In April and October of each year, the Stanford University Nursing Alumnae provide funds for research studies that are conducted by nurses working at Standard Health Care and Stanford Children’s Hospital.  This article outlines some tips to write a winning Legacy Grant application.

Tips to Write a Successful Legacy Grant

What is the Legacy Grant?

In October and April of each year, the Stanford University School of Nursing Alumnae provide funds for research studies that are conducted by nurses working at Standard Health Care and Stanford Children’s Hospital.  The grant offers up to $10,000 per study.   Nurses applying from Stanford Health Care may now also request paid hours from the Office of Research, for some of their project activities.

What is the application Like?

The application is a short 2-page summary of the project and its objectives.  While it might sound easy to write for only 2 pages, the application needs to follow a specific format and include a justified budget. Getting all the information into 2 pages requires the research idea to be clear, succinct and measurable. The application form lists everything that is needed in 7 sections.

The application can be downloaded from:  The next application deadline is April 30th, 2019.

Section 1: The Purpose

How do you start writing? The first section in any grant is either about the background or often “the aim” or “the purpose”. In a small application, the purpose is often the first sentence: i.e. The purpose of this study is to ……. (fill in the blank). If you are not sure how to compress the study purpose into one sentence, a PICOT question format can be used to structure your idea.

  • Population
  • Intervention
  • Comparison
  • Outcome
  • Timeline

The PICO question is a tool to help you format your research/project question.  A search for PICO question on the internet will bring up lots of informative examples. The following is an example PICOT question: “Do surgical patients without a urinary catheter, get out of bed more frequently than patients with an indwelling urinary catheter, on their first postoperative day and thus have an earlier return of bowl sounds?”

  • Population: Surgical patients without a urinary catheter (catheter taken out at end of surgery)
  • Intervention Early mobility – Get out of bed (> 4 times on post-op day 1)
  • Comparison Surgical patients with a urinary catheter (catheter remains in per protocol)
  • Outcome Earlier return of bowel sounds associated with increased early mobility in catheter-free group.
  • Timeline An observational study of 50 post-surgical patients over 3 months

Section 2: The background and significance

The background paragraph should be brief and refers to pertinent published literature. The focus of the background section is to show that the area of research is relevant to patient care and that the research is achievable.  Using the PICOT example above, if a specific method has been used to measure return of bowel sounds, cite the reference here. Or if a specific method has been used to measure time out of bed (chart review, motion camera, self-report) cite the method here.  The background should include examples of the tools or methods that are planned for the study.

Section 3: Pilot Work

If you have any data that is relevant to the proposed study explain the findings under “Pilot Work”.  The purpose of pilot work is to show feasibility and demonstrate that the project is doable.

Section 4: Methods

The application has questions to help you clearly describe the patient population and your methods. Describe how the study data will be collected and if the data contain patient health information (PHI) how you will maintain data security and safety. For example: using a secure database such as REDCap. In this section, you can refer reviewers to the background section, to describe how the intervention (your topic of interest) will be measured. It is not enough to write “we will compare”.  An explanation of how the data points will be measured should be included (see statistics points below). If you are using a survey instrument (email or in person) it is much better to use a validated and reliable tool, rather than make up your own.

Statistics (Descriptive or analytical)

  • Describe in a short paragraph how the various data points will be analyzed to show differences between your groups. Options are descriptive statistics and inferential statistics.
  • Descriptive statistics: Descriptive statistics simply describe the findings. For example, the difference in minutes from time out of the operating room (OR) until return of bowel sounds, auscultated by stethoscope between the two groups on post-op day 1.  Percentages are often reported in descriptive statistics.
  • Inferential statistics: Inferential statistics use a random sample of data from a population to make inferences about the population. It is usually not possible to study an entire population so a random sample that is representative of the population is used. In this situation, patients could be randomized into two groups with different interventions and inferential statistics are used to examine the results. It is recommended that applicants consult with a statistician before submitting a Legacy application. The legacy grant can be used to fund statistical analysis, and for the grant it is important to explain how many patients are needed to show a difference using statistical analysis.
  • Describe what you expect to find based on other studies (very brief). Add how your study outcomes will help patients and contribute to the clinical evidence base. Make sure your outcomes ARE MEASURABLE as described above.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

  • The Stanford Research Compliance Office’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews all Human Subjects research proposals. To submit an IRB proposal or letter of determination, you will need a SUNet ID. This can be obtained by calling 650-724-4357. Ask that the link be sent to your Stanford email and complete the online enrollment steps as soon as possible.
  • If your project is classified as research, you will need a Stanford faculty member to be a Principal Investigator (PI) and all members of the research team will need to complete online ethics / research training. The ethics training can be accessed at this link:

Section 5: Timeline

It can be difficult to estimate the timeline. In general, every research step takes double the time expected. Provide a list of the expected timeframes to include:  IRB approval, enrollment and data collection (this will depend on the number of patients in your study), data analysis, writing up results, dissemination (abstract and paper).

Section 6: Budget

Budget is very important. To help the committee determine an appropriate level of funding, be sure to provide a description of each item that is being requested, and a justification – that is, why is it needed?  Resources include supplies for your study, for example: gift cards to give to participants, rental or purchase of equipment.  These are listed with expected prices. Include only tangible items directly related to your study.

Section 7: References

The reference list will be short because the Legacy Grant format is short. All references listed should be cited earlier in the application. It is helpful to number the references (versus using names) to save space.

What happens after the grant is submitted?

The grant is reviewed by a team of researchers and members of the Stanford Alumnae. It is rare to be approved outright. Often, clarification of the grant or the budget is requested.  However, do not be deterred, just answer the questions and get the revised grant back to the reviewers ASAP.

Assistance Preparing the Legacy Grant,

It may be helpful to meet with a member of the Office of Research Patient Care Services (ORPCS) before submitting the grant. Please contact for more information.

The Legacy grant application is available for download from the ORPCS website:


Article By: Mary E. Lough

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