Grantsmanship Tips - Writing for Your Audience

October 17, 2023

When writing a research proposal, it is important to consider who will be reviewing your grant application. Successfully communicating your research plan to its intended audience is essential to developing a fundable proposal. Once you have confirmed that your research idea is a fit for a sponsor, aim to do the following before applying for a grant:

Identify Your Reviewers

A strategic approach to grant development includes familiarizing yourself with the review process of the potential grant funding agency of your proposal. Taking the time to investigate your target audience can help you tailor your application accordingly. Ask yourself:

  • Who is likely to be a reviewer for this proposal?
  • What knowledge does the audience already have? What will need to be explained to them?

If you are applying for funding from a foundation, for example, the reviewers may be more of a lay audience. Conversely, the primary audience for a grant application submitted to NIH is a scientific review group (study section) made up mostly of scientists in academia. For additional information on study sections, refer to this NIH article Know Your Audience.

Tailor Your Proposal for Your Grant Audience

Once you’ve done your homework to figure out who your reviewers will be, write your proposal with that audience in mind. Your goal is to convince your grant audience that your research project is well planned and feasible, and that you and your team are qualified to conduct it. Make sure your proposal is persuasive, appropriate for the sponsor’s goals, and uses accessible language. In general, grant audiences tend to share the following attributes:

  • They have at least a broad knowledge of the proposal’s content area, but may not be an expert in your field – make sure to write at a level all audience members can understand.
  • They are busy people with many grants to review– make sure your proposal is well written and organized to help the reviewers.

Beyond that, the sponsor’s specific requirements and review criteria are the best guide for what your grant audience expects. It is critical to read the application guidelines and follow the instructions closely to convey your research plan appropriately to reviewers.

Tailoring your research proposal to its intended grant audience can capture the attention of reviewers and increase your chances of funding success. Do you have any great grant-related resources to share? We’d love to hear about them. Contact the UMMS Research Development team at to share your suggestions and resources.