Applying for a funding grant is like applying for a job

Young beautiful business lady is thinking about new business ideas. Business icons and a rocket are drawn on the concrete wall.

You may be the best applicant but it doesn’t guarantee success.

The same care and diligence necessary for a successful job application is required when applying for a grant. Organisations such as UNSW, UQ, UWA, Sydney Uni, UoW and Monash are leaders in grant success (the ratio of grant income to number of academics/researchers) with experienced grant offices advising staff  on upcoming grants, supporting and project managing grant submissions, developing strong relationships with grant bodies, advising on and attracting suitable research and industry collaborators and managing strategic internal grants programs to improve future grant success rates.

This coordinated approach pays dividends and can be contrasted to an organisation who recently applied for a major grant. The staff discovered the  relevant grant by chance, self-assembled  an application  in a short time frame with no clear leader or management sponsor for the application. Not surprisingly, the process was characterised by poor internal communication, lack of commitment to provide the required information in agreed time frames and no evidence of real collaboration with external parties. This ad hoc approach to grant writing wastes the time and resources of the organisation and the individuals involved with  little or no chance of grant success.

The learning from this is “Do it right” or “Don’t waste the organisation’s finite resources”

To improve your chances of success

When applying, consider these factors which don’t appear in the guidelines:

  • Understand the politics – Why was the grant established, what are the administrators trying to achieve with them, what type of projects do they want to fund and who are the people assessing them. How can you address this through your project name, type of project and project team? Nuances are important
  • Build relationships with grant administrators  –  call, email and meet them to understand guidelines and nuances.
  • Never just assume that your project doesn’t meet the guidelines – Explore the fit of your project with administrators.
  • Collaboration is key – It’s not  just all about you and your project. What are the benefits to others? This is becoming more and more important in applications.– How can you demonstrate that yours is or will be a strong and genuine productive collaboration.
  • Contributions are gold – In-kind and particularly cash commitments from industry and research speaks volumes  and can make the difference in choosing between projects to fund.
And stand out from the hundreds of applications
  • Give yourself plenty of time to develop the project idea and application – a rushed application will not be of the same standard
  • Follow the instructions for the application to the letter. Non compliance with guidelines is an easy way to be culled particularly in government applications
  • Communicate a clear vision with an innovative approach and passion for the project
  • Have a team with the right expertise and significant track record
  • Have the application written by one person so that it flows and doesn’t appear disjointed
  • Have your application critiqued by an experienced grant writer prior to submission

As with a job application, your effort will be rewarded!