Before you start…
1) Are you a good fit?
Check the guidelines to make sure. It’s surprising how many organisations apply for funds when they’re not a good fit.
2) Give them a call
If there’s a contact number, give the funder a call to see if your project is a good fit and ask any questions you may have.
3) Avoid the application form
If the application is an online form, editable PDF or another type of application form, transfer all the questions to a word document (or similar). This way you can more easily edit, add comments, track changes and ensure you’ve not changed the formatting of the form itself (this can sometimes automatically disqualify your application!).
Don’t just write. Go through the application and jot down key points.
5) Answer the question
Just like your teacher probably said in school: “answer the question”. Don’t just start writing!
6) Start with more words
To make sure you get the crucial info in don’t focus on word count at the start. Copy and paste stats and other text you may already have into one place.
7) Edit to the word count or less
Clear and concise – two key words when it comes to any application. If no word count, still cut your original text down.
8) Guide the reader
Use headings and bullet points/numbered lists to guide the reader and make it as easy to read as possible. Some online forms won’t let you format the text. If this is the case, use CAPITALS for headings and hyphens/dashes for bullets.
9) White space is your friend
Don’t stretch the margins, shrink the text etc. Funders are not only wise to this but who wants to read that?!
10) Avoid acronyms
A few can be helpful to save on word count and to help with the flow of the text but not so many that you’re just reading a list of letters.
11) Avoid jargon
Sounds pretty obvious but a lot of organisations do this (including funders). The only time jargon could be OK is when it uses the funder’s words to show you meet their criteria (see point 12 below).
12) Use their keywords
If they use X and you normally use Y. Use X.
13) SMART outcomes/objectives
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. This is becoming a more common requirement of funders and even when not explicitly requested it can be a good way to make sure your outcomes and objectives are clear.
Make sure it’s clear and makes sense. Funders often want to see a breakdown of the total so make sure you have this info. Check that all the totals add up.
15) Review and edit
Ideally, on a different day go back to your application to review and edit.
16) The guidelines
Read and reread the guidelines before submitting the application. It’s easy to overlook something and forget an attachment or to include some required information. This can be the matter of being funded or rejected.
17) Contact details
Include contact details of the most senior relevant person.
18) Check, check and check again…
Check the text for typos, grammar errors etc. If possible, get someone else to do this. If not, read it with fresh eyes and ideally aloud. Reading documents backwards can also help highlight typos you may have missed.
19) Successful – Congratulations!
Whatever you do, don’t forget to thank the funder. Sounds obvious, right? Well, sadly no. Many successful grant applicants forget to thank the funder and/or overlook specific grant requirements. Make sure to check the contract and/or other information provided to ensure that all relevant team members are aware of any grant requirements. Also, check with the funder if and how they’d like to be acknowledged and if they’d like to be added to your mailing list for regular updates on your organisation’s work. If they require a report, make sure to note the deadline. If they don’t, you should still make sure to send them an update and final report.
20) Unsuccessful – don’t beat yourself up!
Grant funding is very competitive. Even the best-written application in the world may not be funded if the evaluators/decision board have had a change in priorities etc. Rejections are part of the process so focus on what you can learn from the experience. Was there anything you could have done differently or another project that may have been a better fit? If the funder has not specifically said that they cannot provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants, then it’s always worth following up to find out more.
The process of writing the application regardless of the outcome can be useful leading to clearer planning. Also, you’ll now have a great funding application you can adapt to apply to other funders!
Need some support?
Do you have any questions about grant writing or other areas of fundraising? If so, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here.
Or perhaps your non-profit or social enterprise is in need of some expert support in another area, such as communications, evaluation or projects? Find out more on how I can help you here.