Sunday, September 18, 2011

Writing Funding Applications

Last week I was part of the Strategic Development Initiative Fund adjudication team, which basically means I was locked in a room with a bunch of people and we had to review and discuss funding applications for special heritage-related projects.  We then individually scored each application, the scores were averaged, and the highest scoring proposals will be recommended to the Heritage Minister for approval.
This was my first time adjudicating funding proposals - until now I've always been on the author end of them.  I thought it might be helpful for people to hear a first-time adjudicator's perspective, so here are some thoughts that popped into my head as I was reading & reviewing all of these applications.
  1. Always read through the application guide with a fine-toothed comb.  Highlight whatever it says is required.  Give your proofreaders this list of requirements.

  2. Ask at least two people to proofread your application.

  3. Talk to the funding program coordinator before you submit your application.  Ask questions, share your thoughts & plans, and listen to their feedback.  If they offer to read your proposal and provide feedback, don't say no.

  4. Be succinct and structure the application in a very straightforward way: project overview, brief background info, project goals, methodology, and deliverables, evaluation process, budget, and appendices.

  5. Think about the big picture and don't assume the adjudicators know what's going on with your organization.  How will this work set you up for bigger and better things?  If it's Phase 2 or 3 of a project, give a very brief outline of previous work that has led you to this point.  If the work is part of a long-term plan, attach the plan as an appendix so the adjudicators can get the whole story and where you're at in the process.  This shows how organized and professional you are.

  6. Name any employees/consultants you want to hire, and attach résumés, quotes, and/or letters of agreement.  This lets the adjudicator know that you've done your homework and you can hit the ground running if your application is approved.

  7. Check your math and then check it again.  If you mention any numbers in the application text, make sure they match what's in your budget sheet.

  8. For funding programs that require a certain percentage of cash contribution from the applicant, it always looks better if you exceed the minimum requirement.  The higher the contribution, and the more partner organizations putting in cash, the better you look.

  9. Try to get letters of support from your community - the mayor, chamber of commerce, school principals...whoever makes sense for your proposed work.  These can be attached as appendices.

  10. Spelling and grammar counts!

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