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How to Write a Successful Grant Application

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Writing your first government grant application, or looking to improve on a previous attempt? It can be a daunting task—gathering information and writing while under considerable time pressure.

But with the right approach and some time-saving tips, the grant writing process becomes easier.

Here’s how to write a grant application that’s high quality and more likely to succeed.

Confirm your organisation is eligible for the grant

Every grant has eligibility criteria which you need to meet as a first step. Always read the eligibility criteria carefully before commencing any grant application. You must be certain that you meet all criteria, so if you are unsure, speak to a grants consultant to confirm whether it’s worth applying. 

Start with ‘why?’

One of the first questions worth asking before starting a grant application is ‘why?’. This will help you to create a strong application because you’ll be thinking about the benefits of your project.

There are two parts to the question of ‘why’:

The first ‘why’: rational

Consider the following:

  • Why is your project a good investment for your business?
  • Why are you seeking funding for your project?

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Take a moment over a cuppa to make notes of how your project addresses both above questions as this will come in handy if you go ahead with an application.

The other ‘why’: opportunity cost

It’s also important that you consider the opportunity cost. That’s because applying for a grant is going to eat up time, resources, and money that might otherwise be spent on improving other areas of your business.

Consider the following:

  • How much time and resources are required to complete your grant application?
  • Are you well prepared enough to win the grant?
  • Are your project plan and business plan complete?

If you’re unprepared, you may be better off waiting for another opportunity. You are better off applying for a grant when you have an investment-ready project idea that is supported by a clearly documented plan.

Think of it this way: every grant is an exciting opportunity, but you also need to consider the costs associated with applying. Do the benefits outweigh those costs? Perform this simple cost vs. benefit analysis to ensure that applying for the grant is the right move for your business.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Asking ‘why’ will help you dig into the core of your project idea and determine the key benefits. This will make it easier to explain why your project is a sound investment. 

Mindset: think of the application as a project in itself

A great way to ensure you submit a strong application is to treat it as its own project. This ensures you adopt the correct mindset and give your application the time and attention it needs.

Like your grant project, your application has key timings and vital components you must include.

If a critical element of your grant project was missing, you wouldn’t be able to move forward until you rectified the issue. It’s the same with your application; a poor quality or incomplete application won’t win support, so give yourself time to do a good job with your application.

Engage a grant writer

Some business owners are hesitant to invest in a professional grant writer. Their logic being that there’s no certainty of winning a grant just because you hired a grant writer. That may be true, but the reality is, your chances of winning will always improve when you hire someone with expertise and experiences in applying for grants. This is especially true with competitive government grants where there will be many other applicants all chasing the same prize. A professional grant writer will bring ideas on how to make your application more competitive and attractive to the grant body investment committee.

Grant writers know how to create attention-grabbing submissions that make a strong case for investment. And that is the difference between a winning application, and one that misses the mark.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
If you’re planning to use a grant writer or grants consultant, contact them as early as possible so they have plenty of time to gather information. A consultant may not want to take on your project if there is insufficient time to create a winning submission.

Review previous awardees and their grant-winning projects

Want to know what sort of projects and project attributes are likely to win funding? Checking previous awardees and funded projects is a great reference point. Grant administrators often post the results of previous funding rounds online, so you can explore previous winners and the amount of funding they received.

This is an easy way to get insights into the grantors and the types of projects they are comfortable investing in. You will identify some patterns as you scan through the list of winners and their project titles and overviews.

Keep in mind that often grant programs evolve to support changing government-led priorities as they shift over time. An example is Victoria’s long-running Regional Jobs & Infrastructure Fund, which has included many different grant streams over the years. Ensure your project aligns to the latest grant objectives and reach out to your grant consultant if you aren’t sure.

Plan, plan, plan, then plan some more!

The biggest lever you can pull in your grant application is to give yourself time. That starts with planning and preparation. The most competitive submissions already have a project plan, application strategy, and some supporting information ready to go, by the time the grant opens for applications.

Don’t hesitate to start organising resources and supplier quotes early. The sooner this work is done, the more time there will be to work on a great application. You want to give yourself more time than you need to allow for contingencies—expect some delays with gathering critical information.

It’s also a good time to review and firm up your project goals. Read through the grant criteria and confirm that your project aligns to them.

In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’. Solid advice for any grant application!

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Start getting your resources and supporting assets together as early as possible. You can do some of this work before the grant opens for applications if you monitor the grant program requirements in advance.

Work out your project costs and create a budget

Once you have a clear picture of what’s involved in your project, it’s best to spend some time creating your budget. The grant assessors will review the budget with intent, so the better it looks, the stronger your project will appear in their eyes. Numbers create a clear picture that can’t be masked with language or storytelling.

Simply put, if the numbers don’t stack up, it’s unlikely the assessors will select your project for investment. It’s their job to review and compare many submissions then approve only the most thoroughly-planned and financially viable ones. They’re looking for the stand-out, rock-solid applications that align to government policy.

