Proposal development is one of the most challenging parts of the research process. In this section, we’ve assembled some advice, tips, and guidelines for developing a strong proposal. Remember that GPRC Research and Innovation will support your proposal development; make sure to consult with our office early in the application process so your proposal will be as strong as possible. Proposals for external funding may not be submitted without the approval of the Director, Research and Innovation and the Vice-President of Academics and Research.
Before You Apply
Find the right grant. Take the extra time to research funding opportunities and consider whether the scope (duration, dollar amount, etc.) of the opportunity and vision of the funder are a match for what you would like to do. Apply only for the grants that are in alignment with your project goals and objectives. Visit our website for a collection of recent grant funding opportunities.
Make sure you meet eligibility criteria. Most funders establish guidelines around who may receive funding. Check eligibility guidelines thoroughly to make sure you have the right experience and qualifications and that your project meets all necessary criteria before you invest time into developing a proposal.
Establish reasonable timelines. Check the deadline of the funding opportunity. Is there enough time to develop a thoughtful, well-written proposal? Depending on the size and scale of the application, you should give yourself as much time as possible for proposal development. If you need letters of support or intend to ask a colleague to review your application, consider leaving yourself at least 30 days so your letter writers and reviewers will not feel under pressure to rush through the task.
Identify and approach potential partners or collaborators. If you hope to collaborate with industry, community, or your colleagues at GPRC or elsewhere on your project, approach them near the beginning of your proposal development. Gauge their interest and willingness to support your project before you apply for funding, and be open to including them throughout the application process.
General Proposal Writing Tips
Avoid scientific babble or industry jargon. Write for a non-expert audience, using plain English and clear, succinct sentences.
Check and adhere to the funder’s formatting guidelines, or to the ones standard in your discipline in the absence of funder guidelines. Check especially carefully for guidelines relating to page limits, text formatting, and permissible/applicable information.
Be brief and to the point, as space is usually limited on applications. Don’t reduce the size of your font to fit more words in a small space; you will only make it difficult to read for the reviewer.
Use all available resources. Consult the Research and Innovation staff and any colleagues who may have insight (past successful funding applicants, people who have served on review boards for funding agencies, etc.). Ask them to review your application and provide constructive feedback if possible.
Review past successful funding proposals for inspiration.
Keep these key sections in mind as you write:
Methodologies. This is the part that often “makes or breaks” proposals. You will need to propose a strong methodology and be able to explain and justify it. Answer the questions: how does it serve your objectives? Why is it appropriate?
Timelines. Include a comprehensive activity schedule that includes key milestones and expected completion dates for each phase of the research. Make sure your timeline is detailed and realistic.
Research Impact. Be able to identify and explain the key measurable outcomes of your research and articulate the main contributions this research is expected to make to your field of study as well as any potential benefits to community, industry, economy, etc. If you plan to do any knowledge mobilization activities (conferences, publications, etc.), mention them here.
Budget. Make sure your budget is clear, comprehensive, and easy to understand.
- Consider all expenses, direct and indirect, that your project may incur, including support staff, students, publication fees, knowledge mobilization, maintenance and equipment, faculty release, memberships, travel, administrative support, etc.
- Avoid underestimating your expenses; err on the side of overestimation. Include quotes and estimates from vendors where possible.
- Ensure you are able to justify the importance of every item included in your budget.
- Double check funder guidelines, GPRC policies, and the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide to make sure you are not listing any ineligible expenses.
- For expenses related to personnel, refer to GPRC collective agreements for salary and benefit expectations. Don’t forget to consider costs related to relocation or annual pay increases.
- Calculate and include the cost of any in-kind contributions (e.g.: hours worked).
- Include 15% for administrative overhead as required by GPRC policy, unless otherwise specified by the funding agency.
Letters of Support
Some funding opportunities give applicants the opportunity to include letters of support from co-investigators, collaborators, partners, community organizations, and institutions. In letters of support, writers should outline key reasons for their support of the project and acknowledge any financial or in-kind donations they have made or plan to make.
Give your writer plenty of time to complete the letter, be clear about important points you would like included, and provide him/her with a copy of your application and information about the funding opportunity.
Many researchers request letters of support from their institution’s executive team. If you are interested in requesting a letter from the Vice-President of Academics and Research at GPRC, contact the Research and Innovation office with your request at least two weeks in advance of the application deadline. If you submit your request with less than two weeks’ processing time, internal approval is not guaranteed.
Other Grant Writing Resources
Internal Awards: Release Time Stipend
GPRC offers a Release Time Stipend with a value of $12,000 to faculty embarking on long-term research projects that build research capacity at the College. This opportunity offers seed funding and release time to develop a proposal for Tri-Agency (or comparable) external grants. Funds will not be allocated to short-term or discrete projects, and collaborative initiatives will be prioritized. Faculty applying for the Release Time Stipend will receive guidance and support from the Research and Innovation office throughout and beyond their application process.
To apply for the Release Time Stipend, access the form here or contact Research and Innovation for more information.
Internal Award: Student Research Award
GPRC Research and Innovation occasionally offers Student Research Awards grants intended for students to carry out a long-term applied learning project.
Students who receive the Research Award then initiate and execute their own projects. To help the students achieve their targets, GPRC Research and Innovation pairs the award winner with a faculty mentor, an instructor in the student’s field of study who can offer expertise and guidance. If you are interested in acting as a faculty mentor to student researchers, please contact the Research and Innovation office.
One eligible activity for the Student Research Award is acting as a research assistant on a faculty-led initiative. If you are currently engaged in a research project or other scholarly activity and would benefit from student help, contact us to see if we can connect you with an interested student.