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Fundamentals of Competitive Grant Applications

By: Roxanne Tackie – Story Point Consulting

All entrepreneurs need funding to successfully start up and grow their business. Grants can be a very helpful source of funding; however, they can be tough to get. Granters often receive hundreds or even thousands of applications from eager entrepreneurs. So how can you help your clients make their applications stand out from the crowd?

Understanding the perspective of the funder is key in writing a successful grant application. A strong and compelling application should answer the following five questions for the funder.

1. Does your project align with the funding priorities?

Many grant applications are rejected simply because the business or project does not properly align with the funder’s priorities. Before applying, thoroughly read through the application guidelines to ensure you meet the requirements. For example, the funding may be for a specific group like young entrepreneurs in a certain age range. Always ensure that you meet these requirements, otherwise your application will be rejected, and the hard work you put in to complete the application will have been wasted.

Also, it is best practice to connect with someone working for the funder to clarify that the business properly aligns with the funding priorities. Often government grants will host information sessions, and it is advisable to attend.

2. Why do you need the funding?

Your grant application must demonstrate need. What community need will be addressed? What problem will be solved? Is your business supporting an urgent need, or helping an underserved community?

Always ensure that you consider the perspective of the funder and do not make assumptions that they already know what it is that you do. Although you may have a great sense of why your business is necessary, you must effectively communicate it to the funder by being specific and using data where you can, to support your case. For example, a high number of units of sold product can be helpful in demonstrating a need for your business.

3. Where will the money be invested?

What specifically will the money be used for? Also, who will benefit from the investment in the business? Your answer to this question will go hand-in-hand with your demonstration of need. If you can clearly tell the funder what problem you are solving, you can also demonstrate who will benefit when your business receives the funding. You must also support your plan with a clearly defined budget. A clear budget will give the funder confidence that your plan is realistic and achievable.

4. Why are you the most qualified?

You must demonstrate to the funder that your business is trustworthy. Can you prove that you will in fact use the money the way you say you will? You can demonstrate your credibility in several ways. Past successes are great examples of your credibility. For example, have you successfully managed funding from other investors or funders? This will give the funder confidence that you will do the same with their funding. Also, you can tell the funder about key people that work with and for your business. For example, do you have a successful business partner or investor providing you with advice and support? This will help lend credibility to your business.

5. Do you pay attention to detail?

As mentioned earlier, many grants have limited funds available and hundreds of applicants. So, funders can simply disregard applications that are incomplete, or done carelessly. Does your application answer all the required questions? Is your application free of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes? To be persuasive and competitive, you must pay attention to these details or your application may simply be rejected despite being able to answer the other questions in a compelling manner.

Writing a persuasive grant application takes work. It is best practice to lay out the answers to the five questions in a document before even starting to complete the application. Although it may be time consuming, it is not a wasted effort. Once you have worked with your client to make a compelling case for why their business requires the funding, these points can be included seamlessly into the application making it stronger and more competitive.