of key personnel, a timeline, an organizational chart, or a plan for dissemination? Often, there are various certifications (e.g., non-profit status, lobbying disclaimer) and special pieces of information (e.g., DUNS number, Federal ID, congressional district, results of previous audit reports, enrollment data) that are required. The Grants Development Office is the source for these kinds of certifications and special information; much of this information can be found on the Grants Office web site.
    5. Requirements Regarding the Use of Human Subjects or Animal Subjects. It is the responsibility of the grant writer to contact the College IRB (Institutional Review Board) and seek the necessary approval. Most grants allow the IRB process to take place after the grant has been submitted; one should follow the RFP instructions. A link to the IRB Manual can be found on the Grants Development Office website.

     Two things need to be accomplished early on:

    a. On the website, locate the fillable form for a “Letter of Intent.” Fill it out online and print it out, get the signature of your Vice President, and submit it to the Grants Development Office. After the Grants Office reviews it, the Letter of Intent goes to the Executive Council of the College for their approval. The Executive Council generally meets every two weeks during the year. Occasionally, the Executive Council does not approve a Letter of Intent. Generally, disapproval is the result of one of the following problems:

    1. the proposal advocates providing a service or a program that is considered outside the mission of the College;
    2. the proposal seeks to use space that is not available;
    3. the proposal requires a commitment of matching funds or staff time that is not available;
    4. there is a competing proposal for the same grant or directed toward the same funding agency.


     b. When a proposal requires active collaboration with another entity – either another college, another faculty researcher, or a community-based organization – one should begin the process of approaching possible partners as early as possible. The ideas must be discussed, financial arrangements worked out, and expectations clarified long before a letter of support or commitment is due.


     Step 5
    Grant Writing

    Once you have received approval for the Letter of Intent, it is time to write your full proposal. The most important guideline is: follow the instructions of the funding agency. If the funding agency wants goals and objectives, write some. If the objectives need to be quantifiable and measurable, provide them in that form. Generally, the funding agency wants a discussion of the need for the project, a listing of goals and objectives, a description of activities (or “plan of action”), and a plan for evaluation (i.e., measuring the outcomes). But each RFP is different. The funding agency has a reason for making funds available. Make sure your proposal speaks to the needs and priorities of the funding agency. Your language should be precise, economical, cogent, and grammatical.

    Experienced grants writers know to:

    1. proofread and have someone else proofread;
    2. discuss your basic idea and any major questions with a program officer of the funding agency (if permitted);
    3. review successful proposals from previous years (often, the Grants Office can secure copies);
    4. consult websites that offer tips on successful grants writing, particularly if you are a novice;
    5. begin early and finish early so there is time for the proofreading and final steps.


    Step 6

    Work on your budget. It is wise to discuss a number of important budget issues with Grants Office staff as early as possible:

    1. Matching Requirements. Some grants require or encourage the commitment of matching funds from either the College or a collaborating partner. The Grants Office has experience in developing both cash and in-kind matches.
    2. Indirect Costs. In some grants, the indirect cost is referred to as “Facilities and Administration,” or F & A. Different grants permit differing amounts of “indirect” to be charged against the grant to cover the College’s overhead costs; the understanding of what types of costs are included as indirect also changes from grant to grant.
    3. Recovery. Irrespective of what level of indirect cost is allowable, the College has expectations about College costs that must be “recovered” by a grant proposal.
    4. Standard Costs. The Grants Office can guide grants writers in correctly budgeting items that have an agreed-upon cost throughout CUNY (e.g., mileage, per diem, faculty release-time, fringe benefits).

    Because of these intricacies, all grant proposal budgets must be reviewed by the Grants Office before a grant can be submitted.


     Step 7
    Finalizing and Submitting the Proposal

    Your goal should be to provide a final copy to the Grants Office a full week before the deadline. The Grants Office may suggest some changes to strengthen the proposal. The Grants Office will approve the budget and secure the President’s signature. Should you wish, the Grants Development Office can also make the necessary copies and submit the proposal to the funding agency via mail, fax, FedEx, or electronic submission.

    Step 8

    The Grants Office will receive notification if the proposal has been successful and a grant has been awarded. Sometimes the funding agency comes back with questions or seeks changes before a grant is awarded.

    If a grant is awarded, the Grants Office will assist the P.I. (Principal Investigator) with post-grant administration – how to access grant funds and track spending, how to hire personnel, how to purchase equipment. Grants are administered either through the CUNY Research Foundation (generally for government grants) or The LaGuardia Community College Foundation (generally for non-governmental grants when there are no full-time employees requiring fringe benefits).

    If the grant is unsuccessful, the Grants Office will help the grants writer understand why. Normally, reviewers’ comments are available. Often, unsuccessful grants are resubmitted after making changes suggested by the reviewers or become the basis for new submissions to different funding agencies. Good ideas are never wasted.

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