The place of interaction between government and industry is often clouded with confusion, perplexity and frustration, where it seems as though no one is truly speaking the same language. In order to help you in your dealings with government, we thought we would offer you an inside look as to how the government thinks about grants, and the rationale behind their (occasionally bewildering) behaviour.
In a similar way to private investors, government departments also need the comfort and assurance that you know what you are doing. Overlooking risks and potential failures in grant applications is not a wise move – administrators would prefer to see them and understand you are working to minimise them, rather than see a glossed up overview that’s a ‘guaranteed success!’. To build confidence in your business, be upfront and tell the whole story, proactively dealing with the negatives in your application. Don’t worry, all applications have negatives – defining and dealing with them simply opens a doorway to gain trust.
Providers also want to see that you are serious about remaining competitive in your sector. The government gets tired of pouring money into projects and companies that fall over a few months or years after receiving funding. Despite the common and very real frustrations of dealing with government, grant providers are not usually as unrealistic as they are perceived to be and have an honest intention to see their funds used in a productive and efficient company that will achieve success.
A key in winning grants is to build relationships. Getting to know the grant providers really helps you to understand the aims of the program. For example, if you are working in the environmental space, make an effort to meet representatives from State Government departments and agencies, as well as the Federal Department of Climate Change and the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Not only will you have an advantage in your application, you may also hear about programs before they are launched, alongside other ‘off-the-record’ information relevant to your company. A significant advantage is to have received grant funding in the past, assuming you have managed it well.
In writing your actual application, take a moment to consider the work of those who assess your proposal. A tired customer service manager will have an overflowing in-tray filled with similar projects, similar promises and similar potential. Make every effort in your writing to stand out – very rarely do you have an opportunity to present verbally or impress with a face-to-face meeting, so your writing skills will need to be exceptional. Consider getting a member of your marketing team on board with the application process. They will often have the ability to see from an outsiders perspective which positives and negatives should be highlighted or toned down in your proposal.
The budget is often an area of weakness in applications, with many people overlooking basic errors in their spreadsheets. However, it can provide a time to shine. Go the extra mile and include calculations that show accurate budget projections, the previous or forecasted return on investment and profit margins, which will give a better feel for the financial strengths of your company. It is also important for government to see that there is a high level of monetary support from other sources. It will be a great source of comfort that industry and private companies are investing equal amounts, as well as sharing the risk.
Finally, remember that Government departments are held highly accountable for where their money ends up. They are required to meet certain targets relevant to their field, so to be successful, aim to address and meet the grant provider’s aims and objectives rather than purely pursuing the aims of your individual business.
Adrian Spencer is a dedicated grants specialist. He has accessed over $40 Million for organisations through State and Federal Government grants, rebates and concessions. Adrian is the Founder and CEO of GrantReady www.grantready.com.au