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Applying for a Grant: How to Prepare Before You Apply

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What are your strategies for avoiding stress?

When you’re applying for a grant, the process can be very stressful if you aren’t well prepared. There are many hoops to jump through and a lot of information to be collected, usually in a short space of time.

You’ll also be expected to clearly describe the benefits of your grant project which can be tough if you haven’t had time to think about what those benefits are. This is often the case for time-poor business owners and directors.

Here are our top tips to help you work smarter and reduce the stress levels when you apply for a grant.

Read the grant guidelines

Think of the grant guidelines as your ‘single source of truth’ for your grant project. Nearly all the answers you need are contained within this document, though meanings may sometimes need to be decoded by somebody who knows the ‘lingo’. Read the guidelines thoroughly before you begin the application process and refer to them whenever uncertainty arises.

Set aside some time so you can read through the guidelines with a fresh cup of coffee. As you read through, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my project eligible for this grant?
    • (If the grant is only for businesses in a specific sector): Is my business in the sector?
    • Does my business meet all the eligibility criteria?
  • Does my project align to the grant’s objectives and intended outcomes?
  • Does my business have the capability to deliver the project within the allotted time frame?
  • Is my business able to meet the financial obligations that will arise from winning this grant?
  • Can I gather support from other business owners?

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Make notes of any points of uncertainty or confusion as you read the guidelines. You can chat through these with a grants consultant to get clarification—a consultant usually doesn’t charge to get to know your business or review grant opportunities for you.

Confirm eligibility

If there’s one golden rule to remember about applying for a grant, it’s to only apply for grants where you are certain that your organisation is eligible.

You can waste a lot of time working on a grant application only to find out later that you aren’t eligible — and all that effort will be for nothing. So it’s worth checking with a consultant (usually quicker) or contacting the funding body directly (usually slower) if you are even slightly unsure about the eligibility criteria.

There are two main types of eligibility: applicant and project.

First, check that your organisation is an eligible applicant. Check whether the grant is being offered only to specific industry sectors, such as manufacturing or recycling. Similarly, grants are often only available to organisations of a certain size, categorised by the number of employees or annual turnover. If the grant is not available to certain organisation types (e.g., sole traders), you must check and confirm that before diving into any application.

Next, confirm that you meet all the project eligibility criteria. These criteria often include a minimum project expenditure, or certain types of activities, such as purchasing a specific type of new equipment.

Using a consultant? Contact them early

Planning to invest in a consultant to help you with your application? You’ll want to reach out to them as soon as you can.

Consultants and grant writers are well versed in the grant application process, so they know that hastily thrown together applications don’t win. A phone call looking for help at the eleventh hour might set off alarm bells.

They need time to get to know your business, gather information, write a high-quality application, and perform a thorough review. This takes weeks, or months, not hours. A consultant will be much less inclined to work on a project with a low success rate, especially if some or all their fee is tied to a winning outcome.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
It’s never too early to get in touch with a consultant, but you definitely can leave it too late. 

Ensure your project aligns to the grant’s objectives

Each grant program has a specific set of objectives it’s trying to achieve. And the more your project aligns to those objectives, the better.

You’ll find the grant’s objectives in those all-important guidelines. And if the grant is part of a larger government initiative, as is often the case, it’s worth reading through the documentation of that initiative to see what its key objectives are. Try to get a feel for the big picture—it takes some time to read through the materials, but I can’t stress enough how much it is worth doing.

While you can’t easily change the fundamentals of how your project works, you can and should adjust the focus of your application so it’s clear that your project is strongly aligned with the grant objectives.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
At the start of your application, describe your project’s key benefits and how they support the grant objectives. Make the reader think ‘this is a good one’ as soon as possible. You’ll reap the rewards later. 

Contact the funding body with questions

While grant guidelines offer a wealth of information that you need to create your application, that information is often not easy to understand. Jargon and technical language can make it difficult to get to the core of what is being asked of you.

And sometimes no matter how many times you read a document, the exact meaning just isn’t clear. But of course, you must be clear before starting your application to avoid wasting your time.

You can try contacting the grantors directly via the contact details on the grant’s web page. You can also ask a consultant to help with this, which will likely give you your answer much more quickly—the grantor will be busy fielding many requests, and a response may take some time.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Even the smallest insight provided by the funding body could give you an advantage. This could be a single line in an email or a phone conversation. See what you can find out by asking the right questions. You should also do this if you have been unsuccessful with a submission so you can improve next time.

Assign responsibilities

Once you know who will be leading your grant writing project, ensure everyone involved is assigned a clear set of responsibilities. Who will ensure the grant funding is properly used if you win? Who is ensuring you meet your project targets? Why is this person the best choice? These are the kinds of questions an assessor might ask when reading your application.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Grant assessors want to know who is running your project, their responsibilities, and their key capabilities. Be sure to sell the skills and experience of your project’s leaders and explain why each person is a great choice for their role.

