Resources Writing Skills Grants 101

Finding the Right Grant Opportunities

Dec 06, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

To our new readers, welcome. And to our seasoned readers, I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve received a few questions about how to find grant funding opportunities. This is an excellent question. You can only apply for grants when you know they exist. 

But here’s the problem. It’s not enough to find any random opportunity. You need the RIGHT opportunities. You’ll be a lot happier (and successful) when you find funders that are likely to love and want to support you. Making this match is difficult because every scholar is unique. 

But don’t worry, that’s what today’s newsletter is about. Here are concrete steps for finding opportunities that are right for you:

  1. Search “up the chain.” Identify people between 3 to 10 years ahead of you that are doing work you want to do or who are in positions you admire. Pull their CVs. Who is funding their work? Those are funders you want to target because you and the funder like the same type of work. Once you know who these funders are, go to the funders’ websites and search their funding opportunities.
  2. Search “in house.” Who is funding work at your institution and school? Look at the CVs of people at your institution to find this information. These are funders who either like to support scholars in your environment, or these are funders who can be convinced that your environment is a great place to thrive. 
  3. Start with the funder. Alternatively, start with funders and see what they’ve funded at your institution. For example, at the National Institutes of Health, go to and type in your institution name under “organization.” At the National Science Foundation, you would go here and type in your institution. 
  4. Look within. This great idea comes from a colleague: What organizations have supported you in the past with travel grants or seed funds? What listservs do you belong to? Do those organizations offer any grant funding? Some of these opportunities may be smaller grants. But smaller grants help you land bigger grants. Smaller grants are clear evidence that funders believe in your work and the promise of your work. 
  5. Talk to your research administration office. No matter what stage you are in, it is never too early to develop a relationship with this office. A research administration office oversees sponsored research at your institution. Get to know the people who work in this office by setting up an appointment with them. Ask about funders that like to fund people at your career stage who do work similar to yours. Your research administrators will also be able to connect you to other people at your institution who may be able to help you find the right opportunities.

Here’s a checklist of these strategies, in case you (like me) enjoy the satisfaction of crossing items off a list. Once you find the right opportunities, here’s a post to help you find grant samples. And here’s a new article from The Monitor on Psychology for how to get started with grant writing. The reporter, Helen Santoro, interviewed research scientists (including me) and program officers for their best advice.

That’s all for this installment of the Research Strategy Newsletter. Happy grant writing, colleagues. Let me know if you have follow up questions or comments (email: [email protected]).

All the best,




P.S. If this newsletter has been helpful to you, would you mind forwarding it to a friend? I hope we create a world where researchers get the information they need to get support for incredible ideas. 

P.P.S. Hope you’re finding time to do things you enjoy. I’ve started learning how to embroider, and so far it’s been a fun distraction.