Writing successful grant applications
Writing successful grant applications takes skill and the reality is you can’t win them all. However if you create a good system you’re more likely to save time and increase your chances of success.
This week I sat in between two grant officers who were wading through a stack of funding applications. I wanted to hear ‘this application is amazing‘. Unfortunately, I heard statements like ‘the aims of this project doesn’t reflect their activities‘ and ‘I still can’t see how they will measure impact’.
Last year I was part of a panel reviewing funding applications for social enterprises and I also found myself helping Creative Training Hub’s clients put their funding and contract bids together. Here’s what I learnt from both processes.
FOCUS ON THE PROJECT
1. Define your project
You will often see grant applications with very short deadlines. Spend time creating a project plan. This will make it easier to complete an application in a short space of time.
2. Think about the impact
You need to believe that your work will make a difference. If you cannot see the impact, then how do you expect anyone else to. Keep looking for ways to prove and improve your project.
3. Value for money
It is not easy to identify the return on investments. Many people shy away from this and then wonder why they aren’t getting funded. Funding providers want to see value for money. Think about; How many people will benefit from your project? How long will it take? What resources are needed? What are the risks? You should be able to answer these questions from the onset.
4. Get the right balance
It’s great to be ambitious but you must be realistic. Can you feasibly deliver what you are setting out to achieve? You will need a project plan and budget. If you don’t have one then perhaps think about applying for a research grant.
Funding providers want innovation. They are inundated with proposals, your application will need to stand out from the crowd. Look at what is currently available for your beneficiaries and then explain how you will fill the gap or social need.
You may want to consider partnerships, as this may strengthen your application. Networking, partnerships and collaborations will bring so many benefits to your projects.
6. Cut out the jargon
Keep your applications jargon free. There will be words that are specific to your sector. Try to avoid using these. It is often a good idea to mirror the language of the funding provider.
7. Count the numbers
Just because there are no word counts, it doesn’t mean you should keep writing and fill the page. Make your point. Use headings and bullet points, if you have to.
8. Proof read it
Have someone who doesn’t know much about your work or project read through your application form. See if they can accurately explain your project back to you. It’s not just about the grammar and spelling, but more clarity.
9. Practice makes perfect
Some people will say they just had ‘beginners luck’. The truth is they probably had lots of practice at writing succinct and easy to read reports in the past. If you get rejected always ask for feedback. You will get better with practice.
10. Make a list
There are so many funding providers available. All with very specific agendas and guidelines. List what they fund. Note their yearly deadlines or at least the month. Look at what they have funded in previous years. Register with funding portals like ‘Funding Central’ and get regular updates of open applications. Your list or funding database will help you to plan your future applications in batches.
Let us know if you have any other tips or funding advice by adding your comments below…