Drafting your grant to highlight its unique selling points (Grant writing 3/7)


Welcome back to my blog post series on grant writing. I am using the writing process to provide an easy, structured approach to grant writing.  As I’ve mentioned, grant writing isn’t hard: it’s damn hard! If you hold any kind of academic appointment you’re eventually going to have to figure out a good process for grant writing.

This the 3rd post in a series of 7, I will be posting a serialized manual on the grant writing process.

Now, on to Step 2: Drafting.

Unique selling points

The second step of the writing process is drafting. We’ve made some type of map or outline and now we really begin to write.

Drafting your grant involves more than putting words on paper. Draft your grant according to the unique selling points (USPs) your work has to offer. Unique selling points come from the world of advertising and consist of three parts:

  1. A USP must make a proposition to its audience (“buy this product for this specific benefit”)
  2. A USP must make a proposition that the competition cannot offer (“buy this product because it is one-of-a-kind”)
  3. A USP must make a proposition that is attractive to a general audience (“buy this product because you can understand what it does”)

In research, USPs operate around a philosophy of being relevant to a general audience because you have no way to predict your reviewers’ disciplinary alignment. Even if you’re applying for specialty funding (e.g., The Kidney Foundation of Canada) you have no way to predict whether or not your reviewers are molecular biologists studying nephrons or health services researchers studying organ transplant allocation patterns.

Prevalence, population, significance, cost and innovation

A useful heuristic I am borrowing from my colleague Alex Clark involves writing your health research grants around 5 USPs:

  1. Prevalence (“the topic of this grant offers a past, present and future I understand”)
  2. Population (“the topic of this grant offers a clear benefit to a vulnerable or neglected population”)
  3. Significance (“the topic of this grant offers positive outcomes for individuals, our health system and society”)
  4. Cost (“the topic of this grant offers cost reduction to our health system”)
  5. Innovation (“the topic of this grant offers a transferable innovation that will proceed from the project”)

Drafting a grant should follow whatever framework for a proposal is set out by the opportunity’s guidelines. Often this framework takes the form of preamble, introduction, methods, plan of study, team roles, and budget. So important is this framework that it will be the focus of my next blog post.

Leave your thoughts

Q1 What are the unique selling points of your research?

Q2 What’s your approach to drafting a research grant? Does the above approach resonate?

Other Resources

Alex Clark is a brilliant researcher and well-established grant writer. Consider following him on Twitter.

A five-step approach including some useful heuristics for drafting writing.

%d bloggers like this: