Let’s be honest, grant writing is worse than a root-canal. This is the typical process:
In the last week before the deadline, you sit down and start reading the grant application. After a couple of minutes, feeling extremely overwhelmed, you tend to procrastinate get busy with other “more important” things.
Three days later, it seems like the pressure has built up significantly and all you have to do is start writing, but yet – more important things stand in your way again.
Finally, two days before submission, you start writing. Being extremely productive and positive you finally and gracefully complete the proposal in less than 48 hours. All 30 pages – or maybe even more – with many tables, graphs, and long list of references. You feel very proud of your accomplishment and believe you well deserve a grand title of master of multitasking. With such euphoria, you go about your regular day-to-day activities for the next couple of weeks, slowly getting back to your normal self, secretly hoping for the approval letter to land on your desk any minute now. So when the letter finally comes, you are outraged and disappointed you were denied! “How could this even be possible?” you think, after you gave a 200% grant proposal development effort. How is it possible that other companies seem to be getting grants all the time, but you were denied???
The truth is that, most of the companies applying for grants get denied – a simple fact. The statistics vary from grant to grant, but overall this is what happens. No wonder so many companies give up after trying once or twice and end up convinced that government grants are not for them. This is especially true of the extremely hard to get and most needed grants – the innovation and technology ones. Considering the pain endured during the proposal writing, no wonder only 6% of all companies use government grants as a source of capital to finance their business.
In this post I would like to go over several tips that may help with grant writing and make the process a bit more streamlined so you may start enjoying the process.
Yes, plan – as simple as that. A typical grant proposal in innovation and technology can take a month (and often more) of full time work. Half of this time will be spent on writing and another half on polishing and rewriting; making sure your company goals are aligned with program goals, and your value proposition is presented in the most compelling way. Planning ahead to manage your time is essential.
2: Get your grant writing team
Your grant writing team should consist of people who know your business best (you), your technical experts (for early stage companies, this is most likely you again); and someone who understands your technology but can also write well (ideally, it should not be you). “Wait a minute”, you could say now, “What? It should not be me?” Getting your amazing technology explained in business-like language is the key, and you want the right people on your team. I am not saying you cannot explain your technology well, but having someone on the team with a fresh pair of eyes always helps. Often, you fall in love with your technology so much that you are simply not able to view it from a different angle – a reader’s perspective. This person could be your intern, your family, or maybe an independent professional – your choice.
3: Research the grant program
Go over the grant application and learn as much as you can about the funding program. If you are able, call the program and get insight into the grant – what types of companies it funds, what is the typical project duration, how much money is reasonable to ask for (if not specified) etc. Go to the grant program workshop or seminars and learn as much as you can. You may want to try to get in touch with past successful applicants and learn from their experience as well.
4: Get your business model in place
This may seem to be intuitive, but a lot of times companies fail because they did not spend enough time developing their business model before applying for a grant. What happens then is companies try to come up with fancy stories to put in the proposal, but struggle to develop a single storyline as there is no underlying foundation for the story in the first place, and the proposal becomes inconsistent and weak. A good place to start is coming up with a sales forecast. Many times, when stating sales figures in the proposal companies feel they are not realistic, too optimistic, or simply do not make sense. They forget that their price per unit was simply multiplied by their projected unit sales – no black magic at all. Thus they begin tweaking the sales forecast here and there. For example – reducing the numbers but forgetting they were claiming to become global leaders in the first place.
Your best chance to write a good quality proposal is when you actually sit down and write. Allocate a couple of hours a day, organize the work flow and write, write, and write. Ideally, you should wait 2 to 7 days after finishing your first draft before reading again. If you do not give enough time in between, your brain will not be able to see inconsistencies, or catch things you missed, or simply see the big picture.
So, I hope this helps. If you have a question or two, do not hesitate to send me a note at iana@connexFund.ca. And enjoy – grant writing is fun!
ConnexFund specializes in grants and funding for innovative companies and start-ups with focus on technology and manufacturing. Many Canadian businesses are aware that there is some free money available for them. But not so many know where to find it, how to access it and how to prepare a grant application that is successful. And this is exactly what ConnexFund does!