How do you go about putting together your grant applications? Do you scan the guidelines, think it’s a good idea, start putting pen to paper and part way through realise it’s not for you? Or worse still, you don’t qualify? Do you leave it until the last minute and freak out, sweat pouring as you try to get it finished before the deadline, hoping there aren’t technology problems when it comes to uploading at the 11th hour and 59th minute? Sound remotely familiar?
What if we could help you change your mindset? Adopt a fun way to be strategic and only write the applications you know you stand a chance of getting?
Develop razor-sharp focus and use these seven strategies to prepare for your next battle grant.
1. Pick your fight
Are you on the right battlefield? Check the Rules of Engagement (funding guidelines) to see if you are eligible to apply for a grant. If not, then find another battlefield or join somebody else’s army. There’s no point in trying to fight a battle you can’t win but if you really want some of the spoils, offer your services in return for a financial payment from the grant. Strategically you may have something to offer that gets their application over the line.
If you can join the battle, will you get the tools you need to fulfil your part of the campaign plan? If the grant won’t pay for the infrastructure, human resources, transportation or whatever else you need, your troops will be starved of what they need. Check others that have gone before you to find out what they did and what financial compensation they were given. If the resources are not favourable, find another campaign.
Find out who can be funded / find out what can be funded and for how much (list of previously funded projects if available)
2. Get inside their head – offer them the light
You are entering the battle field on the funder’s terms and conditions. They need your help, that’s why they’re paying you. But your opponents will want ho also want to impress the funder also. The funder has a problem (set of objectives) and you have the solution (intervention) to make things better for them (set of outcomes). They are the generals of the army and know that the best emissaries are those at the grass roots level. The generals have quartermasters, vested in managing the allocation of the resources. Seek out their wisdom, plant your seed. They’ll let you know if you’re ideas are likely to fall on stony ground. They could make good reconnaissance.
Check the guidelines for their objectives and outcomes then sell your project proposal accordingly. Run your idea past them, listen and adapt your plan.
3. Gather your intelligence
The key to the kingdom rests with breaking the enigma code. Start with dispatches – get yourself on the funder’s newsletter list to be notified of updates to campaign rules. Examine the rules of engagement in detail in case you’ve missed something and monitor communiques (including frequently asked questions – regular updates). Find out about previous campaigns, including who was involved, what they did and their allotted budget.
Vie for a place with the leaders of this campaign with a sound business case. Research your numbers. Gather as much evidence (of need) as possible. Be specific about numbers, witness accounts, consultation and other successful campaigns. Use this information to determine your targets. Use your intelligence to give you a tactical advantage.
Do your homework. Get onto the mailing list, check the guidelines and application form. Check the FAQs regularly for updates and check previously funding projects. Gather as much data as possible to prove the need and your understanding of the situation.
4. Plan the battle and gather your generals and troops
Every battle campaign has a plan. Your task is to show that your plan will work. That it’s well planned, measured in time, resources and budget; that your army from the captains down to the on-the-ground troops, has the right skills to succeed.
Your plan must be approved by your battle-hardened generals, who will watch over the campaign’s progress. The plan will be theirs. They will sign the treaty with the funder and will make sure it is adhered to or the consequences will be dire.
The stronger your generals and allies, the more campaigns your captains have fought successfully, the better the chance of a successful submission. Ensure that your chain of command has crystal clear communication channels.
Produce a detailed project plan with a timeline. Align it to resources and budget. Ensure that you have the right skills and commitment in your project team and partners. Make sure your governance is clearly articulated and understood by all concerned, including the funder and that there is a clear communication strategy – top down and bottom up.
5. He who wishes to fight must count the cost
No campaign is without cost. Time, money, risk. A wise player would count the cost before making the decision to enter the battle. Do you have the people and time to put your battle plan proposal together before the deadline? Will the funder pay the whole of the bounty, or will you have to commit some of your own resources or those of others to balance the account?
Going onto another person’s campaign requires risk. The last thing you want is for your team to be found lacking or to be caught napping. A good commander plans for all eventualities before going into battle. A bad commander at best spends more resources than he can spare because he didn’t plan for things going wrong and at worst, will fail, suffer loss to his reputation and never be allowed on the field in the future.
Make sure you can balance the budget. If expenses are high and the funder isn’t likely to cover these costs, look elsewhere for contributions or use your own resources to make up the shortfall. Don’t rush the application or leave it until the last minute. Put some of your own resources into putting together the best application you can. If you don’t plan for risks, YOU may be caught with a much higher financial contribution to prevent failure, loss of reputation and successful future applications.
6. Take the devil out of the detail
Don’t let language be a barrier. Putting your plan to paper in the language of the funder doesn’t mean you have to go great lengths to use technical and sophisticated language. They’re looking for the best strategies that will help them reach their targets. Give it to them straight and as simply as possible so there’s no confusion. Minimise the opportunity for questions around any risks you pose for them. Leave them in no doubt, keeping your explanation as simple as possible, that you mean business. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Always answer the questions as asked. Even if it means repeating what you’ve said elsewhere. Keep your language simple. Refer back to the funder’s objectives and outcomes. Give them all the documentation they ask for. Make sure you’ve got letters of support and commitment, quotes where asked and relevant permits. Make it so easy that somebody checking over your application has everything they need to make the RIGHT decision.
7. Win first, then go into battle
A good commander has control at all times. Don’t go ahead with any application unless you’re sure you stand a chance. Pre-plan. Become a great strategist with plans and contingencies ready for the right opportunity. Learn from all your campaigns and use wisely.
Save yourself time and effort. Go through strategies 1 to 5 and only then cast down your gauntlet. Keep your intelligence open on the look-out for the right opportunities. Prepare what you can do in advance be considering – who, what, where, when, why and how. Evaluate every project so that you can strengthen your case for funding and do things better next time.