The only grant writing course that puts the fun back in funding.
What: The Grant Foundry Summer 8-Week Workshop
When: June 1st, 2022 - July 22nd, 2022
Where: Fully online featuring a membership site and weekly interactive calls
Most people think of funding in terms of absolutes; either you have enough or you don’t have enough — and if you don’t have enough, you need to write more proposals to get more. That’s that.
It’s at 7,000 meters? Great, all good! 100 meters above ground? Get more altitude!
If only life liked to appease us with that kind of simplicity…
In the case of airplanes, the 100-meters-above-ground-airplane may be just taking off and climbing nicely, whereas the 7,000 meter airplane could have just lost its tail rudder control and be headed toward the ground at 1,000 meters-per-minute.
Is it more important to measure success in terms of “how much you’ve got?” OR is it better to measure according to what kind of momentum you’re generating at the moment?
When I was but a wee tike junior faculty member who’d just started out at UNC Chapel Hill, this momentum question would have been a good one for me to stop and consider.
Of course, I was too busy writing rejected grant proposals to do that stopping-and-considering bit. I was thinking in absolutes: they require me to have funding for tenure, and besides, I have staff to support, so I have to apply early and apply often.
Need more funding? Make more (many more) submissions. Problem solved!
Okay, so let’s do the thinking that “little tike” me didn’t take the time to do. Let’s use the airplane at 7,000 meters as an example, before it started taking a nosedive. Let’s say our goal was to get to 10,000 meters, i.e. “get more altitude”. Very similar in concept to “get more funding,” that is.
One solution might be to press a bunch of buttons, and pull various levers, in the hopes that one of them might just do the trick. The semi-random pushing, turning, and pulling of airplane controls is very likely to yield something quite different.
And that, dear friend, is how we end up with an airplane (or grant-getting work) that has woefully negative momentum, aka “the ground is coming up fast to crash into us! Quick, duck!”
The airplane requires a very precise set of levers pulled and buttons pushed, in a frustratingly persnickety order, to achieve the goal of gaining an additional 3,000m.
Here’s the thing I know now that I didn’t know then: writing a great proposal is just-as-persnickety in terms of “turning the right dials” and “pushing the right buttons” as is getting an airplane to fly in the right direction.
Sometimes, it’s thinking that one-is-an-expert-when-one-is-not that generates the most disastrous negative momentum. That was certainly true for me…
Back to our airplane example, let’s say you’ve flown a Cessna single-engine plane once before. Your brother in law had given you temporary control in flight, to see how badly you’d embarrass yourself before he took back over. You actually did okay, and managed to keep the airplane at altitude, flying steadily for a few minutes. Woohoo. Confidence! I can do this! I can fly a plane!
Years later, you have the chance to sit at the controls of a jetliner that’s parked on the ground. Would you be tempted to start pushing buttons in the hopes you’d find the right ones to make it go? Remembering that landing is always more difficult than take off, most of us would say “no.”
Oh yeah, right. I did that (and we do that) because the perceived danger isn’t there. With an airplane, the danger is obvious, as in “my lack of experience and understanding of how to actually fly an airplane means I could fall quickly to my death!” That obvious and fatal threat gives us the foresight to evaluate what we do not know. Maybe that is why most people “feel” that flying is more dangerous than driving, even when the opposite is borne out by the data.
Whereas, the danger of negative-momentum-generating bouts of grant submission and rejection is not as obvious – at least not until retrospect has sunk in as one considers their own wasteland of rejected proposals. The lack of experience with and understanding of successful proposals is realized only as an afterthought as we reach for the fourth-in-a-row whiskey sour to dull the pain of it all.
Only then, once momentum is carrying you directly towards a crash, is it that the mistakes of overconfidence and under-understanding become clear. Or at least that is what happened for me.
In my case, it was six major grants submitted and less than two years into my faculty job, when I’d just received my first “triage”. Actually, the NIH has a nice euphemism for this, which is “not discussed,” or ND. ND doesn’t sound nearly as bad as “triaged.” Wordplay aside, it means that during the preliminary at-home-reviewing stage, reviewers were unable to find enough worthiness in the proposal to want it to be discussed during the review meeting. Not. A. Single. Reviewer. Found. Value.
