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The Black Hole

So you want to be a Grants Facilitator when you grow up…

BY BETH | SEP 26 2010

This is the final entry in the So you want to be a “____” when you grow up series for the year. As Dave mentioned, this series has gotten a lot of positive feedback and we plan to bring it back again next summer, so if you have suggestions for career ideas you would like us to write about (or would like to write one yourself), do let us know!

So you want to be a Grants Facilitator when you grow up…
…or, as a friend of mine who holds this position calls it, a “Grants Wrangler.”

Grant Facilitation is a career that, going through grad school, I didn’t even know existed. I am from a small lab and when grants were to be written, all aspects of grant application preparation – from finding the funding opportunity to the writing, editing, organizing, collecting letters of support/quotes for the budget/university signatures/etc. – was done by the P.I. and the grad students.  But I’ve since come to learn that Grants Facilitation is a profession unto itself (a part of the broader field of “Research Administration”) and I’ve met Grants Facilitators who work for universities research groups, independent research centres, NPOs, and health authorities. Grants Facilitators, as the name suggests, facilitate the process of getting grants. This can mean working on any and all parts of the grant application process, including:

  • keeping abreast of upcoming funding and always being on the look out for ways that your organization’s research program could fit into those funding opportunities
  • keeping abreast of the research going on at your organization (so you can match it with those funding opportunities)
  • project management of the grant application process
  • writing and editing
  • conversing with funding agencies
  • collecting supporting documentation for the grant (e.g., quotes for items for the budget, letters of support, signatures)
  • and so much more!

I interviewed a Grants Facilitator friend of mine ((who I can attest is an exceptionally talented grants facilitator, having worked with her on a number of grant applications in the past!)) to provide you with some inside scoop on the life of a GF!

What do you like about being a Grants Facilitator?

  • I get to work with some of the most incredible people and teams (often made up of researchers, healthcare providers, government folk, and community members).
  • My work is constantly changing – I get the opportunity to work collaboratively with researchers from a variety of fields – one day I’m working on a proposal for tobacco cessation interventions and the next to secure funds to have a public forum to explore ideas about what health promotion should look like for women in our province.
  • I also like the “attention to detail’ required for this kind of work and the fast-paced aspect of the field.  When you are putting out 26 proposals a year on average, it means you have a hard deadline every 2 weeks of so. It really keeps you on your toes.

What don’t you like about being a Grants Facilitator?

  • The fact that there are so many great research ideas and so few dollars available to fund them.  I was struck by a photo I saw once in the Vancouver Sun (newspaper) that showed a vault of research proposal applications that were scored as “fundable” but unfortunately, there were not enough dollars available in the competition to fund them.  The headline read something like, “Is the cure to cancer in here?” As a grant writer/facilitator, I could relate to that.
  • I sometimes miss being able to carry out my own research.  Just not enough time (at this point) to be able to do it all. But I’m working on that!
  • I spend way too much time in front of a computer. Our bodies are not meant to spend 8 hours a day in a seated position. I also have a background in Kinesiology and sitting in one spot for long periods is not a strength of mine.  I need to find a more innovative way to develop, write and review proposals!

What tips would you give to someone starting out in this career?

  • This is often a fast-paced career (as mentioned above) and you need to make space for work-life balance so you can be fresh, creative and always ready to brainstorm how someone’s work might fit a timely funding opportunity.
  • There is always going to be a great research idea that you would like to help someone/some team get funded, but with funding rates of 15-25% (depending on the funding agency), you are climbing a bit of an uphill battle. But as they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!
  • You can never remind a researcher enough that the best proposals are the ones that anyone can pick up, read and understand (the idea(s) being proposed).  Simple, direct and to the point always makes it easy for any potential reviewer.  I can’t tell you how many times I convey that as my “take home” message in a day!!

So, if you enjoy variety, working with people, a face-paced environment, want to stay attached to the research world (though not as a P.I. yourself) and are an attention-to-detail type of person, grants facilitation is a career you may be interested in checking out!

  • Canadian Association of University Research Administrators
  • Any grant website that summarizes a number of grant agencies or Foundations that fund health research (e.g. university websites, Charity Village, etc.)
  • Some universities even have communities of practice set up for Grants Facilitators (e.g., UBC’s grants facilitation website)
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  1. Dawn / October 6, 2010 at 02:25

    I’m writing to comment on your sep 26 post about grants facilitation. The article states that “grants facilitation is a profession.” as one of the individuals who created this role I feel compelled to add the proviso that though facilitators are unquestionably professionals (and the more senior the facilitator, the more so), grants facilitation per se is a role NOT a profession and in most situations does not provide an alternate career path for PDFs. Our national survey (soon to be published) of Canadians university staff/personnel who self identified as facilitators showed that the vast majority of people have Masters training. Very few have a PhD and even fewer postdoctoral experience. As well the typical salary range is $50-65k and the roles vary hugely in different settings. That said, if a fellow has an affinity for, and a track record of, the development of successful funding apps, and can find an appropriate setting for her/his interests, using one’s PDF training to facilitate the research of others is an exceptionally fun and rewarding career choice.

  2. Beth / October 12, 2010 at 03:29

    Hey Dawn,
    Thanks for the clarification. As I’m not a grants facilitator myself, I was basing my statement that grants facilitation is a “profession” on discussions I’d had with people working in the field. I stand corrected.
    We would love to hear about your national survey once it is published – perhaps you’d even be interested in writing a guest posting about it?

  3. Mike Brassil / August 7, 2013 at 14:15

    Government Grants and funding are applied on a case by case basis. When all funds are exhausted, then you will have to await for the next fiscal period. We strongly recommend that you don’t delay.

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