At Tenshi Grants we see a great many grant applications so we’ve asked our experts to put together a list of common faux pas, highlighting a few of the problems and throwing in some tips to help ease what can be a lengthy and challenging process.
Not reading the instructions and guidelines clearly
Not all funding programs provide clear and concise instructions. Some are very extensive and unwieldy. Whatever they provide, your chances of success are greatly improved if you have read every word several times and sought to understand exactly what is required. We have seen applications fail because they went over word limits, missed mandatory appendices or failed to cover required information. Failing ‘on a technicality’ is painful waste of your time.
Applying for inappropriate funding
Funding generally exists to foster particular industrial activity or to support a particular sector or sectors. SMART funding, for example, is intended to support UK-based, SMEs (small to medium sized businesses) in undertaking early-stage technology research and development. If your organization does not meet all of those elements then you are unlikely to be able gain funding and your efforts will be wasted.
Many companies apply for grants because they are in need of cash. There is sometimes an assumption that ‘grants are easy to get’. Some can be relatively trivial to acquire, that is true. Other grants (and this most definitely includes SMART and Horizon 2020 funding that Tenshi Grants specialises in) are anything but easy and their assessment criteria will weed out any applications that are not very well suited. A SMART or Horizon 2020 grant is not suited for a company that needs funding to cover a cash flow hole. You are much bett er advised to focus on resolving that issue in more conventional ways such as with an overdraft or by renegotiating creditor payments.
Not devoting sufficient time
Most grant applications will take up a lot of your time if you do them well. If your main role revolves around delivering projects for paying clients then it is unlikely that you will be able to free up the required time to write a top-class application. When push comes to shove and choices need to be made, paying clients inevitably take priority and your grant application is put off or, worse, you submit a poor application.
Leaving it to the last minute
Never plan to submit close to the stated deadline. It is almost inevitable that the application-writing will take longer than you think and that other priorities will crop up just when you least expect them too. Similarly, it is unwise to assume that the post will deliver your application on time or that the funding body’s online system won’t go offline at the worst possible moment. It happens. We have seen it!
Having the wrong person write the application
Writing a strong application requires a mix of qualities that not everyone has. These include diligence, attention to detail, strong written communication, the ability to be self-critical, research and analytical abilities and creativity. Just because your finance director is great with numbers does not mean he or she is best placed to write your grant application.
Equally, the person who is best equipped in your organization may actually be far too valuable to take away from their normal duties.
Not doing your homework
Sometimes (often) funding comes about because of some local or national political imperative. Understanding the real reasons why the funding exists and understanding the way a grant-funding body works can be crucial for a successful application. If, for example, the core ambition of the funding body is to create local, full-time employment, then failing to realize that and, perhaps, basing a project plan on utilizing an overseas development team, will inevitably cause problems.
Understanding the assessor as well as the process
Understanding who assesses your application and what process they will apply could offer you better placement when to comes to winning a grant. Is it someone who understands your industry for example? Should you avoid using complex terminology and sector-specific abbreviations? Will that assessor know what you mean by DAUs, MAUs and ARPPU?
Not understanding the competition
Grant funding is more often than not heavily oversubscribed. Competition to get that ‘free money’ is, thus, highly competitive. Ask yourself; “Is our project or company a good match for this funding?” If your gut feel is that you are grasping at straws then you are probably right.
Get people to review your application
Get as many people as possible to review your application during early drafts and as it approaches its final form. Let them ask dumb questions. It is very easy to be focused on certain aspects and to miss others when you are locked away in an office writing that application. Let others help you improve it.
Always support assertions
If you state that your technology is going to be the best, you must be ready and able to explain why that will be the case and prove it with data. If assessors think that you are making claims that you cannot support they will quickly adopt a very conservative approach to marking your application.
Avoid unnecessarily flowery prose
Do not try to baffle assessors with a stream of techno-babble. Adopting unnatural language will do far more harm than good. Keep it simple, clear and concise. You are not writing a great work of literature you are simply trying to convey why your project deserves funding. Assessors may be up late. They may well be doing this on a salary or even on a voluntary basis. Do not make then think you are treating them like idiots. You will fail.
Many people out there will happily take a nice generous day rate to write up your application. To what extent is their success aligned with your own? A good funding specialist will often offer to share risk with you. This generally means that initially you are only liable to cover overheads (cost of sale, marketing, office costs etc) followed by a success-based fee. If the grant funding opportunity you have identified is truly a good match for your project and company then consider hiring an organization that specializes in winning grants and that has the necessary resources to go about applying properly.
If your company’s sphere of activities is in creative media, digital technologies or videogames then having people who have worked in those sectors will bring significant advantages when it comes to constructing a solid funding application.
This is why Tenshi Grants exists. We work with your to write grant applications and share risk on its success. We have the experience in games, creative and digital sectors to really understand your project.