7 Tips for Finding Grants

During the summer, archaeologists do a lot of things. Every summer, I set aside dedicated time (usually a couple days) to come up with my grant strategy for the upcoming year. This involves reflecting on what research I want to do, conferences I want to attend, and material I want to write in the next year or even year and a half. Once I sort out what I might need funding for, the next step is to find grants. This post will show you how.

Before we get started…

Terminology

Full Disclosure: I use the term grants broadly. To me, grants also encompass fellowships, scholarships, awards, bursaries – essentially, money you don’t have to pay back.

Organization

I hope that after reading this post you will amass a sizeable list of grants that you could apply for. As you’re creating your list, I recommend that you find a consistent way to organize potential grants. This could be a word processing file (e.g. Microsoft Word, Google Docs), Excel chart, OneNote or Evernote folder, web browser based bookmarks folder, or a handwritten notebook.

Once you have figured out the tool you will use to organize your finds, make sure to jot down a few notes for each grant that you add to your list. Here are some basic notes that I recommend:

  • Name of Grant
  • Deadline 
  • Application Requirments: Here I write a quick summary, but I always triple check once I decide to apply for the grant
  • Number of Letters of Recommendation: More on this below
  • URL: If you’re recording your list digitally, it’s super useful to have the URL of the grant page or website on hand so you don’t have to search for it each time.

Why Start Early?

There are three overlapping reasons you should start your grant search early (i.e. the summer):

  1. Deadlines: Grant deadlines vary. It would be a shame to miss out on a grant because you weren’t aware of an early fall deadline. Trust me, grant agencies rarely accept late applications. Also, if there are too many grants that are due around the same time, knowing the deadlines will help you cull your list or signal that you should start some applications well in advance.
  2.  Preparation: Grants take time to prepare; however, that time varies depending on the application requirements. For example, one dissertation fieldwork application could take more time than 5 conference travel applications. Starting early will help you figure out how much time you actually need to prepare an application or multiple applications.
  3. Recommendations: Many grant applications require anywhere from 1-3 recommendations. From my experience, every professor has slightly different expectations regarding recommendation requests. Some need 2-weeks notice with a near-final draft, while others prefer 3-4 weeks notice with a solid rough draft. One thing is consistent: No one likes being asked to write a recommendation last-minute. If you start early, you have the time to simply ask each potential recommender about their preferences, expectations, and deadlines. This will help you design a realistic grant preparation schedule.

7 Tips for Finding Grants

Tip #1: Locate Internal Awards at Your University

If you’re an enrolled student (sometimes recently graduates qualify too), check out grant options at your university or even department. These are known as internal awards. Sometimes (not always) you have a better chance of winning these awards because the applicant pool is limited to students at that university.

Tip #2: Locate Lists of External Awards

External awards are those administered by funding bodies outside an individual university. There is a huge diversity of external funding sources so it might be a bit daunting to figure out where to start. I highly recommend locating curated lists that are put together by departments and organizations that serve anthropology and archaeology students. There are many out there (some more useful than others!). Here are a few that I find particularly helpful:

  1. New York University’s Department of Anthropology’s Fellowship Directory: Perhaps I’m slightly partial because this is my home department, but NYU’s Anthropology Department has a fantastic fellowship directory that is divided into different stages of your student career (pre-field, fieldwork, write-up, post-doc). Grants are relevant to both undergraduate and graduate students. Each page is also organized according to geographic area and theme. It’s my go-to grant directory.
  2. University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Group in Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Funding Resources Page: While most of the geographic awards are limited to those studying the Meditteranean World, there are other listings that are useful to students studying topics and time periods located elsewhere. It is a solid list.
  3. American Anthropological Association’s Fellowships and Support Page: This page is quite good in outlining the major international awards (especially for U.S. citizens) for research in certain countries and regions. Their list of national awards gives you a good idea of the more prestigious awards available to anthropologists.
  4. Wenner-Gren Foundations Other Funding Resources Page: The Wenner-Gren Foundation is a major grant body for archaeologists and anthropologists. Not only do they provide funding, they also have an excellent list of other funding sources that are applicable to those in the field.
  5. UCLA’s Fellowship Database: So this database is not specifically for archaeologists, but it’s too good not list. It’s a database that you can query and filter by citizenship, discipline, stage in degree, etc. This requires a bit more culling on the user’s part, but it is extensive, therefore, worthwhile.
  6. British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) Funding Sources Page: This page list a lot of grants for archaeologists. One nice feature is the ability to search different categories like ‘Fieldwork’, ‘Students’, or ‘Conference’.
  7. Results of #grantsforarchs Twitter Campaign: I tweeted out over 60 grants relevant to archaeologists and I saved all the tweets to this page.