Your budget should outline all the sources of income used to fund the project and include quotes for plant and equipment, contractors, prototyping, labour, travel, supplies and infrastructure. You must also indicate where grant funding will be used in the budget so there’s no uncertainty. Any cost estimates should be supported by quotations or at least clearly calculated, realistic, and most importantly, not inflated.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Detail all the different contributions to your project in your budget spreadsheet. This includes cash, loans, grants, and in-kind contributions. You must also display the grant amount and how the funding will be allocated across expenditure. Show calculations for labour costs and provide the most up to date invoices, quotes, and other financial information possible. A clear and detailed budget also helps to guide the write-up.

Enjoying this grant-winning content? Download our Guide to Winning Grants today to discover dozens more exclusive tips from an experienced professional grant consultant.

Gather support

You may be required to submit letters of support with your application. You might want to review and discuss with the relevant parties before submitting, so reach out to them before you start your application.

Each piece of supporting evidence you present acts as verification for your project, a vote of confidence and validation.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Contact relevant sources of support early and provide a friendly introduction to your project plans. This way, when you come to ask for support, they already have some context and should be more willing and able to write a great letter of support. You might also get some valuable feedback on your project or identify weaknesses that you hadn’t previously considered.

Write a stand-out application

One of the key challenges to any grant application is the write up. It’s critical to your chances of success that you include the right information and present it in a clear and engaging way.

You need to be methodical when you write the application. There are usually word counts that can’t be exceeded, so the writing needs to be free of fluff, while also including the key facts and building a story. It’s not an easy task, because word count limits can make it feel like there isn’t enough room to explain everything as you’d like to.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Begin by painting a visual in the readers mind of all your project’s benefits. Use bullet points to break up your text and reduce word count when writing out a list of items. 

Whether you plan to write your application yourself, or you are hiring a professional grant writer, don’t underestimate the time needed to craft the application—remember that to win, it needs to be strong, not just satisfactory.

When it comes to grant writing, consistency is key.

A good way to guarantee consistency is to have one person only responsible for the writing task—an experienced grant writer is ideal. This ensures the responses display one tone of voice, one writing style that is easy to follow.

‘Too many cooks’, as the saying goes, will lead to disjointed writing and variations in tone that can be distracting for the reader, and make the the project story less convincing.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Be consistent in your writing style and formatting throughout your application. Writing should be clear and direct, with short, easily read sentences. Avoid weak wordings like ‘maybe’ or ‘hopefully’ – use ‘will’ and ‘can’. Each paragraph should introduce one key point and some supporting sentences that strengthen your point.

A grant application consists of several aspects:

  • The sales pitch: introducing your project, the key benefits, explaining where the demand is coming from and why it’s a good and sustainable investment
  • The evidence: the facts and figures that validate your sales pitch
  • The relevance: demonstrating how your project aligns with and helps to achieve the grant program’s objectives

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Explore the funding body’s website and the grant application documentation to get a feel for the language they use. Make note of any frequently mentioned keywords or topics. It is wise to use some of these words and themes in your application.

Stay focussed on the question

When you’re answering questions or pitching your business, it can be easy to veer off on a tangent and forget to fully address the question at hand. This is a major pitfall I’ve encountered many times working with business owners on grant submissions.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Read the questions aloud and discuss each question with somebody before you begin crafting responses. 

As a business owner or director, it’s sometimes difficult to think objectively about your business and your project. But that’s what you must do to write a great application. Each response should be laser-focussed on the question and communicate the benefits of your project within the context of the grant program and its objectives.

Anything else is secondary—grant assessors aren’t looking for long backstories about your business, your processes, or your key people. In fact, providing too much secondary information will dilute the effectiveness of your responses! Tie your responses back to the question at every opportunity.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Some questions may be written as a single sentence but will contain several distinct points which you will be expected to discuss in your response. Try rewriting each question, breaking it down into a list of bullet points so you don’t miss any key information in your response. 

Allow plenty of time for the review

The review stage is where you’ll strengthen your application and prepare it for submission. Allow plenty of time for the review—you might be surprised at some of the errors you will pick up that could impact your chances of success. The best results usually come when you review and refine the content several times, which could take a couple of days or longer.

It’s always worth getting a fresh set of eyes to look over your application. This could be your grants consultant or writer, or failing that, somebody not directly involved in your business.

If you give your application to someone for a read through and they can’t understand what your project is about, your application needs more work.

Remember the person assessing your application doesn’t know your business or your project, and they may not be expert in the topic at hand. You need to make it easy for them to understand your project, your goals, and why they are important to the grant program.

GrantHelper Pro Tip
Get somebody to read through your application with fresh eyes. Once they’ve read through, ask for their feedback. Are they able to easily describe what your project is about? Can they point out any errors, weaknesses, or confusing parts? 

Key information to include in your project plan

A solid project plan acts as the foundation of your application. It supports the narrative being told in your grant responses with hard facts and figures that solidify your case for investment.

Your project plan should:

  • Provide an overview of your project, what’s involved and the key people
  • Show when key project milestones will be completed on a timeline
  • Explain how your project will come to life, including the necessary resources and funding
  • Include a detailed budget showing all costs and how grant funding will be used
  • Introduce your business capability, project demand drivers and economic rationale

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 How to Prepare Before You Apply insight to help you reduce the stress levels when you apply for a grant.

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.

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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