From the American Historical Association's
Grants, Fellowships & Prizes of Interest to Historians, 1989-1990
Committees that make awards tend to be chosen from the disciplinary establishment and will recognize merit in those who share similar characteristics and interests. Applicants with strong projects can be successful through skillful application, careful planning, and attention to content and appearance.
Start Early! Start at least 3-6 months in advance. (Even earlier if the granting agency has a complicated application process.) When you write for an application, also ask for annual reports of the organization and a list of past awards. These can provide important clues which are not always apparent in promotional brochures. The focus of the granting institution or organization may change over time, so be sure to obtain the correct application materials.
Plan Ahead! Keep a log of when you received your materials, when you sent your application, etc. Make copies of everything!
Ask Questions! If you have questions about the procedures for filling out an application, call or write the organization well before the application deadline. Do not make assumptions based on previous experience.
Be Succinct! Neatness and precision are essential to the process of filling out an application. All proposals should be submitted typewritten. Do not go beyond the recommended length as applications that do not observe the application guidelines may be rejected. Do not submit written proposals that ramble; keep to the specific points called for by the granting organization. Have someone else read over your written proposal to spot inconsistencies, errors, and other problems. Do not submit supporting materials unless they are requested. Send in only what is asked for in the guidelines.
Be Realistic! In compiling your budget, excessive padding is easily spotted. Pay attention to the budgetary items the granting organization will and will not subsidize. Be sure your arithmetic is impeccable.
Evaluations Count! Finally, it is extremely important that you include an evaluation component in your proposal. Many organizations must justify the results of funded projects. Since the choice of evaluation techniques will be dictated by the nature of the project, it would be wise to compare methods in related endeavors. Third-party evaluations are most desirable. Moreover, many organizations are anxious to have the grantee include the costs of evaluation in the project budget.
Don't Take it Personally! Applications/proposals are rejected for a variety of reasons. Learn from the experience. Do not be content with a form letter rejection; ask for particulars and advice. People who succeed in obtaining fellowships, grants, and prizes are a persistent group who do not let a single rejection dissuade them from their objective of obtaining funding.