October 30, 2017

Devil on Your Shoulder: Overcoming 4 Bad Habits that Can Sink Your Grant

Ball State’s Donna Browne led SPA’s latest colloquium on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 in the Arts and Journalism Building.

Browne is a grant writer here on campus. She works with the Center for Energy Research Education and Service.

Her lecture focused on four bad habits that can sink your grant and how to avoid them.

Not to worry, as Browne said “Most of these things are under our control, so they are totally solvable.”

The Habits
Browne uses the shoulder devil versus the shoulder angel
to explain these four bad grant writing habits.

“We’re going to be looking at four trends that I’ve noticed in faculty work that have adversely impacted their ability to put together a really solid, competitive proposal,” said Browne.


When you are tempted to improvise you may be feeling excited, eager and you just want to take action on your awesome project idea already. All of those feelings are good, until improvisation negatively affects your proposal.

  • Make sure the grant you are applying for fits your grant perfectly
  • Make sure you meet all of the requirements and are eligible to apply
  • Make sure your project goals and objectives are relevant and match with the organization’s goals
  • Make sure your timeline and the sponsor's timeline are compatible 
  • Develop a concept paper in advance 
  • Follow the directions in the guidelines to the letter
  • Make your budget specific 
  • Pay attention to the details

  • Apply for the first grant you hear of, because you’re excited and think it might fit
  • Just go for it and say you can figure out the details later
  • Apply without developing all aspects of your idea into a solid project
  • Try to move too quickly and spend little time on it
  • Make any mistakes

Rugged Individualism

When you are tempted to express rugged individualism you may be feeling frustration because things aren’t going well, independent, and excited to leap in already.

  • Obtain committed, well-defined partnerships (research partner, community partner, or even your funder)
  • Develop interpersonal relationships
  • Talk through and agree on project commitments with your partner, and put them in writing 
  • Find on-campus support staff to help you develop your best project (SPA or other grant writers) 
  • Be receptive to criticism and feedback 
  • Make sure your proposal expresses your voice and your passion, while still being incredibly detailed 
  • Write in clear English for an “educated layperson” and keep it short 

  • Be a lonely scholar and try to do everything on your own
  • Submit anything without having fresh eyes look at it for proofing (text and budgets), as there is no room for error


When you are tempted to assume you may be feeling confused and frustrated. While underneath that confusion you may be feeling fear or not wanting to put aside your ego in order to ask questions, but never assume you know the answer.

  • Ask questions 
  • Talk to the program officer, they are there to help you. They are your partner and they want to see your best proposal submitted 
  • Make sure your partners' commitments are clear and mutually understood 

  • Assume you know the answer to ANYTHING 
  • Don’t assume your partners’ automatically know and understand their commitments


When you know you are procrastinating you are probably feeling stressed and confused. You may also be experiencing an underlying fear, because you feel you cannot deal with it right now.

  • Know that EVEVRY part of a grant proposal TAKES TIME (ideation, writing, editing, meetings, etc.) 
  • Submit a proposal before the due date, as it may take time to go through 
  • Make a weekly work plan and stick to it 

  • Forget to give yourself deadlines before the actual deadline of the grant submission 
  • Forget to give yourself a time cushion 

Faculty take notes as Browne explains
the bad habits often seen with faculty.
Reality Check

The reality check is that grants take a lot of time and there is just no way around it.

Browne summed it up best by saying, “If you’re going to do the grant, you’ve got to do the grant, because competition is fierce and there will always be more applicants than there is grant funding.”

October 18, 2017

Applying for a Discovery Grant

SPA’s Jackie Davis led the third colloquium in the SPA series on Friday, October 6, 2017 in Bracken Library. Alongside her was Tammy Hall, vice president of the Discovery Group and grant committee chair and Cathy Whaley, director of the Northeast Indiana Area Health Education Center (NEI-AHEC) as well as a current and former grant recipient.

What is the Discovery Group?
Jackie Davis leads the discussion
Davis describes the group as “a collaborative philanthropic group established at the Ball State Foundation. They do work through the foundation and support projects and programs at Ball State.”

Discovery funding is only for Ball State faculty and staff. The funds come from a pool of annual contributions and are considered external funding.

The overall purpose of the Discovery Group is to connect its members to Ball State University, inspire women to become leaders in philanthropy and to provide financial support for innovative Ball State projects and programs.

Application Details
Important information to include in your proposal:
  • Purpose/implementation plan
  • Measurable goals/objectives
  • Evaluation Plan
  • BSU student impact/involvement
  • Clear connection to Ball State’s Centennial Commitment  (undergrad focused)
  • Sustainability plan
  • Detailed budget and budget justification

Tammy Hall and Cathy Whaley answer audience questions
Advice for Applying
“Your proposal needs to be telling your story. It needs to be clear and concise, while stating what you are going to do, how you will accomplish your goals, how the results will be measured and how much it is going to cost” said Davis.

Whaley, as a current and former grant recipient, said that it is important that you find out “who are the Discovery Grant people, who is on the board and what are their philanthropic reasons?” This will help you better understand the audience that will be reading and considering your proposal. It is important to know who you are writing for.

Whaley went on to state that when applying for a grant she always makes sure to hit on keywords from the organization’s mission in her proposal. Be sure to address and incorporate as many as possible into your own project. For example, with the Discovery Grant, Whaley made sure that her project was student centered and followed the Centennial Commitment.

