Grants and Budgets


Let’s calculate how much our weekly, 2-hour Praxis meeting costs!

Nowviskie’s Unedited Talking Points

your budget, grant-funded or otherwise, is never a blank check. There are encumbrances of various sorts even beyond the line-items you set up (restrictions on types of funds, purchasing, services, how to pay).

the fiscal year, or grant cycle != the academic year

decide what your baseline is (staffing, equipment, communications, travel)

build the cost of managing the money into having the money (also why we go for fewer grants than most)

keep an even keel!

there are some things you’d be scared away from if you really quantified them – so don’t. What are your goals, & are you resourced w/human energy & minimal ready cash (e.g. travel funds) to meet them?

and there are some things you want to quantify because numbers are rhetoric & a means to an end.

ex: we had 27 Praxis applicants for 2013. Cost to run a program that would support the level of interest in the UVa grad community? Astronomical number, clarifies that supporting a program for 6 is a minor investment in the face of great demand.

What does your budget look like in the larger system? Particularly DH problem: DH centers, library departments, multi-project projects don’t operate in a vacuum. Example: a few years ago, the Library took a 3% budget cut overall = 40% cut to my operating budget (after preserving collections and personnel).

perils of soft money

What stressors can you & your people bear? My psychology requires assurance of stable employment for people who want long-term jobs. Also like long-term planning. Won’t go over 10% of my staff on short-term gigs (e.g. SCI research assistant) – preferably 0%.

My budgeting advice is much like my project-management advice. What are your ambitions? Do you have enough steam to get you there? (intellectual interest, stability of the team, skills, baseline infrastructure, funds for extras)


No better preparation to write a grant than to serve as a panelist. Barring that, make appreciative use of program officers’ kindness in giving pre-reviews.

Allow PLENTY of time. Start months in advance. Latest NEH application: started December, based on many prior conversations. Due early March.

Read guidelines again & again, boil down to requirements.

Probably can’t farm out any writing. (Tried once – singular voice is key.)

All contain these parts:

NEH start-ups perhaps most relevant to emerging scholars/#alt-ac. $35-50k, early-stage work. Start by looking there for your first post-diss opportunity.

Read & emulate sample proposals provided.

Structure your proposal to meet the (weary) reviewers’ needs: use key phrases from the guidelines, ordered according to the published criteria reviewers were given.

Try to answer (or indicate awareness of) every possible question peer reviewers might have. Don’t try to second-guess or read tea leaves for the funding agency.

do it anyway

Ask for exactly what is needed to do your project. The most parsimonious budget just might win.

Back to soft money and staffing: we seek grants not to keep good people employed, but because we believe in the project & the grant can fund things we can’t (e.g. NEH institutes: funding participants’ travel costs).

What do you want to do so much you’d find a way without the cash? At the scale of bid you’ll be making early in your career, those are the projects that get funded.