It’s bad. It means you’re not even playing in the “possible” zone, more like the “mission impossible” zone, only you don’t have swarthy actors with initials like T.C. to pull off some last-minute miracle with a disguise to turn impossible to possible. No, in real life, it is just a big slap-in-the-face of “forget it, you’re not even on the playing field. Stay in the stands as a spectator, where you belong!”
Okay, I’ll be honest, that’s not what funders like NIH intend. They probably didn’t set out with verve to crush our grant-seeking-spirits. Yet that’s the effect it often has, especially when rejection after rejection accrue, topped off with a nice cherry of a Not Discussed result. That was me.
Momentum. That’s the thing about six rejections in-a-row. It’s like, early in my career, I’d been teased with an easy (lucky) success, so I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought I knew which levers to pull, and which knobs to turn, to repeat that success. It was a curse of false expertise. Plus, I’d started my faculty job from an already high altitude (or attitude), meaning that I had more room to generate negative momentum, and that I surely did.
I realized that without “pulling up” I was going to hit the ground, and hard. For me that would mean laying off staff, and losing any scientific momentum we’d had. That would have snowballed into a negative tenure evaluation, and me looking for a job as a snowcone server or something similarly suited for how insecure I was about my own capabilities at that low time.
I had negative psychological momentum.
I had negative morale momentum.
I had negative confidence momentum.
I had negative momentum in terms of reviewer perceptions of my work. My scores had gotten worse, not better, despite me doing some fairly major “button pushing and lever pulling,” i.e. increasingly major (and desperate) rewrites of rejected proposals, that only garnered worsened scores.
Maybe you’ve experienced some of that momentum, but I sincerely hope you haven’t gone through that. It may be a “first world problem” but as far as first world problems go, it’s pretty high on the misery index. If you haven’t experienced it, I am pleased that you are here, thinking about this, to avoid going down that path.
During my phase of increasingly negative momentum, I tried attending several grant workshops. I also sought out input from experienced colleagues on what was going wrong.
I thought I would unlock “the one piece of magic knowledge that would make it all come together.” That’s the curse of false expertise - you don’t even know what you don’t know, and I surely didn’t know that mastering this involved far more than a “magical piece of knowledge” that would quickly transform my efforts from stinking to smelling like roses.
Sadly for me, I never found that one-piece-of-magic to transform my grants.
In retrospect, it’s obvious why. Let’s use the airplane again to illustrate, with one simple question: “In order to climb safely by 3,000m, are the lever-pulls and button presses identical between a cold and foggy day with still winds, versus a warm and sunny day with 100 knot tailwinds?”
That’s why learning to fly even the small engine planes requires 100’s of hours in the cockpit before licensing. If the conditions were always identical, it would be far easier to master. But they’re not…
And that’s true of grants as well. Only in my rush to “get more funding,” I was treating it like a one-size-fits all thing. “Once I get the right knowledge in my brain, I will hit the jackpot.” That’s like playing the slots and thinking “once I have the right slot machine, I’ll make an easy jackpot.”
In grants, what reviewers and funders want – and how those wants intersect with the work we’re proposing to do - are analogous to the shifting weather conditions that must be faced in flight. There is no “one magic formula” because the “conditions” change from proposal to proposal, from study section to study section.
The only answer is the same answer it always is for any complex skill that any human has ever wanted or needed to develop, throughout history:
Any complex skill that involves “changing conditions” can only be developed with practice. Practice with mentoring is usually far more effective than practice without, as the latter can involve going-round-in-circles and guessing what “should” work, with frustratingly long cycles of feedback from live reviewers. It’s sort of like the early days of cruise control on a car, where slow feedback hysteresis would cause oscillation between over-and-under correction for the target speed.
And that’s what ultimately turned my momentum around, saving me from the crash-and-burn. The key thing I realized was this:
I had to stop seeking the “magic piece of knowledge,” and instead buckle down and learn through practice how to write an effective proposal that works given the specific conditions present.
I sought out a mentor whom I’d avoided before. I knew he’d be a “hard-ass” and make me do the work, and before that I had figured I didn’t need to do the work. It’s amazing what a series of six major rejections will do. It forced me to face that I wasn’t quite “awesomesauce” at this, and that I had to buckle down with some hard work.
I’ve seen clients go through the same thing…
Once I finally got serious about the idea that I’d have to do some actual work to change up the results of my grants, things started changing. Miraculous, huh?
