If you are a small business or start-up applying for grants in Australia, chances are you know grant applications can be difficult and time consuming. On the plus side, grants can provide start-ups with vital funds to kick-start their business or to take it to the next level. Although there are many programs offered across government, corporations and foundations, the lengthy application process and high competition can be extremely daunting.
Knowing how to navigate the grant application process – how to pitch your ideas and avoid common pitfalls – can be pivotal in securing funding. Here are our top tips for grant applications in Australia, all based on stories from some of our customers who have been successful in the process.
Do your research
Before making any application, you’ll need to explore the assortment of grants offered to Australian businesses. GrantConnect, the government’s online grant database, is a great way to start researching current funding opportunities from any Commonwealth Government agencies. As a start-up, searching within your state government’s databases can be helpful too, with recent research showing these dedicated agencies are offering more funding for grassroots grants. You can also look into business grants in your area, or click here for a list of grants and advisory programs available for Australian startups.
Pick the right grant
Don’t waste your time with an application that ultimately doesn’t align with the funder’s mission. Realising the program isn’t right for your business part-way through a grant application was the second leading reason for abandoning an application in 2017. Be deliberate about research from the get-go. Ask yourself:
- Do I meet all the eligibility requirements?
- Do my business’ goals align with the grantmakers mission?
- Do I want the same support provided to my business as was given to previous grant recipients?
If you think you’ve found the best match for your startup, don’t stop looking. Aim to apply for at least 3 grants to increase your chances of success – as the old adage goes, if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Read the fine print
It’s important to be clear about the grant guidelines and to read supporting documents. This way you will fully understand the expectations and deadlines, and be confident in providing all necessary information for your application.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Many government programs will organise pre-application briefings with grant officers. This is a great opportunity to not only gain general advice but also ask specific questions about your project. Book yourself in for an information session and come prepared with questions. By attending a briefing, you may gain valuable insight that puts you ahead of almost 50% of applicants who do not attend.
If you aren’t able to attend a briefing, giving program officers a call can be just as beneficial. They can also provide feedback on any previous applications you submitted to help you understand why it was rejected. Most importantly – you can learn how to improve your next application.
We’ve found Grant Officers to be open about the scoring criteria, and where an application may need some work. Take this on board and make the necessary adjustments, after all it’s in their interest to get good quality applications.
Set aside time
Haste makes waste. Prepare your application in advance of the closing date because the last thing you want is to miss the deadline after preparing a full application. Ideally, aim for a time buffer to accommodate any unforeseen changes or overlooked details. Applications are exhausting, but as online forms become increasingly common, you can complete applications in stages to break up the workload. Make sure to save your progress in case of a dreaded page time-out!
Successful grant applications are supported by strong evidence that demonstrates the adequate need for funding, a clear strategic direction and strong organisational capabilities. There are two main types of evidence that are important to show: quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative evidence is numerical, such as your financial capabilities from annual reports, surveys demonstrating a market niche, or census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Qualitative data is a bit more complex. It may include interviews with experts in the industry, information gained through public forums, or other forms of descriptive data that isn’t strictly numerical.
Aside from collecting evidence, you must also communicate it effectively. Our top tip here is to keep it concise, relevant and current. Remember to cite data and remain objective as you would in writing any report.
Tell your story
Grant officers read a lot of applications. As a start-up trying to grow your business, you should explain how funding will help you achieve your goals and benefit the community. Cut straight to the heart of the issue by detailing your plan of action:
- How will funds be used? What is the estimated realistic cost, as supported by financial documents?
- Will you explore supplementary sources of funding?
- Who is involved in your organisation and how do their skills combine to achieve your goals?
- How will you track success?
Remember this is the time to show your passion and illustrate why your project aligns with the grantmaker’s area of interest.
So you’ve completed your research, provided comprehensive evidence and given a compelling narrative of your business strategy to the grantmaker. It’s time to submit your grant application! It’s rare for anyone to be fully confident as they press that submit button, but we hope that these tips will equip you with the skills and knowledge to impress any grant officer.