Image: “Be Seeing You” by Olivander (Oliver Hammond)

Traditionally funding grants are highly contested so if you are thinking of applying for some funding you will want to make sure your application is given the best chance of being selected.

The following ten top tips for writing a successful funding application:

  1. Contact the funding manager first – even though you may think that you have the best project idea in the world if it doesn’t fit the funding criteria you could waste a lot of time writing an application simply to have it ‘knocked-out’ because it doesn’t fit the criteria.  Call the Funding Manager and discuss your project idea.  They will tell you straight away whether your project idea fits the funding requirements, and they may event help you ‘tweak it’ so it does fit.
  2. What’s your problem? – once you’ve clarified that you at least in the running for the funding, clearly describe the problem you are trying to solve and how this meets the requirements of the funding.  Where possible, include evidence (statistics, references etc) to back up why your problem exists. Also paint the picture about your project for the Selection Panel eg who are your key stakeholders? what are their demographics? how will they benefit from the project?
  3. Address all of the funding criteria – don’t think that some of the funding criteria don’t apply to you.  Your application will be assessed against each and every one of the criteria, so ensure you address them appropriately.
  4. Less is more – be succinct (this is why Twitter is so popular).  If you can’t write what you are trying to say in less than a paragraph you are going to lose the Selection Panel’s attention.  They have LOTS of funding applications to read so get to the point quickly.
  5. Your team is Number One – projects are like herding cats – they have different personalities and competing interests so having the right people on your project team from the start will make the difference between a success and a disaster.  State clearly in the application why your team will ensure your project will be successful based on their previous experience and existing skills.
  6. Has it been done before? – your project idea may be brand new to you but there’s a good chance that someone else may have already do it.  This doesn’t mean that you still can’t apply – it means doing your research.  Find out if your project idea has been funded before and see where you can ‘build’ on that project rather than replicate it.
  7. It’s not all about the ‘stuff’ – projects are not all about developing something – they are about helping people change their current practices and processes.  Grant funding often gives people the time needed to develop themselves and others (and some ‘stuff’ as well) so look at the project as a change management process rather than a product development process. Either way, you will need to demonstrate that your project has achieved its desired outcomes, so clearly explain how you will measure the success of your project using both qualitative (eg reflective journals; quotes or statements from participants/key stakeholders) and quantitative methods (eg pre- and post-project surveys).
  8. Can others benefit? – the funding body doesn’t just give you funding because they like you.  They provide funding to help build capability and resources so make sure that you are able to (and willing to) share the outcomes and outputs of your project.  Also remember that copyright of any outcomes/outputs may become the property of the funding body (since they paid for it), so be clear about what you can ‘give away’.
  9. Can the project go beyond the trial period? – you will need to demonstrate how your organisation will have the ability to ‘sustain’ the project beyond the trial phase … ie where will the fund/support/resources come from for ‘rolling out’ or ‘scaling up’ the project idea if it is successful (which of course you hope it will be).
  10. Be realistic – Don’t see the funding as an opportunity to ‘boost your budget’.  ‘Boosted Budgets’ in funding applications are very obvious to pick – they are usually for the exact amount for which the funding is available eg $50,000.  Don’t start with the funding amount and work backwards – start will a list of expense items, then work out (and show these workings in your budget) how much it would cost your organisation/key stakeholders to run the project based on these expenses eg staff salaries/wages, admin support, telecommunication costs, professional development, resource development, consultants etc.

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Please Note: This post is an update of one written early this year for National VET E-learning Strategy funding for e-learning projects, however, after attending a recent information session for Continuous Professional Learning funding being made available to Queensland training organisations by the Queensland VET Development Centre, it has been updated to support those interested in applying for this funding.

Vanguard Visions Consulting can help write project applications for this funding, and their Eportfolios Services division is also interested in working with a Queensland training organisation who would like to use eportfolios to support their continuous professional learning project.

10 Top Tips for writing a successful funding application
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