NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: The Little RD Office That Could: Lessons Learned from RD Program Flops

The Little RD Office That Could: Lessons Learned from RD Program Flops


  • Karen Fletcher, Appalachian State University
  • Katie Howard, Appalachian State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Suzanne Lodato, Indiana University Bloomington!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Unsuccessful programming gives you an opportunity to rethink and revise your programming and move forward.
  • If you observe your audience while you are facilitating a program, you will see it is obvious when they are beginning to lose focus. Exercises like stretching breaks can help participants refocus.
  • Sometimes it is more effective to split longer workshops into smaller, more digestible sessions. For example, for finding funding, an overview session can be followed up by a separate hands-on funding database workshop.
  • Often a single session is more effective than a series of multiple sessions, particularly if you can gather some feedback within the single session. Participants tend to drop out of multi-week programs.
  • Workshops that require registration draw much better participation than drop-in workshops.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

  • Appalachian State is a PUI, but is currently recruiting more faculty who are “research intensive.”
  • Most participants who attend a finding funding workshop do not think it works well.
  • A two hour finding funding workshop tends to be ineffective because too much material is presented in one sitting and people lose focus.

What were the most interesting questions asked by audience members, and what was the presenters’ response?

  • For finding funding, some research development professionals encourage faculty to set up profiles before attending a hands-on database session.
  • What didn’t work: one person organized drop-in days for consultations on finding funding that were poorly attended.
  • Appalachian State has a separate office for undergrad research.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Here are two grant writing workshop models that worked well:

  • A multi-week program that required a sign-off from the faculty member’s department chair. Participants submitted a white paper to apply for the workshop, and the white papers were judged by means of a competitive process. Faculty had to commit to attending a specified minimum number of sessions. Participants identified a scientific mentor. Staff identified a senior mentor with whom the participant met once a month. Participants were also mentored by staff and peers. Only senior mentors were paid, because they had to meet with participants once per month and report back. Mentoring and accountability to the mentor were the reasons for the success of the program. Participants talked about more than just their current proposal with their mentor, so they developed their career paths, too.
  • Short, internal grant writing workshops 1.5 hours in length. The grant program is reviewed in the session, and participants spend time discussing their proposal ideas to receive feedback. An exercise may encourage participants to write for a very short period of time (e.g., 90 seconds), but they are not required to write during the workshop.




NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Perspectives from Federal Agencies – NEH and IMLS

Perspectives from Federal Agencies – NEH and IMLS


  • Brett Bobley, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Ashley Sands, Institute of Museum and Library Studies

Session Scribe: Paige Belisle, Harvard University

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Both the NEH and IMLS can fund a wide range of project types. The best way to learn about all of the individual programs offered is to visit the funders’ websites.
  • Both agencies recommend that prospective PIs reach out to a program officer to discuss their proposed projects prior to applying. Program officers can also read proposal drafts.
  • NEH encourages faculty members from outside of the humanities to apply via interdisciplinary projects.
  • IMLS has a broad definition of what constitutes a museum or library – so it’s good to check to see if a PI’s project might fit within this agency by looking at the requirements of the individual programs.
  • Both agencies have an interest in funding projects in the digital humanities and in digital infrastructure.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Many faculty and research development professionals alike are under the impression that all research projects supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities must result in a scholarly book. However, this is not the case! The NEH supports a wide range of projects, including programs for the public, preservation and access, and the digital humanities.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Both of the program officers emphasized that samples of successful proposals are available on their agencies’ respective websites, organized by individual program.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?

One audience member asked how to advise faculty who wanted program officer feedback after the stated draft deadline had passed. Both program officers suggested such faculty members reach out to their respective program officers directly to ask about sending a draft regardless—this is sometimes a feasible option and can be mutually beneficial.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

NEH and IMLS staff are available to travel to give outreach presentations at institutions. For NEH/IMLS budgeting purposes, it is helpful to request such a presentation well in advance. The presenters also recommended partnering with other institutions in your region to host a joint event, as having the opportunity to present to multiple/larger groups allows the program officers to justify their budget requests more successfully.

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: From Seed to Harvest: Designing, Monitoring and Improving Internal Funding Programs

From Seed to Harvest: Designing, Monitoring and Improving Internal Funding Programs


  • Kathryn Partlow, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Daniel Campbell, Old Dominion University
  • David Bond, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Carl Batt, Cornell University

Thanks to our session scribe, Regina Coles, Virginia Commonwealth University!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • RFP design should include an Eligibility section, Purpose, Goals/Objectives, and provide clear Expectations/Reporting.
  • Include a request for feedback at each step of the process (e.g. submission, review, during the award and closeout).
  • Develop an award agreement and have key persons sign to encourage accountability.
  • Return on investment (ROI) should be tracked throughout the lifecycle and can comprise books, articles, proposals submitted, etc.
  • Require faculty to be in good standing to be eligible; delinquent reporting will make them ineligible for future internal funding.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

This really shouldn’t surprise many, but the notion that program evaluation is critical to improving and understanding the benefits of the program. Essentially, if you are not collecting feedback you cannot improve the program.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

The data that were provided were based on a survey sent out to the NORDP listserv last year. Thus this baseline data is an available resource for others that need it to support their own programs.

