Prospecting a [GRANT] in Five Steps

By Kelly Finzer

With new years come new classes, new assignments, and – most importantly – new opportunities.  The year 2012 ended on a high note at the National Forum, including bringing home a few new grants to continue our Access and Community Engagement work.  While our teams are excited to focus on the work associated with these new projects, I am starting to think about what comes next and which grants will best support our upcoming initiatives.

Prospecting grants is both a fun and challenging process.  While I am still perfecting my strategy, here is what I have learned so far:

1)    Gather information – I try to start my research by talking to my team members about topics that interest them.  From their interests, I can gather a better sense of what type of grant to search for and the dollar value to try to find.

2)    Research with a search site like or PIVOT – is a government site (as the name suggests) that allows you to search all types of government grants in one place.  Through, you can search National Science Foundation grants, National Institutes of Health grants, and many state and regional grants.  It’s a one-stop shop that can make your life much easier.  PIVOT allows you to search for grants applicable to a specific topic or from a particular foundation.  It also has a tracking feature that will save your list of topics and foundations to watch, and sends emails whenever PIVOT’s records for that grant or foundation are updated.  While PIVOT is a subscription service, U-M students receive free access.

3)    Analyze available information and collect details – Once I have found a grant that seems to fit my team’s goals, I read the current funding agenda of the organization along with past projects that it has funded.  Looking at past projects can be a useful way to determine what type of research the organization likes to fund.  For example, some organizations are more interested in funding surveys while others want to fund interviews.  Finally, I check the list of board members and staffers of the organization to see if the National Forum has any connections to anyone working for the organization.

4)    Note where your team’s interests connect with available opportunities – At this point in the prospecting process, I look for matches between my team’s interests and the organization’s current funding priorities.  The more matches that I can find, the better proposal my team will be able to write.  If our work does not connect with a potential funder’s current funding agenda, I rule out that funder.

5)    Touch base with old friends – By this I mean that we try to reach out to a peer who has worked with the organization in the past to share ideas for prospective funding.  Their coaching can help us make contact with the potential funder or provide tips to strengthen our proposal.

These are just a few tips to get you started, but with practice, anyone can become a successful grant prospector!



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