Sunday, June 25, 2006

Shaking the Money Tree

The second program I went to was Shaking the Money Tree: Grant Writing for Librarians. The program was sponsored by the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section (EBSS) of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL).

The speakers included the following:
Elaina Norlin [e-mail], Senior Program Officer, Institute of Museum and Library Services(IMLS)

Tom Phelps, Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

Marcia Keyser [homepage], Coordinator of Copyright Services, Instruction, and Reference Librarian; Drake University

Much of the program’s content may be accessed through this PowerPoint presentation.

Overall, it was a very interesting program. Elaina and Tom focused on pitfalls (which I’ll outline), and Marcia described her own experience applying for NEH grants while at Texas A&M.

Pitfalls: Reasons for elimination –
1. Ideas that have already done before (stemming from a lack of research within the topic)
2. Not calling the grant program officer to avoid costly mistakes at the beginning of the process
3. Having a vague idea of what you want
4. Having a vague idea of individual responsibilities
5. Not consulting evaluation criteria (this is not always bundled with the grant guidelines!)
6. Insufficient proof of commitment among collaborators.

Suggestions for winning grant proposals--
1. Consult grant officer first
2. The officer will help channel your preliminary ideas in the right direction
3. Understand the funding structure (don’t shake the wrong money tree)
4. IMLS & NEH are for competitive, large-scale proposals. If one is looking for funding for a project that is very localized, state funding through Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)
5. Tailor every proposal to the granting institution’s mission, vision, etc.
6. Draft proposals should be completed no later than 1 month before deadline in order to receive feedback (both from reviewers and the grant officer)
7. Have at least five people review your proposal, and one reviewer should be a non-expert

Marcia Keyser brought up an interesting point during her presentation. She indicated that even if she had not won the competitive NEH grant, she would have still found the process rewarding. Her interactions with various departments within Texas A&M allowed her to understand the university’s structure more clearly. Moreover, her quest became a kind of secondary outreach program for her library. Soon, other departments became interested in her library. Something to think about.

Finally, Tom Phelps beat into the participants the one place for all your granting needs—

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