Pen on Black Notebook on DeskBefore you begin writing your application, it is important to keep in mind that it is often the very basic application instructions that lead to failure. It is often all too easy to forget our elementary school teacher’s motto: “Read the instructions first!” In preparation for writing your proposal, you should obtain the most recent version of the application guide for your funding agency. This will contain generic instructions for all of the agency’s programs. If you are applying to a specific announcement, there may be specific instructions in the announcement that may deviate from the application guide.

  • Announcements and Requests for Applications are published in many places, be sure to download the request or call for applications as it will contain important instructions.
    • The NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts
    • The Federal Register
    • gov at “Find Grant Opportunities”
    • Websites of the Individual Awarding Components (NIH Institutes)
  • Download the Application Guide and Check the Funding Announcement for Instructions. Most funding agencies have a generic application guide that will contain instructions for all of their funding announcements, in addition to specific instructions for individual sub-agencies or specific RFPs guide, such as the SF424 Guide.
  • Register with eRA Commons. Please contact your Research Adminsitrator to create your eRA Commons account. Most NIH funding opportunities require electronic submission and you must register with grants.gov and designate a Signing Official. All Principal investigators and ProgramDirectors need to register individually. Become familiar with the eRA Commons website prior to submission, if you will need to use this mechanism in your final submission.
  • Available Resources to help with examples. There are countless resources available to help you through the application process. The NIH has a website for New Investigator Resources which contains a lot of helpful examples and explanations. Check out these websites if you get stuck:
  • Stop and Consider: While examples are wonderful tools, use them only to get a sense of the requirements and what the agency is looking for, do not use them word for word in your application.
  • A Word on Page Requirements: All too often, many writers become frustrated with the page requirements on grant applications. If you, like so many, find yourself struggling with meeting the word limitations, take note of those places in the application where there are no page limitations.
    • You may be surprised. On most applications, there are no page limitations on the budget justification. I know this is the least loved section; however, as a writer you need to make the most of what you are allowed.
    • If the Budgetjustification has no page limit and this is one of the only documents that does not have a page restriction, USE IT! Put everything that you can in this document to make the case for your entire proposal.