There are many reasons proposals could fail or funding opportunities are lost. Below are the main reasons proposals fail:

Budget is not explained

Budget is really important. At the end of the day, this is where you show how you plan to use the grant or simply speaking – public money. Government grants are criticized for being overly complicated to apply for, especially those related to innovation and commercialization. Although this is true, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Grants are the money that the government received through taxes and was trusted to reallocate to benefit society, that is, all of us. Some of this money went into various funding programs. Each program has the responsibility to use the money wisely and according to the rules established for each funding program (a.k.a. program guidelines).

Now every single one of us can review where the money was spent. For this particular purpose – very simply like that – the grant proposal budget needs to be transparent and explained. Many times, companies ask for a reasonable amount of money, but fail to explain it. For example, you need $10,000 for various business activities to launch a new app. Sounds reasonable, right? But various business activities can really be various to different people. For some, it is the money spent on going to an international conference to present the product. For some it is the money spent on taking to lunch executives from potential partner-companies over the next year. You understand what I am trying to say, don’t you? (If not, your proposal might be in serious trouble.)

Lack of proposal depth

I once had to review a proposal from a company bringing to the market what seemed to be very interesting technology. But the company did not bother with developing a proper proposal. So when I finished reading, I had a whole bunch of questions, such as: Where do your customers live? How do you plan to reach them? How many products do you plan to sell? What is your profit margin? And so on.

As you can see, these are not very unique questions. In fact, anyone who has ever done an exercise of business planning (or wrote a business plan) went through these questions. Now, how does it happen that the company in the example above did not answer these questions? Well, they sort of did… but in very, very general terms. Let me give you a generic example. The company said they would sell the product to women only. Okay, but how old are they? 20-year-old women and 60-year-old women have very different shopping needs. And this needs to be explained.

Failure to address the competition

In one of my recent posts – Three Things Never to Say in Your Proposal if You are Serious About Getting Funding –  I talked a bit about this. (Check – 3. “we have no competition” or “there is no competition to our product”.) I can only add here that companies who claim there is no competition fail to look at the issue from several angles. So be open-minded and think outside the box.

No advisory board

The advisory board is so important to your overall business success, that it feels almost ridiculous to mention it here. The problem is that it is very rare that a grant proposal template would specifically ask you about your advisory board. And many companies fail to use this opportunity to highlight their strength and commitment to long-term growth.

Asking to fund items outside of the funding scope

I must admit, having worked on many proposals from various industries, I still need to remind myself what can be funded and what cannot. Did you know that even though there is a general description of what can be funded, there might be a separate document listing the eligible expenditure in detail? To illustrate, I will use a hypothetical example (taken from an existing program, but I left the name of the program out, as things change all the time). Consider the following: even though a funding program may cover the conference cost, you may still want to clarify what specifically is covered. As in our example, the conference registration cost was covered, but the actual travel to the conference was not. Who would have thought?

But what about other reasons proposals fail? If you’d like to share your story with me, give me a shout  or leave a comment below – I’d like to learn from your experience!


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!