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🏆Grant Win Stories: How Dr. Janina Jeff Won $25,000 To Produce Season 3 of In Those Genes Podcast
How Dr. Janina Jeff's outside-of-the-box approach to grants helped secure $25,000 for her hip-hop inspired genetics podcast.
Since launching this newsletter almost 18 months ago, I’ve heard incredible stories of GFC subscribers winning grant funds to support their creative ventures.
It’s unfair to keep these stories to myself, which is why I’m launching a new series highlighting grant wins from members of this community.
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When you’re in the thick of chasing your dreams and working tirelessly on your craft, it’s easy to get discouraged and question the point of all this.
I hope this series lights a spark in you to continue putting yourself out there and applying for opportunities — whether grants or otherwise— because you never know what’s earmarked for you.
Today you’ll hear from Dr. Janina Jeff about her experience applying for and winning grant opportunities. Dr. Janina Jeff has a Ph.D. in genetics, and she has a hip-hop-inspired podcast called In Those Genes, which uses genetics to decode lost histories and futures of African descendants.
Keep reading to learn more about Dr. Janina Jeff‘s inspiring story of winning a $25,000 award for media projects teaching intellectual humility. She also shares tips for crafting successful grant applications, her go-to resources, and plans for securing more funding.
Tell us about your background.
I am a scientist by training, so I have a Ph.D. in genetics. I have a career in research, so I'm used to writing a bunch of grants.
I have a podcast, In Those Genes, which is a podcast that uses genetics to decode the lost histories and futures of African descendants. We came about in 2018 after winning a competitive award with Spotify called Spotify Sound Up.
I was in the inaugural class: 18,000 people applied, and I was one of three winners.
Since then, we have chosen to be an independent podcast, so our message wouldn't be policed. We can tell all the stories we want from the angles we want to.
We've been really successful; we’ve won international awards, and both season 1 and season 2 were independently funded.
Our podcast is very evergreen, which means it stands the test of any time, and also, the podcast has been used as an educational resource in science classes from K through 12, all the way to graduate-level science classes.
Everyone on our team is Black.
Every voice you hear on the podcast is Black. We're showing that our stories matter, and hearing our voices when talking about science specifically, really matters.
There's nothing wrong with having an all-Black show. It's authentically Back, and I've been very pleasantly surprised by how accepting the science community and just the community at large, even the Black community, has been.
How do you use the Grants For Creators newsletter?
I'm always looking at Grants For Creators for grant opportunities, and this was the biggest one I applied for.
This grant was with UC Berkeley called “Greater Good Science,” they have a sector of the grant that's all on intellectual humility.
When I read and went to the link from your newsletter, I was like, this grant was meant for us.
The principle behind the grant is that they're funding media projects that are teaching this concept of intellectual humility: this is a concept where experts could be wrong about the things they think they know.
Intellectual humility is a perfect fit for our podcast because, in every episode, we unpack a different genetic concept or trait we typically associate with race.
We use a lot of intellectual humility in our episodes, but we didn't know there was a word for it, so we applied for the grant.
I requested $50,000, and I received $25,000. UC Berkeley funded nine projects, and we were one of those nine projects.
We plan to put that money towards our season three production which we currently have a budget of $150,000. We are also funded by other awards from organizations like 500 Women Scientists and Spotify.
Our show is not funded by big pod agencies. We are not an official Spotify podcast or an official anybody podcast. We are an independent podcast.
Applying for grants allows us to still have creative control.
How do you use your academic skills to write grant proposals for creative projects?
One of the things I learned when writing grants in science is how to write in a very punchy, eye-catching way.
I encourage everybody to review grants. By reviewing winning grants, I learned how to be very clear and concise because people are reading these over and over again, and what will stand out to them is something punchy, easy to read, and makes a lot of sense.
Another thing I think a lot of people don't talk about is how to deal with rejection.
I apply for a bunch of opportunities and understand the likelihood of getting them is low. I'm neither really shocked nor sad when I get rejection letters; this makes me more resilient, knowing it’s not personal; sometimes, we're just not a good fit.
Also, reuse text from other submissions. This is what we call “boiler text.” When you're writing grants, reusing that boiler text is helpful.
How are you finding relevant funding opportunities to support your work?
Grants For Creators (and I'm not just hyping you) really is my number one source. It's such a great resource, especially for Black creators.
I also go back into my academia bag.
Different sectors of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) fund media and other education types. So I tap into a bunch of educational-related grant opportunities because I think as a community, as a country, we're starting to think about unconventional educational methods. A podcast fits nicely into that.
Another huge untapped resource I have been using is going to different companies for corporate giving. I already work in the biotech field, but tapping into companies that are in my industry too. This would be pharma. All of these industries have an interest in diversity and making sure education is at the forefront, so we fit nicely there too.
Many of them are used to funding outreach programs and things that are more directly connected, so we stand out, and it works for us.
What's next for you?
For the upcoming season 3, we're going deeper into psychological traits, so we will be talking about intellect, genetics, trauma, and joy. We're going to talk about hypersexuality and aggression. We have a lot of exciting topics we're going to get to in season 3. We hope to release new episodes before the end of the year (2023).
If you won an award you found from this newsletter, please let us know. We'd love to feature you in this series and highlight your work.
Email Danielle Desir Corbett at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “I won a grant.”
Review our list of Grant Opportunities For June 2023.
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