What were the most interesting questions asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?

Q: What outcomes can actually be attributed to the SEED funding and which are tangential to the funding?
A: Is difficult to untangle this however if you are clear in the RFP about what the focus of the funding should be then that will help guide this.

Q: How long do you measure and track outcomes?
A: Depends on the initial focus of the program – must be specific about the goals.

Q: How do you incentivize your reporting?
A1: Create an agreement and include a reporting schedule.
A2: Send reminder emails with a report template.

Q: How many years were data collected for programs that were ultimately sunsetted/discontinued (as provided in example)?
A: About 7 years.

Q: How do you manage faculty that are already well-funded versus un-funded/early career faculty?
A: Eligibility criteria for program should be clear as to which population the funding will support.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

  • Provide FAQs if possible to help faculty/administrators.
  • Consider the submission platform – email vs. online.
  • The review process management should include setting expectations for reviewers, managing conflicts, and developing review criteria.
  • Consider targeted programs for junior faculty or postdocs/grad students.
  • Most seed programs are for funding amounts of $5K-$25K thus an emphasis should be on piloted ideas that are less polished instead of a focus on broader impacts.
  • Suggestion to incorporate a professional development plan for early career faculty in the submission.

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Strategies to Grow Research at a Branch Campus

Strategies to Grow Research at a Branch Campus


  • Sian Mooney, Arizona State University
  • Susannah Gal, Penn State Harrisburg
  • Faye Farmer, Arizona State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Kara Luckey, University of Washington, Tacoma!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Working in the RD space at a “branch” campus (and similar contexts) can present challenges for the RD professional and the faculty they serve stemming from feelings of isolation, distribution of power and resources, and a lack of energy for the research enterprise.
  • To meet these challenges, the presenters suggested multi-pronged approaches in three broad areas: Culture change, enhancing visibility internally and externally, and creative allocation of existing resources.
  • Presenters from ASU West Campus and Penn State-Harrisburg suggested a number of tools to move towards a culture of active research, including: Promoting and celebrating research through regular newsletters/publications and annual recognition events; creating opportunities and a ‘safe space’ for faculty to develop collaborations and a shared sense of purpose; and one-on-one encouragement to individual PIs who are well-positioned to pursue significant funding opportunities but require a ‘push.’
  • Presenters outlined a number of mechanisms to improve internal and external visibility of faculty research, including: Using consistent talking points on and off campus to emphasize faculty work and its importance to the larger university, developing relationships with key champions and allies within the branch campus, with other branch campuses, and at the primary campus; and seek out university-wide committee appointments to bring visibility and resources to research on your campus.
  • Finally, presenters encouraged branch campuses to pursue opportunities to effectively and creatively allocate resources, including: Developing a strategic plan that can be used to make the case for the needed for resources; rigorously demonstr­ate the return-on-investment of requested resources and equipment; Maximize access to existing resources and trainings offered at the main campus, and make the case to central campus staff for why they should come to the branch campus; Encourage the use of classrooms for research, especially for faculty with high teaching loads: Offer a cohort-model to train undergraduates across branch campuses to minimize the burden on individual faculty members.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

One branch campus (ASU, West Campus) saw an impressive 8-fold increase in funding revenues after several years of targeted efforts toward cultural change led by Sian Mooney that followed many of the approaches identified in the session.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

The presenters used a helpful real-time polling tool – (or – that allowed audience members to respond to questions posed during the presentations. This made for a more interactive panel than would have been likely for the last session of the conference.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

An audience member asked about the sharing of DUNS numbers across campuses, and the implications for funding. The presenters agreed that the sharing of DUNS numbers has political importance – e.g. communicating that the campuses are part of *one* university – however, there are limitations that can be frustrating for faculty on branch campuses. In particular, faculty on branch campuses must compete internally for limited submissions, which can leave branch faculty members feeling that they are at a disadvantage.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

A large part of the cultural change achieved by the presenters from ASU West Campus and Penn State-Harrisburg was the result of encouraging faculty to think of themselves as active researchers. This was achieved through a good deal of cheerleading and deep support provided at the individual and collective level. As trust was (re-)built, faculty began to internalize their identity as active researchers, and – with targeted communication up the chain – administration at both the branch and main campuses began to take notice as well.


