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10 Tips For Strong Grant Applications

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What Makes a Good Grant Application?

Are you stumped as to what makes a good grant application? We’re here to unlock the secrets to getting support, with 10 actionable tips that you can start benefiting from today.

We’ll also help you avoid common mistakes that can waste time and energy, and ultimately result in failure, especially if you’re applying for a significant opportunity. In fact, only around 41% of those applying for federal grants find success. 1

Interested in increasing your chances of getting in the winner’s circle? Read on.

Top 10 tips for writing a strong grant application

Whether you’re handling your grant application in-house or working with a grants specialist, here are 10 battle-tested tips that we use to get results with our clients.

1.    Know the guidelines inside out: Read, re-read and return to them

Study the grant guidelines thoroughly, absorb them, and come back to them regularly. When your application is finished, conduct a final check against the guidelines: this will help you identify misalignment and inconsistencies. We often notice these creeping in when multiple people work on an application.

2.    Don’t wait, start now

You can’t start too early, but you can definitely leave it too late. Start work on your application as soon as possible to allow yourself to mitigate any potential delays along the way. For example, gathering letters of support can take a while.

3.    Be memorable

Find the intriguing aspects of your project and highlight them in your summary, which is your chance to get the reader’s attention. What are you doing that’s novel, unique, and relevant to the grant?

4.    Tell a story, concisely

A good grant application needs a compelling narrative, but it also needs to be succinct to meet strict word and character limits. Write efficiently (avoid ‘salesy’), and use bullet points to help keep your character count down.

5.    Write for the layperson

Write your responses as if the person reading them has no knowledge of your subject matter — it’s highly likely that they won’t. Guide the reader through your application, provide clear explanations of any complex points, and avoid jargon.

6.    Give one person control of the write up

Try to avoid ‘design by committee’ — having multiple people editing your write up. While you may need input from various sources, you should assign one person to be the editor and allow them control over the final product to ensure consistency.

7.    Repetition can be good

Your answers should stand up as standalone pieces of content, so don’t be afraid to repeat yourself if a question calls for it. It’s not unusual for responses to be chopped out individually and assigned to different assessors; don’t assume the reader has the full picture.

8.    No such thing as too much evidence

Supporting documentation is key to creating the surety the assessors are looking for, so you can be liberal with this so long as it is relevant: plans (business, project, marketing, risk), studies, financials, forecasts, letters of support, supplier quotes.

9.    Show how you’re a safe bet

Ultimately, the government is looking for you to show how your project is a match for the objectives it wants to achieve, and that your company has the necessary capabilities and experience. They also want see evidence that you present a low level of risk.

10. Ask for feedback

Fresh eyes can work wonders on grant applications. Have an associate, spouse or friend share their feedback on what you’ve produced — this is one of the fastest ways to improve. Ideally this person won’t have been involved in the write up.

5 common pitfalls to avoid with your grant application

Even great projects can miss out on grant funding if the application isn’t correctly handled. Here are five common mistakes for you to avoid.

1.    Applying when you are not eligible

Don’t proceed with any grant application until you are certain your organisation and project are eligible. Unsure? Get expert assistance.

2.    Not answering the question

Grantors tend to approve applications that are laser-focused on answering the questions and criteria as they are presented. S.O.T — Stay on Topic!

3.    Neglecting the budget

A detailed budget is the core of a grant submission and demonstrates those all-important financial management capabilities — give it plenty of time and attention.

4.    Lack of support

Show the grantors you have support and buy-in for your project — you need them to see you as a backable choice, with people and resources behind you.

5.    Underestimating the time required

It doesn’t pay to be optimistic when planning your grant application workload. Many applications take well over 40 hours to complete. 

How to know when you have a strong grant application

The true test of your application will come when it’s assessed, but until then, see how many of these attributes you can check off:

  • You have a clear vision for your project and what it achieves
  • You have a narrative that explains what success looks like
  • Your organisation has developed grant readiness
  • You have collated plenty of supporting evidence
  • A third party can understand the vision of your project after reading your submission.

How to know when your are grant ready?

We have outlined 8 key activities for developing grant readiness here. If you’ve read through the readiness activities and can confidently say you have them all in hand, congratulations, you are likely in a strong position to apply for a grant. And if you’re still unsure, you shouldn’t feel discouraged — some uncertainty is natural and it is very rare to feel 100% confident with grant applications — even if your preparation has been outstanding, it’s a competition with an uncertain outcome.

Want to know your grant readiness?

Use our free questionnaire

This carefully crafted questionnaire lets you self-asses your organisation’s suitability for a grant and better understand what it means to be grant-ready — this could save you hours of wasted time on unsuitable applications. Try it now and ensure you are abreast of all the critical details and activities you’ll need to coordinate, plan for, and gather as part of creating a successful grant submission.

Take the GrantHelper Readiness Quiz – it’s FREE!

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 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.

  1. Source: SmartyGrants, 2022 stats report ↩︎

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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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