Tip #3: Find Niche Groups and Organizations

While sources like the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council are major funding bodies, niche organizations can also routinely fund archaeological pursuits. Look for groups and organizations in your chronological (e.g. Medieval Academy of America), geographic (e.g. British Foundation for the Study of Arabia), or methodological (e.g. Society of Ethnobiology) niche. Sometimes these grants don’t have high visibility so your chances of winning could be increased due to a smaller applicant pool.

Tip #4: CV Stalk

These days most students and researchers have their Curriculum Vitae online – either on their departmental profile page or on an academic social networking site like AcademiaStalk these pages! Look at the grants sections in these CVs and see what awards are listed. This will give you three key insights:

  1. What grants are out there
  2. The grants archaeologists are winning
  3. A potential contact if you have questions (Yes, I have done this!)

Tip #5: Join Listservs in Your Interest Area

While social media is a strong tool for communication, e-mails lists are not dead! Listservs are a great way to find out about new grants. Usually, you are sent other information, but if you’re interested in the list topic, it isn’t a problem. This is more of a long-term investment, but totally worth it. Listservs continue to be the way to share new information in many archaeology circles (e.g.  Jack Sasson’s AGADE e-mail list is quite well known among Near Eastern archaeologists).

Tip #6: Work Backwards

Many times after a student submits an application, they anxiously check  Grad Cafe or the Academic Jobs Wiki Dissertation Fellowships Page as they await the results. It’s a practice that most of us have succumbed to and don’t feel that great about. Nonetheless, these forums and pages are a good resource for finding active grants. I personally prefer the Academic Jobs Wiki because of the list format. If you work backward and start checking these places before you apply, you might be able to find additional grants and some insights (yeah, nervous rants too).

Tip #7: Ask your Advisor/Mentor/Committee

Finally, it’s definitely worth asking your advisor, a mentor, or your entire committee if they have any grant recommendations. As always, I stress doing your own research first. Hopefully, the aforementioned tips will help you find a number of grants relevant to you. I would recommend sending an e-mail after you have compiled an initial list. Mention the awards you are interested in applying for and ask if they have any other suggestions.

Do you have any tips or resources for finding grants? Feel free to share in the comments section below!

2 comments

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  • I am an older archeologist who took a 20 year break between my freshman and sophomore years in undergrad. Getting my BA and MA took years and years because I had to work full time & raise a family while I was a full time college student. By the time I was halfway through getting my MA I could no longer do field work due to a crippling medical condition. So that is my sad story. However, when trying for my second MA ( not completed), I met a delightful archeologist from half the country away who had similar experiences. Now we are old crippled ladies on disability who just can’t leave archeology alone. We both were following online articles on the demise of Neanderthals and independently noticed a certain or possible common component to every hypothesis we read about. We want to, actually have been doing research on it for a couple of years, write a synthesis on our topic for publication. What can you advise us about publishing when we no longer do field work, have no money and are no longer affiliated with a university?

    • Hi S! Nice to hear from you. Thanks for providing background on your situation. It seems like you want to do a comprehensive literature review on your topic. I have three suggestions to look into: 1) Peer-reviewed journals: I would spend some time locating possible journals where you might publish your work. See they types of publications they generally accept. Once you and your friend have a manuscript, I would correspond with the editor. Editors are busy so you might not get far if you don’t have a draft. 2) Popular publications: It might be worth checking out publications that aim to bring archaeological research and ideas to the broader public. There are more magazine style. One example is Anthropology Now: http://anthronow.com/contribute 3) Blogging: Have you ever though about blogging? You and your friend could do a joint blog and it can be free to start out. While you might not get the peer feedback as with other mediums, you can get your ideas out there. There are pros and cons to blogging on academic topics. If blogging is something that interests you let me know. Good luck!

Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.

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