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Applying for a Grant? – Don’t Overlook the “Guidelines Resources!”

May 28, 2013 | By Joel Wurl

We know that many applicants are busy right now preparing applications for the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) program or are looking ahead to other NEH grant opportunities.  Savvy grant writers adhere well to the dictum to “read the guidelines.”  What often gets passed over; however, are the other kinds of supplementary resources provided on the “splash page” for our programs.  We’d like to take this opportunity to highlight those and encourage applicants to pay equal attention to them.

Here are links and descriptors for several of the items associated with HCRR:

  • Frequently Asked Questions.  Over the years, our staff fields a multitude of questions that are broadly applicable to most any grant seeker.  We’ve assembled many of these and have provided concise responses.  For HCRR, these range from the fundamental “What are the Humanities?” to logistical matters such as “Who Will Read My Application?” and including strategic issues such as “How important is it for my project to involve collaboration between institutions?” or “Whom should I ask to provide letters of support?”  The FAQs also offer suggestions and links to information on standards and best practices for activities supported by HCRR.  And this year, we’ve added significant new information on the HCRR Foundations funding opportunity, introduced in 2012. 
  • List of Recently Funded Grants in this Program.  Much can be learned about a funding program by studying its past awards.  NEH provides updated information on the most recent grants for each of its programs, including brief abstracts of project activities.  Do bear in mind that our awards reflect the application pool we receive and, especially, that portion deemed by peer reviewers to be outstanding; they should not be read as an indicator of “what NEH wants.”
  • Budget Information and Instructions.  As a grant deadline draws near, so does the volume of questions we receive about preparing the project budget.  This resource will alleviate much of the uncertainty and concern about this part of the application, though some specific points still seem unclear.  If so, call or email us – we’ll always do our best to help.  And remember, too:  like the rest of your application, a budget is a projection, not a covenant; don’t let this part of the process bog you down.
  • Sample Application Narratives.  We can’t stress enough the importance of observing how other successful proposals have been written.  They provide an open window into the extent of information required and the approaches successful applicants take in “making the case” for their projects.  There are currently 11 samples available for HCRR, representing a range of humanities content areas, institution types, and project activities.  Among them this year are two HCRR Foundations proposals, from the Barnum Museum and the University of Florida Libraries.

You’ll find the samples, along with the rest of the resources, on the right-side column of the program splash page.  Other links include several that outline the necessary steps for submitting your proposal via Grants.gov system.  It’s important to review these well ahead of deadline time, particularly if your institution has not yet registered to apply through Grants.gov and/or does not yet have a “data universal numbering system” (DUNS) number.  The grant writing process can, no doubt, seem daunting, but taking the time to understand and use the various sources of assistance noted here can take much of the mystery away and prove enormously beneficial.