How to improve your chances of winning government funding

WINNING GOVERNMENT FUNDING

Last week, the call for EOIs for Screen Australia’s Enterprise Industry funding went out. This is a funding opportunity that many of our clients have accessed to considerable success. For those looking to apply, the deadline for EOIs is 5 August.

I thought it might be timely to talk about government funding in general and a few rules you should follow in order to maximise your chances of winning support. Here are eight tips I think are worth keeping in mind as you prepare your application.

1. Understand the intent of the funding.

All government funding programs have a purpose. They have been designed to meet a particular policy direction. If you have a great project which you think should attract funding, but it doesn’t match the intent of the funding program, you face an uphill battle in getting funded.

If you find a funding program which doesn’t quite match your idea, you have a couple of choices. You can tweak your idea to match the program. There are some risks involved here. Change your idea too much and it stops being the project you want to pursue. And you shouldn’t tweak the project to achieve success in the funding application, and then revert to your original plans. That way danger lies.

Your other choice is to seek to fund your project another way. This might be the slower route. But you save yourself the wasted time and effort of putting an application together which won’t succeed.

2. Talk to the funding body staff.

Pick up the phone and talk to the funding body’s staff about your idea. They know the program guidelines and they are an invaluable source of information. They will soon give you an idea of whether or not your idea is a good match for that particular program or not. Conversations like this can save you a lot of time.

3. Read the program guidelines thoroughly.

There’s really no substitute for this one. The guidelines will contain all the information you need about eligibility and application requirements. They will also include all the fine print about what your responsibilities are once you’re funded. Many an application is ruled out immediately because a stipulation outline in the program’s guidelines hasn’t been followed.

4. Think about the competition.

Most government funding programs receive many more applications than they can fund. You may have a great idea which fits the funding intent beautifully… but so might 50 other people. Think about who those people are. What are your advantages or disadvantages compared to them? How will you communicate to the decision makers why you’re a better candidate for funding than them? What will everyone else be doing, and how can you stand out from the crowd?

5. Make life as easy as possible for the decision makers.

First, know who the decision makers are – or at least the sort of people they are likely to be. Are they drawn from your industry or are they funding body staff? Then, remember that they will be likely be sifting through reams of information with limited time. So be clear and concise. Grab their attention and don’t waffle on. Include all the info they need, and none that they don’t. Ensure your application is consistent throughout. Give them an application which is a pleasure to read and easy to support.

6. Check and double check your financial information.

Often you’ll need to include a budget. Nothing undermines confidence in your application more than if your budget figures don’t add up. Or if they are inconsistent with what was said in other parts of your application. Or if they include estimations which are wildly optimistic. Or all of the above.

7. The less risk, the better.

Government funders are inherently risk averse. This is not a bad thing; many taxpayers would be glad their tax dollars are being spent prudently. But the amount of risk involved – the risk of financial failure, of reputational damage, or adverse public reaction- can often be the deciding factor in whether an application gets funded or not.

So be aware of the risk profile of your application. Do your best to mitigate these risks, or at least include a detailed risk assessment with your proposal to make it clear that you’ve thought about the risks involved.

8. Listen to the feedback from the assessors.

In the unthinkable scenario where your application isn’t successful, don’t take it personally (or at least don’t take it personally for long). In most cases, the funding body staff will offer feedback on your application. Always take this opportunity, to learn more about what you can do better, but also to learn about which projects were funded and how they differed from yours. Also, ask about opportunities to become a peer assessor for future funding rounds. There’s nothing quite like seeing the process from the inside to learn about how it works.

If you’re thinking about applying for government funding, it’s always good to get an external opinion on the opportunity and your chances of success. We’re happy to be a sounding board – get in touch to set up a chat.