The other day I attended a presentation about applying for funding. Although this one was aimed at businesses going through the ScottishEDGE process, a lot of the advice is good for any grant or award application. So if you’ve always wanted to do that Jerry Maguire “Show me the money!” thing, here’s how to get started.
One thing that really stood out was that the judges aren’t just looking for facts. Sure, you have to show that you’re worth giving the money to – your business is sound and growing, and you know exactly what you want the money for and the potential risks from growing too fast, etc. You have to prove that you have a product or service people want, too.
But what they’re really interested in is why your business gets you out of bed in the morning.
Your passion. Your vision. Your energy.
The “why” of your business. The what and how are important too, of course, but what they long to hear is why customers do (or will) beat a path to your door, rather than your competitors’.
Above all they want a story, and they want you to “sell” your story to them. They want to be made to care so much about your business that they start to see it with your eyes and are falling over themselves to give you the funds.
They’re also looking for something that makes you stand out from the other dozens of applications, a reason to put you on the shortlist: something that grabs them by the short and curlies and says “Wow!”.
The ScotEDGE guys said what they look for is a pitch that’s aimed at an intelligent lay audience – people who need your product or service explained in a way they can understand:
- relevant and
It also helps to have a final note: something to remember you by. Two examples they gave were “Just one more thing…” (like a PS on a letter) and the visual-thought “Just imagine…”.
Does all that sound like a tall order? The key to hitting the right note is starting the application process early enough, so that you have time to do several drafts.
For the first draft, just write down the bald facts.
On the second one, get in your what, where and how points. “How” should cover not just how your product or service works but also how it benefits the buyer.
On the third draft, add your why.
On the fourth and subsequent drafts, work on the why element and the personal passion. Over-do it, go all out, say everything you’ve always wanted to say to anyone who’s asked why you do it. You can always prune it later, if necessary – but if you’re like most people you’ll probably need to beef it up even more, ‘til it feels totally OTT. There are a few people who just love blowing their own trumpets, but most Brits still have a bit of stiff-upper-lip reserve to overcome.
Once you reach this stage, you can start showing it to other people, both in your business and outside. Get feedback: if they were judges, would what you’ve written make them “buy” your application?
Edit and re-write accordingly and ask again. When the verdict is that you’ve got it right, STOP. Don’t edit any more, but make sure you proofread it. Don’t be tempted to tweak. Send it off and forget about it until you hear the result. And look forward to showing everyone the money!
P.S. If you need any help with the writing, critiquing or editing, just get in touch 🙂