This is a guest blog by Olwen Dawe, the MD of Irish Business Intelligence which provides strategy, communications and funding consulting to government agencies, private companies, arts and cultural organisations.
Applying for business support and funding is often thought to require some kind of secret language or password. In fact, it’s more like knowing the right ingredients to a good recipe – using guesswork doesn’t often work out and can produce the wrong result!
Dealing with SMEs and start-ups for many years as a mentor and advisor, I’ve come across many disenchanted individuals who’ve slaved over their application (or not, as the case may be!), only to be turned down. For the poor souls who’ve pored over their plans and forms, it’s particularly disappointing, and quite often it can be the simplest thing which caused the rejection.
From my own standpoint, and having noted the various elements which can cause an application to be rejected, I have come up with a few tips which will help in the process of compiling a submission:
1. Be Organised
Don’t think ‘I’ll do that next week’ – give yourself time to prepare and fully examine every aspect of the information you’re required to submit. Read through the application detail a few times to familiarise yourself with it and ensure understanding – you would be surprised by how many mistakes are made as a result of not reading an item or question correctly.
2. Stay Focused and Provide Clarity
Make sure you don’t go off the point; being passionate about what you’re doing can sometimes derail the train in terms of sticking to what’s being asked of you. Remember those old exam questions from way-back-when??!
3. Provide Detail
Where detailed projections, forecasts, exit plans or other materials are required – ensure you provide them. Don’t consider they are not necessary – if you were asked, there’s a reason!
4. The ‘Four-Eyes’ Approach
It is well worth asking for a second pair of eyes [not literally, obviously] – an experienced colleague or friend preferably – most importantly, someone who will, objectively provide you with feedback on your application. Also, when you finish the application – read it over again.
5. Check and Check Again
Don’t assume that because you haven’t been asked for something, it’s not required – ensure you have a checklist of items / documents required for submission with the application. Many rejected applications are down to just one document or form not being completed.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
If in doubt, don’t wait to find out. Ask if you’re not sure and make sure you listen carefully to any feedback which can help you improve your next application.