Applying for Funding? Here’s a Step-By-Step Grant Application Guide

A press release pops up in your inbox: a new round of grant funding has just been announced. Great! This is the opportunity you've been waiting for to make that business idea a reality, get the COVID-19 relief you need to help your business rise and thrive or get that vital community program adequately funded.

You need to submit a grant application that stands out from the rest. But where do you start? You've probably done some research on Google to find some answers, but the truth is, writing a winning grant fund application isn't easy. You must follow the right steps when writing a competitive grant application that gets positive attention from funders.

Follow our step-by-step guide to doing it right:

Be Prepared

Do you want a grant to help you start a new business, revive a business impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, expand operations or contribute to a business community project? Know what you want and be prepared, so that when a grant funding opportunity comes up, you’re ready with everything you need to apply.

You don't want to approach the grant writing process without intention and being proactive, where you're scrambling to meet the funding requirements instead of the needs of your business, community or the people you're serving. Because most funders don't give plenty of time to develop applications, preparing in advance helps you spend more time crafting the most impactful application. So, let’s get into the HOW to get Ready and stay Ready!

Check Your Eligibility

If you think you've found the right grant, check again. Grant applications often fail because they don't meet one of the basic requirements laid down by funders. Funders clearly layout the overall purpose of the grant on their websites or documentation. Look at the purpose of the grant fund and be sure that you fit within that bracket.

Also, check the funding criteria - it will say what type of businesses, organizations or even nonprofits can apply for the money. There may be restrictions about location, the business's size, whether or not you're a registered charity or specific types of business. Take your time to see whether your business meets all the requirements.

Tip: You can contact the funders to share an outline of your proposed idea or project. They are there to hand out the money, so don't hesitate to inquire about anything. They'll be happy to tell you if and how your proposed idea would fit their outcomes. Talking to them will ensure you're on the right track, builds a relationship with them, and raises your business or organization's awareness.

Write the Application With the Reviewer in Mind

To make the reviewer's job of understanding and scoring your grant application as easy as possible, write your grant application with the reviewer in mind. Assume that the reviewers know nothing about your business, organization, community, needs, what you do and how to do it. What you submit in your grant application will be used to evaluate your eligibility.

  • If you want the reviewers to know something, explain it in detail

  • Eliminate any jargon in your application

  • Avoid using acronyms and terminology that is hard to understand

  • Explain unique ideas, concepts and terms the first time you use them in your application

Follow the Directions of the Application Process

You have an application form to complete and a list of instructions. Now it's your time to follow the directions of the application process. Answer all the questions and attach the documents requested. Following the application guidelines or Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or whatever term used to the letter is the most critical step.

Funders assume that if you can't follow directions when requesting funds, you probably won't follow the advice given for follow-up or the directions for completing reports they may need from you after awarding you the grant. Take your time to understand what is required and answer all questions as they're listed.

It Takes Time to Craft a Strong Proposal

Writing a winning grant takes time. There are many tasks to be completed, documents to submit and probably different people to complete tasks and due dates to complete the tasks. To make the application process easier, get input from others or get a winning grant application cheat sheet and checklist to get you started.

Get inputs, edits and schedule draft reviews from others to get more insights and ensure you include all the necessary information. Having someone outside your business or organization read the application and provide feedback helps. If you don't know how to get started or the application process is stressing you out, seek help.

Focus More on Your Strengths and Not Your Needs

To create an application that shows you're worthy of funding, you must highlight your strengths more than your needs. Tell your story and support it with the right data. Funders want to hear the story behind your need for funding, your impact on the community, what you plan to change, your solutions to challenges and what makes you different.

Position yourself as a viable business or organization with a worthy idea or cause that is competitive for a grant fund investment. Evidence the need for funding by providing precise and convincing information that demonstrates the need for relief to push that idea, get that business running again or fund a project.

Involve Those Your Serve and Partner With Others

One often overlooked stakeholder in grant applications is the people you serve as a business, organization or nonprofit. Get their input to understand what they're struggling with, why they're having challenges and what can be done to help them achieve positive outcomes. Without this information, you may not have the data you need to create solutions.

You should also partner with other businesses, agencies or organizations working to solve the root cause of the problems you're facing or addressing. Collaboration and resource-sharing are vital aspects that funders also look at when reviewing applications.

Demonstrate and Back-Up Your Grant Funding Proposal

Clearly convey the problem that you're facing with data-backed research and how you'll go about achieving your project's aims and objectives. Make a compelling case for funding by demonstrating and baking-up your challenges, cost-saving measures and use of available resources to show that you can make the best out of the grant fund.

Tip: Align your objectives with your activities and your budget. Present a budget that demonstrates sound planning.