Discuss the following areas of responsibility and the key people involved in each:

  • Financial management, including administering of grant funds
  • Project management: scheduling and managing resources
  • Additional coordinating/supporting roles for the lead project manager

GrantHelper Pro Tip
If possible, include records of previous projects that show your organisation’s track record of delivering successful projects. 

Collect supporting evidence and information

Supporting documentation is nearly always requested as part of the grant application process. This includes things like a budget, letters of support, sales forecasts, and other information that presents your project as a solid investment.

These documents all help to verify your project and remove doubts from the minds of the assessors.

It’s important to double check all your information to ensure it’s correct and is as strong as it can be. You don’t want to be scrambling to get all your evidence together, so get this task done nice and early to avoid the stress!

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Gathering supporting documentation is one of the first tasks I start on any grant application I consult on—I recommend you do the same.

Create a compelling, strong application

Now comes the hard part, the write up. This is one of the most important aspects of the application, and one of the most challenging. It’s not easy to write a clear, compelling narrative when you’re boxed in by a word count, but that’s what you need to do to submit a strong grant application.

It’s easy to think that your application will be compelling because you have a lot of passion for your business, so that will come through in your writing. But that’s simply not the case.

Creating a clear and engaging application means:

  • writing in plain English
    • keeping sentences short (less than 20 words each)
    • using the active voice: ‘the project achieves this by …’, rather than the passive voice: ‘this will be achieved by the project …’
  • clearly addressing each and every criterion
  • explaining how your project’s objectives support the grant’s objectives
  • making strong, concise points without rambling
  • including facts and figures that back up your points
  • having somebody perform an objective review

Want to know more? Explore our in-depth guide to writing a grant application.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Even if you don’t see the need to engage a grants consultant, you should consider hiring one to help you with the write up if nothing else. They have the experience necessary to write a compelling application in the limited time you will have to complete this task. 

Leave plenty of time for the review

Another task that is often neglected, the review comes last but is one of the most important tasks of all. Errors and missed details are nearly always found during the review—even on the most organised applications.

When you review your application, you should:

  • double check all financial information to ensure it is correct
  • check for missing or incomplete information
  • go through the guidelines and check that every point in every question has been fully addressed in your responses
  • check for spelling and grammatical errors
  • review every sentence in the write up and look to cut out weak or superfluous ones
  • get a third party to review your application to see if they understand it

Prepare for post-submission reporting

Many grants require you to report back to the funding body to confirm the correct use of funding and completion of stated activities. Decide how you will address this task when you create your application. This way, the grant is fresh in everyone’s minds, and you’ll be able to think about exactly what information you’ll need to come up with in your report.

Ensure your accountant and your grants consultant, if using one, are ready to complete this task when the time comes.

Wrapping up

While each grant is unique, there are fundamental aspects that remain the same from grant to grant. Ensuring your business is well prepared in the fundamentals discussed above will help you to create a stronger, more convincing application. But it won’t add more hours to your day to spend working on grants. That’s where we come in.

Resources and help to get a grant

There are many more grants available—check out our finding grants article if you want to get better at discovering grants.

Our Insights showcase some of the grant-winning methods we employ at GrantHelper, and they will help you create a stronger grant application. But no matter how well prepared you are, winning grants takes time—something we know many business owners and directors just don’t have. And that’s why we’re here to help.

GrantHelper can assist with your organisation’s next grant application, no matter what stage of the funding journey you’re at.

I need help applying for grants

Check out our Working with a Grant Writer to learn the benefits of hiring a grant writer and the secrets to winning a grant application.

Check out our How to write a successful grant application to learn some time-saving tips to make the grant writing process easier.

Our in-depth eBook is the single most valuable resource you will find that helps organisations to truly understand how to win government grants.

A person holding a tablet device displaying the GrantHelper Guide to Winning Grants eBook on its screen.

Download our eBook to discover grant-winning secrets

Our free eBook features 10 chapters of expert advice, professional tips and more to help you do better with grants, whether you’re new to the process or you’ve applied before.

Get your copy of the Guide to Winning Grants now.

Is your business eligible for this government grant? Or perhaps you’re not sure and want to know more?

GrantHelper offers a range of government grant services, helping businesses of all sizes to discover, apply for, and win the best grant opportunities. We can help you with anything from finding the right grants, to writing your application, formulating an ongoing grant strategy, and more.

Get started now by filling in the form below, or tap the ‘Book a Discovery Call’ button to schedule a no-obligation virtual meeting with an experienced government grants consultant.

Check out some of the clients we’ve helped and what they had to say about us.

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What's on my mind

Hi, I’m Steve Dowling – founder of GrantHelper. I’m a former champion of marketing and export business development turned business builder.

I do a lot of thinking and reading around grants, strategy, and funding. I send a monthly newsletter with what’s on my mind on this stuff.

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