tips for writing successful grant applications

Grant Writing Part III — Eight More Tips

Get serious

Successful grant applications take a serious amount of work.  You’ll be opening yourself and your business to almost forensic examination by the funding body and competing with thousands of others for the same pot of money. A little daunting perhaps, but there are ways to increase your chances of making the cut.   

1. Read the questions  

Carefully read and re-read the questions – make sure you understand what they’re asking. And if you have doubts — call them or send an email. You don’t want to get this wrong, given the invariably short timeframes

2. Understand what’s in it for them

Look at the funder’s guidelines, strategic plans, and reports on previous funding rounds – what got up, and why. You are looking for language – keywords, angles, hooks to use.  Remember, the funding body is looking for what is in it for them, and how your project aligns with their plans.

3. Can you do it for the money?

Look at the budget — what are they offering, and can you do it for that, or will you have to leverage funds from elsewhere? In-kind contributions are also good — but cash is better and many of these grants also ask for matching funding.  

Mind maps are useful here. What do you really need? And can you justify each item? Don’t just put in ballpark figures: $500, $2000, $3000 — that suggests you either don’t know or haven’t taken the time to figure out your costs, which tells the funding body that you’re not serious — so why should they trust you with taxpayer’s money? Build a bit of fat in for sure – but not too much.

4. Do the research

Whether you are using your own organisation’s information or an independent source, make sure it is reliable and include the reference.

5. Letters of support

Gather letters of support and quotes from satisfied customers— the latter always look good in the text.   

6. Write it

Write your application in Word or Pages then post it into the right boxes in the online document. Alternatively, download the application, format it nicely (but in-line with the guidelines), add photos, then combine the main application with all appendices in Adobe and submit it in that form. You do want to stand out from the crowd, but check that the funding body allows you to do it this way — some don’t.  Offline composition with plenty of cloud backup is the best strategy as these application programs have a nasty habit of crashing.  

Also – use strict version control – I always end a filename with the time and date in Word, saving and changing the name every couple of hours. Back up to the Cloud or send the draft to yourself in an email. If you are working on Google Docs then this is done automagically — but you don’t get the formatting options available in the standalone Word.  

7. Type your responses

And always type your responses — don’t snort — I have had clients who have submitted hand-written grant applications, and wondered why they never got funded!

8. How is your online profile?

Make sure your website and Facebook page are up-to-date, with high-quality, relevant photos and the latest news. And your key players all have up-to-date LinkedIn profiles.  If you get past the first cull of applications, they will be digging up your web presence. Do you look like you mean business or is your website 10 years out of date, featuring your ex-CEO talking about long-past initiatives and staff who have long-since retired? You’d be surprised just how common this is.    

Best of luck! Get in touch if you need a hand.