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In order for your proposal to be successful, you must have a good idea, a solid proposal and a receptive sponsor.

Even the best of proposals will fail if it does not meet the specific guidelines, funding capabilities, or priority interests of the potential sponsor. Thus, taking time to investigate potential sponsors is important to the ultimate success of any proposal.

Sponsor Funding Restrictions

Almost all sponsors have restrictions on how much money they will give, and to whom and where the money is distributed. For example, some sponsors limit their giving to specific regions, states, cities, neighborhoods, or populations. Some only support projects at private institutions; others support public organizations. To determine if you and your project meet the basic funding requirements of the sponsor, read sponsor guidelines carefully and seek clarification if you have any questions regarding the requirements.

Required Experience

Determine if your experience matches the Principal Investigator or Project Director requirements defined by the sponsor. Many sponsors have special programs to encourage first-time investigators or investigators who are entering new field of research. The amount of funding available through these programs is often smaller than the amount available to experienced investigators, so it is important to consider the scope of your project. If you are just beginning to build your career, do not try to win funding for everything you hope to do in the next five years. Think of your first project as the foundation for subsequent projects.

If you do not have enough experience to apply as the Principal Investigator (PI), consider the following options to help build a successful track record:

  • Contact your dean about internal funding opportunities.
  • Check with professional organizations in your field about funding opportunities for new investigators.
  • Team up with a senior investigator in your field.
  • If you are already working with a senior investigator, ask that person to write a letter of support describing your participation in the research or, if appropriate, to allow you to publish an article independently or as senior author.

Project Scope

Most sponsors publish information on recently funded projects. Looking at these projects will give you an indication of the size of projects typically funded and how much money is typically awarded. Determine if the scope of your proposed project matches the funding capabilities of the sponsor. For example, if most of the awards have been in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 for one-year projects, it is unlikely the sponsor will award $150,000 for a three-year project.

Sponsor Priorities

Reviewing recently funded projects will also help you determine if your project goals are in keeping with the sponsor's goals. For example, a sponsor's priorities may include supporting teacher-training programs, but if your project is geared toward high school math teachers and all of the projects funded by the sponsor are for elementary school fine arts teachers, consider looking for a different sponsor.

Faculty Collaboration

If you are interested in potential opportunities to collaborate with other Drake faculty, SPARC can assist you in identifying faculty who share your research interests or have complementary research interests.

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