I got the next NIH R01 funded on the first try, and the one after that, and the one after that…. four in-a-row R01’s over the next seven years, without any rejections.
Sometimes I think when I tell this story of mine, some readers may think I’ve been smoking from the “alternative truths” pipe. Fortunately, my track record from when I turned things around in 2004 is still there for all to see on the NIH Reporter website. No alternative truth here - just one key shift in momentum that I made that changed everything:
The shift started with a realization that if I didn’t get serious about developing these skills more deeply - and if I kept blaming it all on “bad reviewers” - my career was going down in flames.
It’s amazing how different it feels to make a shift in momentum, even before the results start showing up. That first proposal I worked on after deciding to change my approach was so much more satisfying to write than previous ones had been. I started much earlier, and I got clarity on my specific aims page well before writing the rest. Previous attempts had been exercises in going-round-in-circles, and this time it was like someone had opened the door after a long winter to let in the fresh spring air. Once I’d nailed the specific aims, the rest of the proposal felt like it almost wrote itself.
I saw colleagues going through the same issues - trying to find the “magic formula” that would make their grant writing woes go away, and/or just trying to submit more proposals as to increase their “lottery odds.” But as in the airplane analogy, pressing more buttons doesn’t often mean a safer flight.
I especially remember more than once hearing a colleague say “let this submission just not be triaged, at least I’ll know I’m taken seriously!” I would think to myself “huh… the one triage I had (ever) was my low point, and I don’t plan on ever going back there again… I wonder why they have such a low bar for themselves?”
The whole impetus for Grant Foundry was the underlying idea of practice and skills development, as opposed to the “magic formula,” or worse, winning the lottery.
A career plan should have some kind of replicability built in. That means practice, work, and feedback.
I created the Grant Foundry exactly for researchers who are like I was, back when I was so angry at the reviewers for rejection after rejection.
I created Grant Foundry as the antidote to the kind of self-loathing and hidden feelings of shame that came up with being so bad at raising funding.
It may sound crazy to think that grant writing could ever be fun. Most of us don’t get into research so that we can get great at grant writing and fundraising. Yet the process of writing a great proposal can be surprisingly satisfying. That’s true especially when it helps strengthen and clarify the research we’re doing. A great writing process is a great clarifying process, and that’s exactly what we work on with you in Grant Foundry.
Morgan Giddings, PhD
Grant Foundry Creator
This involves identifying why your work is important to the field, and how it provides a unique (and innovative) solution to problems your colleagues and reviewers care about. Many writers do not go deep enough into this step to form a solid foundation for the subsequent writing work and a lack of clarity at this step can kill a proposal quickly. We're not genies in a bottle but we will show you how to do this with a higher degree of efficacy.
i.e. your mindset. Effective grant writing requires a precise blend of confidence (without overconfidence), clarity (without seeming over simplistic), and innovation (without being too far ahead for the field). Finding the necessary balance between these is often interfered with by mindset issues ranging from "imposter syndrome" to procrastination to working too hard for effective clarity, and more. We introduce you to several core concepts of how to have an improved grant writing mindset - one that produces better results and gives your poor nervous system a break from all the stress.
Learn how to write your research in a clear and concise way that is more likely to produce the positive reviewer response you desire, and less likely to trigger responses leading to rejection. This relies on a combination of the first two foundations, along with learning the skill set of constructing a nuanced and convincing "Grant Story". This is not about just learning how to "write well" from a traditional English class perspective. In fact, many standard writing classes teach the opposite of what is most important to do here, so sometimes "unlearning" bad habits is as important as learning new ones.
Struggling with grant writing is common within the research community due to lack of training and support. Most researchers approach proposal submissions like a lottery, writing as many grant proposals as they can to "increase the odds" of funding.
To truly increase your chances at funding, we challenge you to become a master at writing proposals. The Grant Foundry provides clear first steps to building mastery momentum with easy to learn framework, support and mentorship through coaches and peers, and a comprehensive introduction to the psychology of grant writing (and funding).
You don't have to "play the grant game" or continue the struggle to balance funding efforts with ongoing obligations and expectations. It's your career, empower yourself in it.
Digestible chunks of content walk you through the key foundations to help you master the deeper frameworks of writing a more powerful proposal.
Implement each new concept by applying it to your own proposal and generate clarity with each skill as you iterate and gain momentum.