#NORDP2018 By the Numbers

I hope everyone who attended NORDP’s 2018 10th Annual Research Development Conference in Arlington last week had a safe and uneventful return home, and that you didn’t find your inboxes and desks too cluttered with things to attend to when you went back to work.

Just a few brief statistics about the meeting that I thought might be of interest. This year, we had:

  • 1 leadership forum
  • 1 short course
  • 4 workshops
  • 4 plenary or keynote addresses or panels
  • 16 sponsors (a record!)
  • 33 networking dinners over the first two nights of the conference, with 250 participants
  • 40 individual or panel presentations
  • 54 posters (not including NORDP’s own committee and programmatic posters)
  • 598 registrants (plus 6 on-site registrations, for a total of 604; also a record!)

If you weren’t able to attend the meeting this year, or if you’d like to re-live a little of the experience, check out the conference recap video:

(It’s also available on the NORDP homepage, in case this link doesn’t work.).

We won’t have the full picture until the Evaluation Committee submits its report to the Board of Directors (probably in September), but all of the comments I heard (or overheard in passing) were uniformly positive. (Speaking of evaluations, if you haven’t yet completed all of yours, please do so: that information is of tremendous help to the Board and the planning committee as we start the process for putting together next year’s meeting.)

Kudos to everybody who helped make this meeting as successful as it was. And a very special thanks to our two stalwart conference co-chairs, Karen Eck (Old Dominion University) and Kari Whittenberger-Keith (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). We couldn’t have done it without you!

If you’re looking for presentations or materials from sessions at the conference that you either attended or wanted to browse because you couldn’t make the session, please be patient. The conference team will be contacting the presenters to get final copies of presentation materials shortly. Once they’re available, they’ll be posted to the conference program page. If you don’t find a hyperlink next to the presentation you’re looking for, that means the materials haven’t been made available yet. Also please note that we do not post materials from the leadership forum or the workshops, as that content is only available to the participants in those sessions.

Lastly, if you missed the announcement at the conference, save the date for #NORDP2019: April 29-May 1, 2019, at the Omni in Providence, Rhode Island!

Michael Spires
NORDP President

Some NORDP Conference Housekeeping


As you’ve no doubt seen, registration has opened for the 10th Annual Research Development Conference, to be held May 7-9 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, VA. While the schedule isn’t set yet, I can assure you we’re going to have a fantastic lineup of top-quality speakers and you won’t want to miss this year’s meeting. You can register (and also reserve a room at the conference hotel) on the NORDP website.

If you are planning to join us in Arlington, one of the things you might want to do in your conference downtime (or if you’re planning to extend your stay in our nation’s capital) is to visit the newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was still under construction the last time NORDP was in the DC area. Visiting NMAAHC requires a timed entry pass. While a limited number of same-day passes become available each afternoon, your best bet for a pass is the monthly lottery. Passes for May will become available beginning at 9 a.m. this Wednesday, February 7. Passes are free, and are only good for a single visit. If you can’t make your visit, you can give your pass to someone else, or you can attempt to exchange it for another date. The passes go very quickly once they become available, so book early!

I hope to see you in Arlington in May!

Michael Spires
NORDP President

NORDP 2017 Conference Notes: Using Business Development Funnels to Stimulate Increases in Research Funding

Using Business Development Funnels to Stimulate Increases in Research Funding


  • Saundra Evans, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Services and Project Management, North Carolina A&T State University
  • Paul Tuttle, Director of Proposal Development, North Carolina A&T State University