Additional Advice:
  • Have someone outside of Ball State and even outside of academia read your proposal, because the board is not made up of Ball State faculty. 
  • Synthesize goals/objectives down to the most important things you want the board to know.
  • Funding is for a one year project, so be clear with your timeline. Avoid listing long term objectives that go past the one year mark. 
  • The maximum award you can receive is $25,000 and you may only hold one award at a time, so plan accordingly.

Scoring Rubric
In addition to Davis’ and Whaley’s advice, it is crucial that you look at the Discovery Group’s scoring rubric, because this is the document the board uses to decide which proposals to consider. It helps everyone who submits a proposal be on the same page, and the reviewers can better compare apples to apples. Be sure to see how your proposal stacks up against their criteria and make changes where necessary.

Examples of projects that score high:
  • Student centered
  • Impact a high number of students 
    • Something small, such as students reading a pamphlet you create is not considered as impact.
  • Involve community interaction
  • Entrepreneurial type projects
  • Immersive learning
  • Interdisciplinary projects (2 colleges working together)
The Discovery Grant board uses this rubric to score each proposal. After scoring, they take the highest scoring proposals and invite them to give a live presentation at their annual meeting. This presentation will be what essentially convinces the members of the Discovery Group to vote for your proposal. After the presentations all members vote, and the proposals with the most votes are the ones that get funded. The number of funded proposals will also vary from year to year based on the amount of contributions received that year.

If you decide to pursue a Discovery Grant be sure to keep an eye on their timeline!

Timeline for Grant Proposals

The grant period Discovery Awards will be from May 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
  • October 1, 2017 – Cycle to submit proposals begins. Please work with your Sponsored Programs Proposal Manager for proposal development, review and budget preparation.
  • December 1, 2017, 5:00 PM – All Final proposals due as a single pdf file emailed to jsdavis@bsu.edu. You will receive confirmation of proposal receipt. 
  • January, 2018 – The grants committee will select the top proposals for presentation at the Discovery Annual Meeting; all applicants will be notified of decision at this time. 
  • March, 2018 – The selected proposals are presented at the Discovery Annual Meeting. Following a vote by the Discovery Members attending the meeting the grant awards will be announced that day.

October 13, 2017

External Funding Alert: NEA Big Read

NEA Big Read is accepting applications from non-profit organizations around the nation to develop community-wide reading programs between September 2018 and June 2019.

A Big Read is a month-long series of programs centered around one NEA Big Read book. Programs include a kickoff, a keynote, book discussions, and other artistic events to foster engagement with the selected title and encourage reading. Want to know more? Read about recent NEA Big Read programming in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Organizations selected to participate in the program receive a grant ($5,000-$15,000), access to educational and promotional materials, and online training resources. Approximately 75 organizations from across the country will be selected.

To review the Guidelines and Application Instructions, visit the Arts Midwest website.

Application deadline: January 24, 2018 by 4:00pm CST

Follow @NEABigRead on Twitter for all the latest info and news.

We are proud to announce the addition of four new books to the NEA Big Read list this year:
  • Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  • The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka
  • A Small Story About the Sky by Alberto RĂ­os
  • Burning Bright by Ron Rash
For a full list of available titles, check out our list of books.
Credit block
NEA Big Read is a program of the National
Endowment for the Arts in partnership with
Arts Midwest.
Copyright © 2017 Arts Midwest, All rights reserved.

October 11, 2017

Research Week is only a week and a half away!

Research Week – October 23-27
Mark your calendars for Research Week, Ball State’s annual celebration of externally funded research, scholarship, creative work, and community engagement.  Special events include the following:

  • Monday, Oct 23: BeneFacta Day (by invitation only). 
    A special event celebrating those who received or applied for external funding to support their work.
  • Research Week Honoree Presentations (open to all).  All events at 3:00 pm, Bracken Library 104.
    Come hear your colleagues discuss their externally funded work and offer their insights into developing successful proposals.
  • Tuesday, Oct 24: Janay Sander, Department of Educational Psychology.
    Come hear about the process of applying for and then implementing an externally funded project that includes real-world research questions, community-university partnerships, immersive learning, and high quality research methods all in one project. RSVP Here.
  • Wednesday, Oct 25: Cathy Whaley, Director, Northeast Indiana Area Health Education Center (NEI-AHEC).
    Come hear Cathy Whaley discuss the programs and funding strategies for AHEC. The purpose of the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program is to develop and enhance education and training networks within communities, academic institutions, and community-based organizations. The Northeast Indiana AHEC is one of more than 250 Centers across the United States and is financially supported by federal, state, and local funds. RSVP Here.
  • Thursday, Oct 26: Eric (VJ) Rubenstein, Department of Biology.
    Like humans, all cells must take out the trash. When cells switch from taking out the trash to hoarding it, mayhem — in the form of disease —ensues. In his presentation, VJ Rubenstein will discuss his federally funded investigation of cellular waste management. RSVP Here.
  •  Friday, Oct 27: Creative Endeavor of the Year Lecture (open to all).  Christopher Flook (Department of Telecommunications) will discuss the work that has earned him this prestigious university award. RSVP Here.Scott Trappe's Researcher of the Year lecture has been postponed until Spring Semester 2018. More information to follow.

    For more information about these events contact
    : spadmin@bsu.edu.