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How to find grants (and other funding opportunities)

Ask a Candidate | Topics in Higher Education

This post continues our series—begun last fall during faculty hiring “high season”—by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on where to search for and find grants.

Applying for grants and fellowships to cover the costs of your education and research can be an exhausting prospect. (Can you say “neverending deadlines”?) But if you land one funding opportunity (or more), the benefits are huge.

  • You can include the honor on your CV
  • You may get to meet and hobnob with new people outside of your institution who administer the award
  • You get money!

And once you’ve landed one grant, other grants tend to follow. So you should start building a record of success sooner, rather than later.

But how do you know which grants to apply for? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Tap the resources of your institution.

Find out if your home university has an existing system to help grad students apply for grants. Offices of Grants and Fellowships are an obvious place to look; if you’re unsure about this, ask faculty or staff in your program to direct you. The staff in an Office of Grants and Fellowships will help you figure out which institutional opportunities might fall in your wheelhouse.

A few opportunities may be available such as:

  • Small pots of money for professional development such as conference attendance
  • Short-term research fellowships to fund trips to archives or field sites
  • Year-long dissertation fellowships

See if your institution can help you think outside of the box.

Some scholars pursuing certain projects may be able to find money from granting agencies that aren’t giving their funds solely to academics. The organization, The non-profit, nationwide Foundation Center maintains several databases, some of which are targeted to non-profits and other agencies who want to apply for grants to support their institutions. For example, their Foundation Grants to Individuals database collects listings relevant to students, artists, and researchers. Access is paid, but your institution may have a subscription. Check with the people in the Office of Grants and Fellowships—they will be able to help you figure out how to target your search.

Read the acknowledgements.

When you’re reading a book, or looking at an article or paper, especially when it’s by an author whose work is similar to yours, check the acknowledgements section. The author will thank the funding agencies whose largesse made their research possible. Google the fellowship, and put it on your list if it feels like a good fit for you.

Don’t forget the bigwigs.

There are some organizations that will be top-of-mind for everyone in your field.

These may seem like long shots to you, but applying for big, prestigious grants is very good practice. If you score one, it’ll add luster to your CV and help you get more money in the future.  

Hit up databases online.

A definitive universal database of fellowship and grant opportunities for grad students doesn’t exist. Here are a few good links to favorite and follow.

  • The NIH has a page listing non-NIH funding opportunities for researchers.
  • The website ProFellow, run independently by consultants, maintains a database aimed at a mix of undergrads, graduates, and professionals. You have to create a profile to browse.
  • PIVOT offers listings for a range of types of academic funding (not just for grad students).
  • Search the listings of H-Announce for notices of fellowships, grants, and prizes for humanities scholars.
  • The McNair Scholars page, run by the Department of Education, offers a list of opportunities, segmented by subject matter and specialization.

At the core, finding grants and other funding opportunities is a chore. But if you know where to start your search, it can make navigating the process a little easier.

 

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