Prepare your search by defining yourself and your work as broadly as possible: the type of graduate program you are in; your project location; what defines and distinguishes you as an applicant both in and outside of the classroom; the subject area, purpose, and duration of your project; the constituency affected by your work; and the amount and type of funds you need.
Define your field of interest as completely as possible. Create a comprehensive list of general and specific keywords that apply to your topic, including the geographic location of study and constituency affected. View your work in its largest perspective.
Many terms in the educational funding world are used interchangeably. For example, a Graduate Fellowship at OSU may not be the same as a Graduate Fellowship at another institution. It is important to compare funding programs carefully so that you understand just what is being provided before you apply and/or accept funding. Be sure to read the fine print. When searching for funding on funding websites, be sure to use very broad terminology at first, then fine-tune as you review your search results.
Understand the partnerships between sponsors and funding recipients. There are two sides to the funding equation: scholars provide creativity and expertise, sponsors provide the dollars, and both are essential. Consider what sponsors expect in return for funding your work such as progress reports, presenting and publishing your results, or future service.
Understand the linkages. Make information seeking your first priority by identifying the sponsor's goals and ideologies, and then tailor your proposal to fit those goals. The corollary - you may want to research the grant market before you decide on a research topic.
Be resourceful. Draw upon the expertise of the faculty who regularly compete for funding. Have faculty, peers, and other professionals review the quality of your ideas and your proposal (including the presentation of it).
Success breeds success. Sponsors like to support recipients of other awards, no matter how small. Even small awards bring prestige, demonstrating your potential for success.
APPLY! You won't be funded without asking to be funded.