Six Steps to a More Competitive and Organised Grant Application

What are your tips for being more competitive and organised when it comes to writing a grant? Here are 6 from me:

  1. Prewrite.
  2. Know your funding sources.
  3. Prepare your application based on those funding sources and their preferences.
  4. Say “no” – Not all people, grants or situations are equally worthy.
  5. Plan ahead (a year calendar will help).
  6. Practice – You cannot improve without practice.


I’ve helped counsel less people write grants and submit grants, and obviously. Not obviously but I’m quite successful. So, my success rate regardless of what the success rate of the scheme is my success rate overall for my whole life helping people write grants is somewhere between 70 and 80%. That’s where it floats. So, how do I achieve that? What are some of the things that I do? So, here are 6 tips to help you be more successful in more organized, more competitive in your grant application. Now these are going to be pretty obvious, and I guess sometimes we fail to follow these things. So, if you don’t do it. If you can’t tick this that I do that you do this for every single grant. Aim for every single grant.

The first is to pre-write. So, almost everyone without exception says, “Oh, this grant is just come at the entirely the wrong time.” Cool. Granting bodies tenders requests for quote all of those they don’t wait until you’re ready to receive them. They are put into the market when the tenderer is. Sorry, when the organization wants the work done. Not when you’re ready to respond. So, if you can pre-write sections. If you can take sections from old grants. If you can think about what it is that you want to do now that might be fundable into the future, pre-write that stuff. Get that down on paper. Get capture your thoughts. Write the experiments. Write the proposal. I’m not talking about writing the full proposal. I’m talking about writing the approach and the kinds of things you need. So. pre-write as much as you possibly can, and then of course keep all of your pre-written work. So, all your submissions, etc., in an easily accessible spot. So, that when it comes to writing you can copy and paste from other applications.

Number 2, know where your funding comes from. So, obviously in Australia, the 2 major sources are the National Health Medical Research Council, The NHMRC; and the Australian Research Council, the ARC or “arc.” Knowing that these are the major funding sources means that you should be aware of when they plan to release their funding outcomes. That means you can be excuse me, be prepared and they might have a window of 4 weeks that the guidelines and the application form are open until when they no longer receiving submissions. So, although grants change from year to year, the guidelines change, and the submission forms changes, for most schemes in the ARC and the NHMRC, they remain constant. The dates remain constant. This fields that they need filled in for an application form remain constant. So, knowing where your funding comes from can help you do the pre-writing. The preparation get stuff done ahead of time. I’m not a big fan of spending 18 months trying to write one grant, but of course there are some grants that might need that kind of time purely from an organizational standpoint. You might need to engage lots of people from around the world. But generally speaking, getting out in front. Knowing what you’re when you’re where your funding comes from, and therefore when it comes is really useful. You can block out time in your calendar. So, even if you aren’t going to write in advance. If you’re only going to write when an application is open. Knowing when the applications will open is really useful and blocking out that time in advance is awesome. makes It much easier to be more successful.

Prepare based on when your funding comes from. This is advice number 3. So, knowing where the money is coming from is really useful. So, lots of grants in particular and to a lesser extent tenders have an underwritten. Unwritten I should say, expectation about what you’ll do. So, for example the NHMRC, they want you to write about helping the health and medical system of Australia. They want you to do health and medical research. But for what purpose? It’s all about essentially saving lives. So, being able to put that in somewhere into your application in some way, that’s how you’re going to respond. That’s why it’s going to be useful is a really good way of improving your success rate. This is even more true when it comes to grants from bodies like Business Victoria or Business Australia. Where even though they might say, “Oh look, we want to fund the development of new plant and equipment for the biomedical sector or the engineering sector.” Yes, they want to fund that plant and equipment, but they don’t want to fund it so that your business can go well. They want to fund it so that your business can go well. So, that you can employ more people who will then pay more tax, and the government will raise more funds. So, essentially what the government wants from almost any grant that it funds. Whether that be federal government, state government or local government, they want a return of dollars into the economy. They want a hiring of people who can then pay tax. So, if you’re writing a grant to a government entity, think about those 2 things as being an end point.

Point 4 is to say no. So, if you’re writing a grant generally speaking, you can’t be doing 2 things at once. So, you can’t be writing a grant, and writing a paper and conducting experiments. You can only write a grant right at this very moment. All you can do is write a grant or conduct experiments or write a paper. So, by saying no to certain opportunities, it frees you up to make better use of the opportunities that you’re currently working on. So, if you say no to writing a grant that is unlikely to be successful. Doesn’t pay a lot of money, and will take forever to assess and write, you can write a paper instead. Get your track record and improve your track record. Or you could collect more data so that a new funding application can have more pilot data which will make you more likely to have success. So, saying no really, really, really important.

Plan your application. So, what is tip number 5? So, we’ve all heard the analogy of “I want to chop down a tree um spend 4 hours sharpening my axe, and 1 hour cutting down the tree.” So, planning is the equivalent of sharpening your ax. It’s working out who is needed when and for how long. It’s working out what you want to say in your application. It’s working out the experts that you’ll need. The budget. All of the logistics of when things are going to be written. When things are going to be submitted. Who’s going to submit them?

All of that thing. And the final tip, 6th tip is practice. The only way to get good at something is to practice. So, practice grant writing that might sound like submitting lots of applications, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You can volunteer on internal grant review committees. You can volunteer to peer review, your friends, grants. You can ask your grants office if you can become a peer reviewer. Don’t let yourself become the rug that everyone wipes their feet on before they go and submit their grant. But similarly, reading lots of grants can really, really improve your grant writing.

I hope these tips have helped. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to shoot me an email, [email protected]. Can’t wait to hear from you and let me know how it goes. Good luck with your grants!