Over the last two years I was fortunate enough to share with you folks many tips on grant proposal writing – such as “How to write the proposal pain-free”, “3 things never to say in the proposal”, and many others – you can view all the articles here. Today, I will give you a snapshot of the key points on what makes a good proposal. At the end of the day, this is what you want – to submit a good, strong proposal – most likely the only way to maximize the chances of getting funded. Funding programs want to fund good proposals. If you look over the years, most proposals that got funded were those that were clear, well-articulated, and concise. Or, simply speaking – good proposals.
Drive your point
Let’s start with the basics: a good proposal is clear, well-articulated, and concise. The question is HOW to make a proposal clear, well-articulated, and concise. Now, you probably noticed I mentioned a couple of times that a good proposal needs to be clear, well-articulated, and concise.
Well, this is not a coincidence. But there is more. By the end of this blog, you will see this statement again.
What I am trying to explain here is that you need to drive your point. In other words, identify your key value proposition and make sure it is a skeleton behind your proposal. All the rest will be the meat added to the skeleton. Do not be afraid to repeat yourself. Just do not simply “copy and paste” the sentences. This will not go well.
Start with the business plan
When you start writing a proposal, you need to answer all the questions they ask you in the proposal template. But, as a business, you also need to figure out how you are going to run your business, where you will find clients, etc.
Many times, the proposal templates feel very disconnected from the real world. You may think, “What are they asking me?” “I do not understand.” Or “Why would they ask this?”
But the key here is to have a clear understanding of your own business before writing the proposal. This is what leads to very strong proposals. One of the best proposals I saw had the business model in place prior to writing a grant proposal.
Do you know what is the best way to have a clear understanding of your business? To have a business plan ready! Your business plan could be a 10-page document, or even a pager – for example, Canvas Business Model would work too.
And then, of course, you could seek help with the business plan from a government-supported organization. VentureLab used to have a series of workshops on business plan writing.
Read the guidelines – understand the fit
So the first step toward a clear, well-articulated, and concise proposal is to have a clear understanding of your business. Once you have it, you are halfway there.
The second step is to understand the fit. The best way to do it is to Read the Guidelines. Recently I gave a thorough explanation on why reading guidelines is so important. Feel free to check it here.
Guidelines are not just something to make you fall asleep. These are the rules by which the government agency will give money away. And if you are not following the rules, you are taking a risk, which is fine. It’s just do you really want to spend all the time and effort developing the proposal only to get rejected just because you were not eligible in the first place?
And when it comes to reading the guidelines, you pretty much need to do what this boy in the picture does. Take the magnifying glass and go line by line. When a new funding program comes out, this is what I do. I read it line by line, getting to the core.
Now what is the other way to understand the fit? Attend the workshop by the funding program, of course.
Imagine you opened up your bike store and you sell bicycles. Your product is green and environmentally friendly, and you just heard about a new grant that aims to help businesses in the green area. The grant is also for technology-based companies and you use a lot of technology. So, is the grant right for you?
To answer this, as I mentioned, you need to see whom specifically the grant targets. Stores like yours? Or the actual bike manufactures? Even though both could be technology-based – they are very different entities with different business models.
Do you know who got funding before? How much did they ask for? Try to contact the companies who got funding. This is one of my favourite options – you get first-hand information that is not on the website or anywhere else.
To be continued
These are a few of the tips on successful grant writing. Remember, your grant needs to be clear, well-articulated and concise. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on more tips on successful proposal writing.
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!