The team at Sprout Scientific has put together a 10-step guide to walk you through planning for and writing a grant application, whether it’s a competitive grant, an eligibility-based grant, or a tender.
Step 1 when applying for a grant is to read the guidelines. It’s important that you understand the various aspects and expectations of the grant as well as those of the overarching program, so make sure you allocate ample time to comb through the guidelines. In particular, pay attention to the business- and project-related eligibility criteria, which activities are eligible or ineligible, and other details, like the due date or required supporting documentation.
If the funding body has provided FAQs or a Glossary, give these a read too. Oftentimes, you will find clarification or additional details regarding eligible expenditure or activities and important definitions.
If you’ve combed through the guidelines and believe you are an eligible candidate, you can start crafting a project that fits within the scope of the program’s goals.
2. Time Management
Don’t fall prey to the planning fallacy when starting a grant application. As grants typically offer substantial funding, proportional amounts of information are required to ensure the best candidates can be identified. As a result, applications can take upwards of 40 hours to complete, and if this is your first try, we recommend doubling or even tripling the amount of time you think you’ll need.
It’s a good idea to create a schedule so you can hold yourself accountable during the drafting process and avoid burn-out. For example, allow yourself 2 days to read the guidelines, aim to draft at least one response each night, etc.
Incomplete or rushed applications won’t make a great impression on the assessors, so if you’re strapped for time, it might be best to reach out to a grant writing expert who can take the stress off your shoulders.
3. Project Scoping
Once you’ve established a timeline for the application process, it’s time to flesh out your project. You may have to step outside your comfort zone or deviate from your standard activities to develop a project that adheres to the guidelines. Keep an open mind here - tackling a new project could increase your business prospects, lead to new partnerships, or facilitate entry into a new market.
Grant assessors will be looking to fund projects that provide the most bang for their buck, so make sure your project is within the scope of the program and directly addresses the grant outcomes in a measurable way. For example, if an intended outcome is to showcase 5G technologies in various industries while demonstrating benefits to productivity, consider highlighting how your project constitutes a novel application of 5G technology, and compare potential productivity with and without your project to highlight the impact it could have.
Essentially, it's important to develop a project that adheres to the guidelines and intended outcomes while still playing to your strengths.
4. Resource Scoping
Resource scoping is a very important but broad step in the grant application process. You’ll have to consider what resources your team can dedicate, whether you’ll need to hire additional staff members if successful, and what material and financial resources will be required to conduct the project. For example, if you’re applying for a co-contribution style grant, consider which types of contributions are accepted (e.g. in-kind contributions, loans, cash, etc.) and how you can prove your financial status.
It’s also important to know what supporting documentation is required and whether you will need to identify project partners. Many grants require additional information, such as Project Plans, Risk Assessments, and Governance Tables. Similarly, many grants will either require or highly recommend identifying a project partner to strengthen the application or complement your offerings.
These supporting documents require more time than you might expect, so be sure to give yourself extra time to complete them, and give your potential project partners ample time to assess and commit to their role in the project.
Grant programs typically outline the intended objectives and outcomes - these are the societal, environmental, technological, or other impacts the funding body expects to see in response to implementation of your project.
When writing your grant application, it’s important to craft a narrative that clearly demonstrates what the problem is, how you intend to tackle it in an innovative and effective way, and what your project’s impact will be. Remember, you want the assessors to view your project as a perfect manifestation of their program. As such, we recommend re-reading the guidelines as you devise your narrative to ensure you are addressing each relevant aspects.
Oftentimes, applicants have to walk the line of explaining why funding could not be sourced elsewhere while detailing the incredible return on investment of the project. This can be tricky to execute effectively, though. The team at Sprout Scientific can help you craft an impactful narrative if you’re stuck on this step.
In short, the key features to keep in mind when crafting a narrative are thoroughness (have you fully addressed each of the program’s objectives and outcomes?), consistency (is your narrative consistent throughout the application?), and evidentiary support (if you make a claim about successes, qualifications, or impact, have you provided an example or data to substantiate it?).
At Sprout Scientific, we believe collaboration is the key to success. Each member of your team brings a unique perspective, knowledge base, and set of values that allow you to craft a unique application.
To make the grant writing process easier and more efficient, we recommend using a collaborative document, like Google Docs or a shared folder in Microsoft OneDrive. This allows each contributing member to see the document in real time, make corrections quickly and easily, leave comments for other team members, and provide assistance on the fly if it’s crunch time.
Even though a document is shared, it can still be private. Google Docs and OneDrive allow you to select the individuals you want to share the document with and control their access permissions (e.g. users can be assigned as editors, commenters, or viewers).
7. Attention to detail
This step likely goes without saying, but we think it’s important to keep in mind. When responding to the assessment criteria and other questions in the application, make sure you’ve thoroughly read each requirement and understand what is being asked.
Assessment criteria often have a general theme with more specific sub-questions. To keep track of the various sub-questions, it might be helpful to use a color coding scheme to ensure you have addressed each aspect. Remember, incomplete applications may be grounds for disqualification, so ensure you’ve sufficiently addressed each aspect of the assessment criteria.
As previously mentioned, it’s also a great idea to bring in supporting evidence. For example, if you are describing your 'capability to undertake the project,' consider adding a sentence or two about a previous project that you successfully completed. This will demonstrate to the assessors that you are capable of effectively managing funding, teams, and resources.
This is a crucial step that advises your financial capability to undertake the proposed project. Budgeting is a deep dive into your current and prospective finances, including the various sources that could provide access to loans or other monies.
Many grants are co-contribution based, which means you will have to prove that you can match the government’s funding in order to be eligible. For example, if you apply for $200,000 in funding, you must prove that you have access to an additional $200,000 at the time of application.
When assessing your finances, refer back to the guidelines and glossary to determine whether there are any limitations you need to take into consideration. For example, loans may be excluded from being a valid source of funds. Always read carefully!
We recommend organising a formal meeting with your accountant to review your cash flow, bank balances, loan options, and in-kind contributions. If you are in need of additional funding, Sprout Scientific may be able to direct you to a relevant lender, especially if you are conducting R&D work.
We can’t stress the importance of this step enough - proofreading and sanity checking is a must. Writing a grant application is a lengthy process, meaning the application was likely written over the course of many days and potentially by several people.
Before jumping into your application to proofread, we recommend writing a short list to summarize the most important points and outcomes of your project. This will help you stay on track during your final review and ensure the narrative is consistent.
Double check for spelling and grammatical errors and make sure your sentences are clear. If possible, we recommend asking a friend, co-worker, or family member to read the application to verify that your message has been conveyed clearly and eloquently.
If you want an expert pair of eyes on your application before you hit submit, shoot us an email - We’re happy to provide assistance in whatever form you need it, even if that’s just a quick sanity check.
Finally, everyone’s favourite step! But don’t be fooled by the perceived simplicity of this step, especially if you’ve drafted your application in a separate document. The submission process can take anywhere from 1-3+ hours, so give yourself plenty of time to load responses and documents into the portal.
Before you hit Submit, make sure you’ve attached all the necessary supporting documentation, such as Project Plans and Gantt Charts. These documents will be outlined in the guidelines and should be flagged as you go through the application. Keep an eye on the file sizes, as there are often limits (e.g. 2 MB).
Once you’re satisfied with your responses and are confident that the application is accurate and complete, you can agree to the final disclaimer and hit submit! Congratulations!