Thanks to our session note-taker, Lucy Deckard!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Universities often expect to see a steady linear growth in research expenditures; however, it’s not realistic to expect continuous linear growth. Instead, RD growth is similar to small business growth: i.e., it follows an S-curve. The business starts and grows quickly as they innovate, incorporate best practices, and improve. Then they stabilize or plateau. At this point, the business will need to find a new way to grow (e.g., a new market or product or strategy), which can then kick off a stage of rapid growth. Otherwise, the business may decline and ultimately fail. Similarly, North Carolina A&T saw their research expenditures grow rapidly as they established an RD office, learned from NORDP and elsewhere, and incorporated best practices. Then the recession hit, and they saw some decline They realized they had maxed out on the old business model ; they need to break out a new one! This was especially important since university leadership had set a goal of $85M in research expenditures (from the current ~$65M) by 2020.
  • NC A&T’s new business model incorporated five strategies: 1) reorganize academic units to better motivate and support research; 2) RD strategic hires; 3) diversify the funding portfolio to include more agencies and foundations, as well as contracts in addition to grants; 4) proactively pursue Federal funding; and 5) Employ business development (funding opportunity) funnels. To implement this new plan, they developed a logic model for how they would reach that $85M goal by creating and maintaining funding funnels at AT&T, following a logic model template provided by Tina Edgerly Campbell in her 2014 NORDP preconference workshop. Then, they distributed the logical model to faculty members so they understood what they were trying to accomplish. They also broke the goal down by college and provided concrete targets year by year – helped get the deans on board.
  • Applying the funnel concept to RD, you look at the what the funding rates are and how much you need to put into the top of the funnel to get the dollars you need at the bottom—how do they get to $85M? If you look at typical success rates for many agencies, they are single-digit or in the low teens. So if you assume 10% funding rate, that means they would have to submit $850M in proposals! Developing funding funnels: They realized they needed to identify core funding opportunities with a higher probability of funding and ensure submission of more competitive proposals. They pursued two main strategies: 1) Take a portfolio approach, identifying recurring funding opportunities with the highest hit rates, anticipating the next cycle, strengthening relationships with the Program Officers and starting working on proposals early (before they are officially announced); 2) identify growth opportunities (e.g., new opportunities and new funders, including foundations and industry,  and work with the new director of Corporate and Foundation Relations. This includes looking at contracts (e.g., DoD IDIQ and industry contracts) in addition to grants. Worked with faculty to make sure they understand expectations for contracts and that they felt confident they could deliver. Also added capacity in the Grants and Contracts department.
  • Helped faculty understand what they can do – worked with them to develop an individualized strategic funding plan (following a Strategic Funding Plan Informational Template provided by from Tina Campbell in her 2014 NORDP preconference workshop). Helps faculty work though what story they want to tell about their careers over the next 20 years (framed as their current situation, emerging or future directions, and professional goals) and then identify a matrix of funding opportunities that will allow them to make it happen. They articulate where they want to end up; for example, “I hope to become one of the go-to researchers in wearable sensors and smart devices in military and civilian environments in the next 15 – 20 years.” Then they get lots of help with finding funders working with their chairs, the RD office, and PIVOT. Before doing this Saundra and Paul talked to deans to gauge their level of commitment. Some chairs use this in their annual evaluation of their faculty. Roll-out of the strategic funding plans and market business development funnel ideas was very low key. Just assistance. Framed as, “we hope this can help you.”
  • Where are they now? Nearly 30 faculty now have individual strategic funding plans. Found that using the carrot approach works best. When faculty see other faculty get funded, and when they get tenure as a result of that success, that motivates them. There has been sharply increased interest and proposal activity. Looking at funding expenditures, NC A&T is on the upswing of the S-curve again, but it’s still early days. They hope to be back to report on more progress in the future.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?         

  • I had never thought of RD as being similar to a small business, but it makes sense.
  • I also hadn’t heard of the S-curve in the context of RD
  • I thought providing faculty with a formal strategic funding plan to help them explicitly map out their funding strategies in the context of their career goals is a great idea.
  • I also thought that using a logic model to communicate the RD strategy to faculty and deans was a really inspired idea.

What resources did you discover at this presentation? Examples: a website, database or software tool. We’ll link to resources on the blog.          

  1. Gov Net by Deltek – can find who has been funded on various contracts and identify RFPs for contracts as well as identifying RFPs before they are issued.
  2. Similarly, you can use PIVOT to identify funding opportunities before they are officially released by looking for opportunities that are labeled, “pending” rather “confirmed”. Look at the “pendings” and call the PO and ask about the likelihood that will be offered again.
  3. Not sure if these are publicly available, but Tina Edgerly Campbell’s templates for an RD logic model and for an individual strategic funding plan would be great resources if they are available.

What were the most interesting questions asked by audience members, and what were the presenter(s)’ responses?

Will senior faculty buy into the research funding strategic plan? Sometimes not. But often, they are in a position to start going for bigger team grants, and RD can help them with that. In the new College of Health & Human Services, they have been building faculty-driven micro-research clusters (not top-down) , which can help see these larger projects.

How do faculty get credit in team projects if they are a co-PI? NC A&T has changed the IDC share policy and they now provide credit on their record.

Questioner says they have a lot of initial interest from faculty about pursuing funding opportunities identified in advance, but faculty do not always follow-up. How do you deal with faculty who don’t follow up? From audience: She asks the faculty member, “When do you want me to follow up?” Sends email saying “ping”. Or may, say, “I’m just checking in – is there anything I can help you with?” But still have to expect that some faculty will not follow up.

How does this dovetail with other faculty development activities on campus? They tell faculty, “This is to help you better do the research piece. Talk to us.” They give out cards and make sure the faculty understand that their office is very accessible. In this way, the RD assistance is framed as faculty development and support.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?     

It’s interesting to note that the NC A&T RD office has been very careful to frame this as a service so it’s not seen as coercive. They emphasize a customer service culture.