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Grant Proposals

One way to fund an international project is through awards, scholarships, and grants.

This approach is fundamentally different from Fundraising. Rather than actively designing a fundraising program and contacting people you know, you will be engaged in background research, lots of follow-up work, and many exercises in patience. However, the approach is ideally suited if your international project is focused on education or has a research component.

The Fundraising Resources page provides links to web sites for awards, scholarships, and grants.

Public Sources

Another excellent resource is a university or public library. There are a number of guides detailing available awards. However, the specific details of the awards that are available are often out-of-date. You will need to contact the organization that administers the award to confirm or update the information.

In addition to grants listed on the Fundraising Resources page and the public directories, there are often smaller programs which could be ideally suited to your situation:

  • Contact the embassy of the country which you intend to visit. It may have information on organizations and institutions in that country which offer awards to foreign students and researchers.
  • Contact professional associations in your field of business or study. Many have specialized support programs for overseas study or work.
  • Check with any corporations with which you have a relationship. They already may have an established grant program.

Choosing the Programs

The universe of possible awards that you can apply for is vast. And while the specific requirements of each award may eliminate many candidates, you may still find yourself faced with too many possibilities. Be aware of how long it will take to complete an application properly. Some applications require extensive documentation, which may include a project proposal, resumes, letters of reference, school records, etc. Be realistic about the time you have available for grant applications, and pick a subset of grant programs for which you can fully complete the application process.

One reaction is to apply to the largest award programs, or the ones which the highest public profile. This is often a mistake, because everyone else tends to have the same inclination. The largest programs with the highest profile tend to get a disproportionate number of applications. They have to establish the most rigid selection criteria, burdensome procedures, and strictest deadlines. If you concentrate on the less prominent awards in your area of interest, your chances of success may be higher.

One issue is how much to tailor your application for each grant proposal. The temptation is to custom-build your proposal for each organization, but this can be extremely time-consuming. It is more crucial to have a well-developed proposal that is written clearly and is free of errors than one which tries to guess exactly what the sponsoring agency is looking for. So, start work on your proposals early, and get them reviewed carefully by some experts in the field before submitting them.

Finally, realize that you will need to start a long time before you actually need the funding. Some sponsoring organizations only accept applications once or twice a year, or only at the (irregularly scheduled) meetings of their directors. If you plan to go on a yearly project, you may be applying just before this year's project for next year's funding.

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