Join the live calls to review the lesson content and exercises. You'll have the opportunity to ask questions and get feedback from our expert coaches.
Collaborative group access 24/7 featuring forums and chat threads to give and receive peer feedback and support.
For the most rapid progress and intensive experience, we offer an add-on, personal coaching package. Work directly with our coaches and the small group of highly committed researchers who join this program to get specialized and deeper feedback on your proposal. Integrate the concepts and framework of the Grant Foundry quickly and get "out of your own head" to see how you are doing.. Our trained coaches can help you: gain clarity on scientific premise, organize your message, and practice the power of persuasive writing.
Grant Foundry Coaching packages are optional and limited and require an application with a discovery call to secure your spot. If you are interested in exploring what individual coaching can do for you, we'll send you all the details in your welcome email after enrollment. Or email us directly at [email protected]
Dr. Morgan Giddings collaboratively brought in over $23M in grant funding during her tenure as an Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill, where she built her lab to over 16 people and secured $1M/year in funding.
After watching colleagues and other researchers experience the same struggle to secure sustainable funding, she created a businesses training faculty on successful and consistent grant writing.
Now she fights the curmudgeons of academia with a commitment to re-inspire researchers, helping them find fulfillment and ease in their careers through grant writing mastery courses, career management mentorships, and communities of researchers ready to challenge the status quo.
Meredith Betterton is a physics research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her current projects focus on the physics of cell division and related biophysics.
Throughout her career Meredith has secured ongoing NIH funding (RO1 and K25), the NSF CAREER Award, and multiple fellowship and faculty development awards.
As a Grant Foundry coach, she helps clients gain clarity over their scientific premise by crafting persuasive messaging tailored to the needs and desires of respective research communities.
She offers insight into information organization and relevancy, helping clients communicate the specifics of their projects without convoluting their overall messaging.
Clea McNeely is a research professor at the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Her research focuses on the transition from adolescence to adulthood in regions of political conflict around the globe as well as regions of economic and social distress in the United States.
Clea has helped secure over $20M in funding both as a PI and a co-investigator, has served as a technical consultant for UNICEF and WHO, and participated in study sections for grant reviews.
As a Grant Foundry coach, she helps clients align proposal sections with the mindset and expectations of their reviewers.
She uses the Grant Foundry framework to optimize trust building throughout proposals, turning reviewers into advocates.
Aubrey Phares is the Programs and Coaching Manager here at SCI•Foundry, where she works directly with clients, coaches, and our internal team to organize, schedule, and facilitate ongoing courses and mentorship programs.
With a BS in both Psychology and Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience from Virginia Tech, Aubrey has a research background as well as formal training as a writing coach.
As a writing coach in the Grant Foundry, Aubrey offers insight into the fundamentals of grant structure and organization, helps clients create compelling grant "stories," and assists clients with concept implementation.
Aubrey's skillful copy-editing eye and attention to detail supports clients throughout the iterative process.
The Grant Foundry can't guarantee funding, but we can help you work on the internal factors that affect your ability to write clear proposals that show your reviewer why your project (and you) are the best choice for funding.
Learning to approach grant writing with a mindset of mastery gives you the opportunity to discover where you've missed the mark with previous funding attempts and a real chance at addressing those challenges with a fresh and more positive perspective.
As you work with our key frameworks and coaches you will start developing the confidence and momentum you need to create freedom and ease within your research career.
Is there a payment plan available?
Yes, we offer a 3 month payment plan. Pay over a 3 month period by choosing this option at checkout.
How much time will this take?
The weekly course content will be about one hour/week and the interactive group calls run about 60-90 minutes. However, to be realistic, understand that in order to get the most out of this workshop (or any workshop) you need to spend time applying these principles to your live grant proposals. That is likely to be a substantial investment of time. However, that is unlikely to be more time than you already spend writing and submitting proposals via trial-and-error.
Can I pay with a purchase order or University funds?
We do accept university purchasing cards and purchase orders. To reserve your space in the course click on the "DEPOSIT for POs" link on the checkout page. You can place a refundable deposit and register for the course, then work with us to complete your university payment.
Is there a withdrawal period?
You can withdraw your enrollment and participation from this course up until 2 weeks prior to the start date for a tuition refund, minus a 10% processing fee. We also offer the option of deferring your participation to the next round of Grant Foundry should your plans change. After the cutoff date, we do not offer tuition refunds or deferrals.