Recently, SRF founder Michael Sussman wrote about the mistakes most commonly made by rail businesses when presenting their projects to attract capital. His observations on working with banks and investors got me thinking about my experience helping companies and organizations apply for grant funding. Among the potential pitfalls in the grant application process, here are the big three that need to be addressed for success.
First, many folks who are seeking government or foundation funding fail to adequately review the project eligibility, application requirements, and selection criteria. This leads to incomplete submissions and irrelevant content that doesn’t correlate to what the reviewing board wants and needs to make a decision. All information pertaining to a program’s target sector, project types, insurance requirements, grant match requirements, document formatting, and other details are typically presented up front by the grantor and should be fully understood by applicants prior to submission. The application format, flow and content must strictly follow the instructions provided. Give yourself plenty of time early in the process to conduct these critical steps. To avoid wasting time, use the Q&A process to confirm that your project is eligible for the grant program.
Second, it is critical and yet uncommon for applicants to write a clear and concise grant narrative that fully describes the designated use of funds. Exactly how will you deploy the new capital to advance your project? Will you be using the grant funds to launch a new project or grow an existing one? Be as detailed as possible, so award committees are confident that you have planned appropriately for where the money will have the greatest impact.
Third, applicants must articulate the wide-ranging benefits that will accrue to stakeholders. Grantors want to know how their capital will impact communities, employers, workers, new jobs, regional growth and more. Provide evidence for these project benefits by including as many letters of support as you can gather from elected representatives, economic development officials, shippers and other stakeholders.
We look forward to hearing about your experiences with grant funding and any questions you may have.