Boss Lady

6 reasons your business does not win grants


You’ve spent hours writing your grant application, waited patiently for the notification to come into your inbox, only to get a rejection email stating you’ve been unsuccessful.

The feeling of rejection and disappointment is palpable because you were counting on that money to get your project off the ground. Now you are back to square one.

Chances are you make a few simple mistakes in your application that turned the tide against you. Simple things that can be easily corrected for your next application. The good thing is that even though you did not get the money, you still learning something along the way.

Applying for grants and other funding is highly competitive. There is only so much money to go around so you want to give your application the best shot. So, for next time, here are the six reasons your grant application was unsuccessful:

The language used

If you work in a specialised area or niche, chances are there is a lot of jargon that goes with your industry. This jargon has not place in a grant application. The assessor are not experts in your industry and if they must wade through an application where they do not understand what you are talking about, they will skip to the next one.  This is time when ‘baffling them with brilliance’ will not work.

Lack of purpose

Grant providers want to know the money they give you is going to a good cause. They want to know you are going to change people’s lives- whether that is building a new sports complex or helping you nail your marketing plan. You want to tell them WHY you need the money, who you are going to help and why they need your help. Take the grant assessors on a journey as you explain your passion and purpose and how people will benefit from what you do.  Purpose also means you understand your target audience, what they need is not just what you think they need so market research is an important aspect of applying for a grant.

Too general

A common challenge for people in small business and in the NFP space is they have big hearts and want to help as many people as they can. However, this does not cut it when it comes to applying for money. When you are asked who you are going to help, saying ‘everyone’ is too broad and it is not feasible to help everyone.  A scattergun approach to a grant application is a good way to get yours moved to the ‘no’ pile. The grant makers want to see you are helping someone specifically. Be focused and clean about your purpose, passion and target audience. Many government grants give you a big hint on who they want to help: women, women in business, mental health, people with disabilities, indigenous people, youth, older people; if you know that, you can hone down on more specific information about what segment of those audiences you will make a difference to. Every grant has a purpose. It is ok to find ways to adapt that purpose to meet the grant’s specifications, but you must be specific.

Didn’t read the questions

This happens all too often. People leave the application to the last minute, racing to get the application submitted before the deadline and do not take the time to really analyse the questions. If they ask for your target audience – be specific. If they as a for a summary of your proposal, do not wax lyrical about how you came about the idea for 500 words, get to the point.

It’s all about you

I, I, I, me, me, me. Yes, the money will help you do what you want and need to do but when you write an submission that just talks about how awesome you are, what you have done, why you need the money and are focussed on self, it is hard to see the change you want to make. Applications filled with ‘I will do this’ and ‘I will do that’ shows you do not understand the philosophy behind the grant [providers’ intentions. Remember, most grant providers want to see how the money they give you will change the community or if you’re a business, what the change is you are making.

Not the right fit

Maybe you applied for the wrong bucket of money or a grant is not what you really need.  Take the time to set out a plan, get clear on what you really need and then go looking for the right funding provider. Sometimes, you must think outside the box – the government are not the only grant providers. Organisations like Google, Westpac, NAB, Heritage. Suncorp, Jetstar, and Microsoft all have money they are looking to give the right project. If you are clear on what you want and who you are helping, and someone might find the money for you. Sixteen years ago, I saw a gap in my local area for a holiday program I could not find the right grant for it. I wrote a proposal and worked on building a relationship with my local council. They loved the idea so much they found the money to fund it. That program is still being run and still being funded. It is not always about the money. If you are a business, assistance can come in the form of tax deductions, mentoring, training and scholarships

It is easy to be despondent when you don’t get what you want. Remember, it is up to you to get the best version of your project across. Take the time to work on articulating your passion and purpose so you can build form and function around it. Clarity is a winning step to getting grant money.

The grant provider does not have to understand your business or what you are doing; they are the ones with the money. It is up to you to understand what they want and give them what they are looking for – you can do this by giving yourself plenty of time to do the application, talking to the grant provider for guidance and building a relationship with them.

People with knowledge behind the change they make in the world are successful.

About Christine Stow

Christine Stow’s passion lies in helping people find money to help their passions come to life. Through Grants Make Easy, she has created webinars and workshops that lead people through the process of putting form and function around their vision. The motivator for all she does is her two daughters, especially Imyjen, who was born with significant disabilities. As she went through the process of working out the best way to serve, she was elected to local government council, wrote a book ‘Not Just Imyjen’s Mother’, stood for a seat on the Victorian State election and completed a Master of Business Administration as a single mother. What is poignant about this journey, is Christine says none of these things would have been possible without Imyjen.

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