Four common grant application mistakes

Government agencies receive thousands of grant applications a year, and it's easy for your application to get lost in the crowd or disqualified because of one little error. If you want your business to stand out, your application will have to address all the relevant criteria and be written in a clear and concise manner. Here are five common mistakes and how to avoid them.

No clear link between the grant and your business

According to the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, matching the aims and intent of the program to your application is essential as this will illustrate that you are a good fit for the grant. For instance, if you're applying for a community funding program to encourage sport in the local community, ensure you provide information on how your project will increase participation in or quality of sporting activities, as well as address the gap in the local or regional provision of these activities.

You should also demonstrate you have the skills and resources to implement the project and are "ready to go" - this doesn't mean you necessarily need to know the outcome of your project, particularly if it's related to innovation, but you will need a clearly set out and practical plan to implement your idea. Identifying the qualifications of the team who will be managing this project will also be useful.

Not giving yourself enough time

The application process is a lengthy and complex one, so giving yourself enough time (a few weeks) to gather all relevant materials is essential. You should also allow enough time to actually complete the application, which is usually online and takes around 30-45 minutes to complete given that you have all the relevant information before you.

A typical online grant application consists of the following sections: applicant details, project summary, list of suppliers, list of project partners, budget, justification of budget, methodology, scope, business capability, benefits to the government and impact on your firm's productivity, among others.

Although the word limit for these sections are usually only around 100-300 words long, it's a good idea to have all this information already saved in a document so that all you have to do is copy and paste it into the application when you're ready. There's nothing worse than filling in all the sections to find that your browser has crashed and that you don't have a backup copy.

Inaccurate budgeting

Most grants do not cover the complete costs of the project - more often than not, your business will have to fund around 50 per cent or more of the costs, and as a result it's important to highlight how you will source these funds. The Victorian Department of Planning states that you must include all income, including the grant you are requesting and spending related to the project.

The best tip is to be honest about your funds and make accurate calculations. Do not inflate figures, as you cannot ask for additional funds later because you didn't use accurate costs at the start.
You will also need to justify every item of your budget and explain why your project needs to incur the specific costs.

Poor presentation

Pay close attention to detail, as small mistakes - such as spelling mistakes and wrong page numbers - may put grant officers off shortlisting you. Make sure you get a third party (unrelated to the grant application) to read your application before you submit it. In some cases you can get your local council's community development officer to assist you.

Ensure all the information is provided under the correct headings and that your writing style is appropriate (e.g. not too casual and not too dry). If you express your strong interest in the project in a clear, concise and well-articulated manner, this will likely capture the attention of the reader.

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