There are lots of resources for writing an effective proposal. This is a good place to start and we offer some suggestions for where you can find more.

Trinity College policy requires that all grant proposals be submitted by the Grants Office and undergo an internal review policy prior to submission.  To ensure a timely submission, please send your proposal to the Grants Office 10 business days before the deadline. Internal approvals begin with our electronic transmittal form.

Once you have identified a possible funder – and thoroughly reviewed the funder’s guidelines, it is time to write a first draft of your proposal. Often the best place to start when writing a proposal is the budget, which can serve as a framework for your argument. A good proposal is at its heart good expository writing: it should be an engaging, logical argument to convince a funder that your project is worth funding. Generally, it should written for an intelligent general audience. Even grants to specialized funders may have reviewers who are not experts in your particular field.


Keep in mind

Allow plenty of time to discuss your ideas with colleagues and others outside your discipline before you start to write. These discussions may help refine your argument and methodology and may bring related research to your attention. If possible, complete a first draft with enough spare time to share the text with critical readers.

Every funder will publish guidelines describing what issues or problems they seek to address with a particular grant program. Describe how your work serves the purpose of the grant and where possible, mirror the grant-maker’s language.

Funder guidelines not only describe what they want addressed in a proposal but how they want it presented, often in very specific terms. Usually proposals or responses will be limited to a specific length, whether in pages or, increasingly, character counts. They may request specific section headings. Some even prescribe font sizes and page margin widths. Read guidelines carefully and follow all directions. These may seem trivial, but they are not: some federal funders will not review a proposal, however meritorious, if it does not meet specific practical requirements.

Some funding programs require the submission of a pre-proposal as a means of managing grant competitions with large numbers of applications. If you plan to apply to such a program, you should treat the pre-proposal with the same care that you would a full proposal: the budget should be as accurate as possible and all approvals must be obtained via the internal transmittal form. A letter of intent is also used by some funding agencies to gauge expected submissions; in most cases, the letter is not an instrument in the selection process. Contact the Grants Office if a letter of intent is required.

The first draft you write is just that: a first draft. Be ready to revise and rework it to make it even better. Grants Office is ready to read, but you make sure someone – a trusted colleague or friend – reads your first draft to help you find the weak spots and polish the strong sections.

Errors in grammar and spelling may confuse your argument and they will definitely make a bad impression on busy reviewers.

Check out the Research Policy page for required forms that may apply to your project.

An increasing number of funding agencies, both public and private, require proposals be filed electronically. Online submission can make proposal preparation more streamlined and efficient, but it does not supersede the college’s institutional approval requirements. In other words, even if the technology permits the principal investigator to complete, upload, and send the proposal completely independently, they should not do so until the project has received institutional approval via the internal transmittal form.

Federal funding agencies use several online portals for submitting proposals. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, uses ASSIST and eRA Commons; the National Science Foundation (NSF) uses FastLane and; and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) uses Contact the director of faculty grants for more information about online proposals for your specific project.

Getting an early start on your proposal is especially important for government grants. Faculty members who plan to submit proposals to federal funding agencies should contact the director of faculty grants at least two weeks before the deadline to ensure that the necessary accounts and permissions have been set up. Early online submission allows us to correct any mistakes that pop up. Proposals to federal entities can only be submitted by the director of faculty grants and only upon completion of Trinity’s institutional approval.

Don’t be discouraged if your proposal is not accepted. Preparing grant applications is challenging and time-consuming; it is always a disappointment when the answer is negative. Many grants competitions have very high applicant-to-grant ratios, but success is still possible. Federal funding agencies such as NSF and NIH will provide reviewers’ comments to unsuccessful applicants and often encourage resubmission. Keep looking around: A proposal that is turned down by one funder may be adapted for submission to another.

Record Keeping

The Grants Office maintains a copy of each submitted proposal or application, budget information, completed internal transmittal form and correspondence with the granting agency. When an application is submitted, one copy of the entire proposal should be sent to the director of faculty grants. The comptroller’s office retains the budget following approval. Grant files are maintained for a minimum of seven years in accordance with the College’s record retention policy for financial records, and in no case less than three years from the conclusion of a grant.

It is important to keep the Grants Office up to date on the status and outcome of all grant proposals. This facilitates tracking, identification of checks and award letters, post-award compliance, and informs future applications to the granting organization. Please communicate all decisions to the Grants Office regardless of outcome.


The Grants Office

Mark Hughes 201 B Hamlin Hall
Trinity College
300 Summit Street
Hartford, CT 06106-3100