Strategic Tips when applying for Grants

Grant writing. So many small to medium enterprises rely on their ability to generate revenues and cash from grant sources to survive and even thrive. The art of writing a successful grant is one highly valued by such organisations, and even lauded within the industries that these talented people. But often I see many people within these organisations panic and jitter when a new tender hits the press. The thing is, often this frenzied grant writing is misdirected or strategically off topic, even if the grant is successful. What follows are three key tips to consider before writing the grant.

 1) Make sure there is a strategic reason for writing the grant

Grant writing is hard. There is a lot of stakeholder engagement that needs to take place prior, during and often (as the result of diligence and regulation) after the grant has been written. The key thing to remember, however, is that you do not waste time writing a grant. What do I mean by this?

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The key, is ensuring that you follow your strategic goals and objectives when writing the grant. If you don’t strategically plan on opening a massive, pirate themed adventure park then why would you apply for a grant to build one? Okay, so the example is quite extreme but it goes a long way to highlighting me contention. If the grant opportunity doesn’t talk directly to your strategic intent and organisation scope, then don’t waste your company’s precious time and resources writing it.

When a grant opportunity comes up, first ask the key questions:

i) How does this match our 3 year organisational strategy?

ii) How does this match the strategic direction of the business unit (or division eg. Marketing, Service etc etc) that would be responsible for implementing the grant.

iii) What is our organisation scope? What don’t we do? Is that what the grant is asking for? 

2) Find partners that can expand your strategic impact whilst remaining on scope

Okay, so you answered the above questions and you have now found a great opportunity! The grant on offer talks directly to the direction your organisation was already moving, meaning that if successful, the affect on your company will be like strapping a rocket to your back whilst roller-blading.

But often those who give the grant request that organisations partner when applying for grants. This is occurring more and more now here in Australia (and I’d appreciate any international readers to confirm the trend abroad). This partnering mitigates much of the risk the grantor faces when giving money to SME who may (or may not) achieve suitable results for the cash. As such, an important factor to consider as you begin to seek a partner is an organisation that can raise your results whilst not forcing you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do (ie – find a partnership that doesn’t involved scope creep.)

So when discussing how to leverage a partnership for your organisation, consider any “friendly organisations’ in your industry or geographic area you are on good terms with. A strategic alignment with an organisation that would otherwise be competitor could potentially increase the results both parties experience.

The other option available to you when partnering is to find someone in another industry whose skills you can leverage to achieve even greater results than if you either trekked the grant alone or partnered with a competitor. An example may be to partner with an advertising, public relations, consulting or legal firm whose skills can assist you with implementing the grant plans or even better. (Remember, now that the grant talks directly to your strategy, engaging a professional services partner will thus provide new services and talent you otherwise may not get exposure to – a huge competitive advantage).

So ask yourself the questions:

i) Who are we currently friendly with, and how could be leverage this opportunity together? Can we cooperate around geography, demographics of customers or vertical alignment?

ii) Who would you love to partner with if money/connections/politics was no barrier to entry? How can you approach these people and why should they work with you on this? What is the shared opportunity?

iii) Is there are larger player in your industry that you may be able to partner with to leverage their brand towards a new opportunity for both of your organisations?

iv) Can you partner with both a friendly organisation AND a company from another industry whilst remaining within your strategic scope?

3) Ensure that you include new resource requirements if successful

A final tip is to ensure that your company has the resources available to actually implement your grant when you get it. Many organisations make the mistake of applying for grants when they are not ready too actually win them, or at least have a good idea of how they will grow to successfully implement the plans they pitched on. So, make sure you ask yourself:

i) Who will project manage the implementation of this new project when we get the grant?

ii) If the answer to the above question is a resounding silence…how are you going to recruit, pay, find someone to run with the ball if no one within your organisation currently can?

iii) Can you move resources around so that an existing staff member can work on the new internal venture whilst you hire someone new to backfill their role?

Good luck and happy grant applying!

4 thoughts on “Strategic Tips when applying for Grants”

  1. This is an excellent exposition and checklist. Having spent quite a number of years in government, managing various grant programs, the three key pieces of advice I would offer to anyone, or any group, applying for a grant, are:
    *before you go through all the business of preparing to apply, read the guidelines, carefully;
    * half way through applying, read the guidelines, carefully;
    * before you submit your application/proposal, re-read the guidelines, carefully.

    I have seen some great proposals which could not be funded because they did not meet the guidelines and I wondered often why people went to all that bother. Did they think the guidelines were for someone else?

  2. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for putting this piece together.
    I think it makes a lot of sense and hope it is a bit of a cold shower to some over-eager grant writers out there!

    As a smart man once said to me:
    “You don’t have a strategy until you say NO” – and that probably relates to preparing grant submissions as much as it does anywhere.

    cheers,

    – Nige Presto

  3. Thanks guys. @nige I love that saying more than…well, lets just say I love it.

    @des, thanks for the comment. It is interesting that often grant writters can get carried away with their idea and before long, they realise it’s not to ‘spec’ anymore (or worse, they don’t realise it’s off topic!). I have been prone to doing this myself in times gone by – I think your advice is golden!

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