WRI has more than 20-years’ experience reviewing grant applications, and preparing successful applications for our clients. Here are some of the common mistakes we have seen over the years that you should avoid in preparing your application:
1. Not addressing the criteria
One of the main reasons grant applications fail is because they do not demonstrate that they met the funding criteria. For example, if the application requires you to show that you can manage a project of the scale and complexity proposed, you need to do more than just state that you can. You must give examples of similar projects that you have managed successfully, and the processes you used to deliver the outcomes.
2. Not identifying solutions
Because you live in a community, or run a business, you will generally have an excellent understanding of the problem your grant application is designed to solve. While this is important, it is critical that you also provide evidence that proves the problem exists and which demonstrate how your proposal will provide a solution. For many organisations and businesses, this is complicated. Being too general about the scale of the problem, and the nature of the solution, will undermine your application’s credibility. Write the application as though you are trying to prove your case to someone who knows nothing about the issues or solutions. Then ask yourself: “Would I invest my money in this solution?” If the answer is ‘No’, you are unlikely to convince the Government to do the same.
3. Not allowing sufficient time and resources to prepare the application
A big problem with many applications is that the organisation or business does not allow enough time or resources to prepare the application. Grant funding is highly competitive, and more and more organisations are outsourcing grant writing to independent professionals like WRI who have years of experience and skills in preparing applications. If you are considering an application, remember that it takes time to collate the Needs Analysis, Financial Plan, Project Plan and economic analysis. If the project involves partners, you need to incorporate time for input from each partner, and for sign-off on the final application. Application writing is a highly skilled job, so give the work to someone who is an expert in the issues you are trying to address.
4. Using acronyms and jargon
The use of acronyms can be really important when you have a word limit on the application form. But always remember to write out the acronym the first time you use it so the reviewer knows what you are talking about. Some acronyms can be assumed to be general knowledge with funders, such as CPI (Consumer Price Index) and GDP (Gross Domestic Product), but don’t assume the reviewer will know industry or organisation specific acronyms or industry jargon. Sometimes grant writers are tempted to use complex industry languages and words to show that they have a superior command of the subject matter. But remember, the purpose of a grant application is to clearly communicate the problem and solution.
6. Check and double check your spelling, financials and data
A grant application is not just a way of setting out your case for funding, it also demonstrates your command of the issues and solution. Presenting a professional application is crucial to success. The credibility of your application relies on accurate financials and data. Adding up dollar amounts incorrectly, or using data incorrectly, are two of the biggest mistakes that many organisations and businesses make when preparing applications. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can also suggest that you have rushed the application, and can undermine confidence in what you are saying. Incorporate into your timetable an opportunity for an independent person without knowledge of the issues or solution to check your application thoroughly before submission and make corrections where needed. If it makes sense to them, it is more likely make sense to a reviewer.
One final note – remember that the person reviewing your application might be reading hundreds of different applications which all present strong cases for social, economic or environmental need. Don’t make their job harder than it needs to be - make sure you use a clear and consistent font and style that is easy to read. When using graphs or charts, make sure they can be easily read and understood and are relevant to the application. Too many good and worthy applications go to the bottom of the pile because they demand too much effort on the part of the reviewer.