How to Get Funding 

September 16, 2022

Since our founding in 1945, Citizens & Scholars has supported over 27,000 visionary thinkers, scholars, and teachers in our Fellow community. These Fellows apply to our various Fellowship programs before being selected. So, after 75 years, the Citizens & Scholars team has read a lot of applications. 

Whether you’re a doctoral candidate, faculty member, young leader, or other changemaker, here are our top tips for applying for funding opportunities. 

Do Your Research 

A successful application begins long before you fill out the application. Do your homework about what funding opportunities you want to apply for. Tap resources like university fellowship advisors, faculty, mentors, online searches, and sites like ProFellow.  Be sophisticated about your research and make sure that the work you are proposing is a true fit for the funding program.  

In your research, look at past awardees’ projects. These can often be found on fellow listing pages or as a news release. Is yours the same? Maybe the selection committee will be wary of funding projects that are too similar. Is your project tackling a similar ethos? If your project is aligned with the intent of the program and has the same sensibilities as a past project, it might be a good sign that yours could fit.  

For example, the Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship, administered by Citizens & Scholars, funds dissertations examining how ethical and religious values shape society. A dissertation focused solely on religion likely isn’t a fit. But dissertations exploring how religion shapes a political decision or culture is directly in line with the mission of the program. 

As you’re conducting your research about opportunities, think critically about if your work is a fit. If it is not, do not try to force it. Use that energy towards programs with which you’re more directly aligned. 

Go over the program’s webpage and application instructions thoroughly to make sure you are a fit, are eligible, and can gather all the necessary items for a complete application. 

Make Sure You Are Eligible 

In doing your research for project fit, also make sure you meet all the eligibility requirements for the program. These requirements are usually very strict. If you do not meet all eligibility requirements, do not start the application. Instead, consider reaching out to the program director or administrator to discuss the requirements and any possible exceptions before starting the process.  

How to Apply for Citizens & Scholars Fellowships


Follow Directions 

A good application meets all the program requirements and submits everything that is asked in the application. Pay careful attention to any required materials that you need to submit with your application. 

If there are additional items—like CVs, work samples, or budgets—make sure you are following directions for how to format, name, and submit those items 

Make sure you include every item that is required along with your application. Consult both the program website and the application itself for instructions and make sure you follow them. 

Write Clearly, Concisely, and Plainly 

Think critically about how your project or idea fits into the funding program and speak to that directly in your application answers. Write in a clear and concise manner that explains how your project aligns with the funding program requirements. 

Remember that not all selectors may be from your field. Exclude any jargon and explain your project in a way that could be understood by anyone.  

Be specific and tailor your responses and/or project statement to the funding program. Do not use a standard explanation. Make it clear how your project or work connects to the mission of the funding program. 

Be Transparent 

Make sure you are transparent in your responses. Do not try to force a fit or evade an answer. Answer the questions that are posed truthfully, completely, and professionally.  

Make sure that, if you choose to provide any personal anecdotes or details of your lived experience, it is clear how they relate to the work for which you are seeking support, and to the funding program’s emphases and requirements. 

A strong applicant is someone who looks at themselves critically and understands where there may be weaknesses in their application or questions from a selector. Try to address those weaknesses in some way, through written responses, statements of purpose, or a letter of recommendation. 

Get Alerts When Fellowship Applications Open


Choose Your Recommenders Wisely and Give Them a Deadline 

Choose a recommender who can speak truthfully about your strengths and your work. Give them information about the program you’re applying to so that they can tailor their letter. They can also help address any weaknesses in your application if needed. If there are gaps in your employment or education, a lower grade, or another area that might be a flag to selectors, your recommender can address those where appropriate. 

Select recommenders you feel comfortable following up with. Recommenders are notorious procrastinators when it comes to submitting recommendations. Give them a due date prior to the application deadline to ensure the recommendation is submitted on time and correctly. 

Apply Before The Deadline 

Plan to apply well before the deadline. This will give you time to troubleshoot any technical difficulties with the application system or to follow up with recommenders to submit their letters. 

If you need technical assistance, provide as much information about the issue as possible. With enough information, troubleshooting can begin immediately.  

If you or a recommender are unable to meet the deadline, make the program administrator aware of the issue as soon as possible before the deadline. Some accommodations can be made if there is enough time in the review schedule. 

Double-check that you have fulfilled all the application requirements and that letters of recommendation have been received correctly.  

At Citizens & Scholars, we want to see every applicant successfully submit their application. If there is ever any doubt, reach out to the program officer or administrator.  

Here are some funding opportunities currently open at Citizens & Scholars: 

C&S Fellowships 

All Fellowship Opportunities

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