Play The Government At Their Own Game: Pointers for hitting the mark with your grant application

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Government, whether it’s local, State or Federal – is a conservative and risk-averse beast. When it comes to government grants, you can be assured of a lengthy, complex, considered and at times pedantic process.

To be fair though, from the government’s perspective, they shoulder a heavy risk burden when issuing grants. At worst, reputation, a bad story in the press, Ministers being ambushed, wasted money, poor grant outcomes, leaks, probity breaches, failed attempts at new technology etc. etc. may result from poor decisions in awarding grants. These can take their toll on government agencies. Application and assessment processes are therefore necessarily stringent.

But you can beat them at their own game. Given that most grants are initially assessed by government officers and often again by an independent panel of assessors, comprehensive applications that provide comfort and take away the perceived risk for government, will be heading straight to the top of the pile.

Here’s some pointers that will help get you to the top of the list:

1. Get to the Point! Concise, easy-to-understand writing style. Obviously, you will explain how the grant money will be used to help your organisation deliver benefits to the bottom line, to the community and/or to jobs, exports and further growth. But don’t forget to also explain how the grant money will deliver a return on government investment – how will the government, the Minister, the local community, the State etc. benefit from the outcomes of your project?

2. Cut the Numbers. Demonstrate the scale of the Return on Investment (ROI) in a cost benefits analysis – secure the expertise of an economist or even an accountant to help you with this. An application containing a great set of numbers explaining the cost and value of people, widgets, sites, new employees, range of products, export dollars etc will definitely look good. A good organisational structure, with creditable governance and Directors as well as a clean and positive set of financials from the last three Financial Years will also hold you in good stead!

3. Get some referees. Include the names and contact numbers of three people (with their permission of course!) who can act as business referees on your application. Part of a good grants program will include calling referees and verifying their comments to develop a profile about your company, association, Executive, previous projects etc.

4. Bios. Include brief bios of the key project players – their qualifications, experience and expertise. All this helps an assessment panel feel comfort in knowing they are dealing with knowledgeable, successful and industry-savvy people.

5. Collaborate and Connect. If you can possibly link up with another organisation – for instance a university (for R&D input), a larger company (as a project advisor perhaps) or even a government agency if relevant, this demonstrates that you and your team have socialised the application and worked on relationships across the industry sector. This will serve you well in an application as it improves the robustness of your own profile.

6. Been There, Done That. A short section on your organisation’s past experience in leading grants projects, attending to milestones, reporting on project deliverables and demonstrating good management of grants funding will ease the concerns that assessment panels and government in general may have about handing over money to unknown entities.

In short, it’s all about reducing risk for the government. If you can provide a ‘security blanket’ in your application by including good sets of numbers, a good story about the project outcomes and good references, it will give comfort to the government assessors and will give credibility to you and your organisation as a serious player.

The Grants Whisperer