Please pay attention to detail – it can help you win grants!

Nothing frustrates me more than a lack of attention to detail on a grant application. In my job I am lucky to be able to support people to develop high quality funding applications that not only meet the eligibility criteria but (hopefully!) make sense! I am also lucky as I am asked on occasion to review proposals that have already been submitted and to score them against different funders’ criteria. This is a really useful insight into how people are developing grant funding applications and what common mistakes might be. No grant application is ever going to be perfect and even if it were it doesn’t guarantee that it will be funded but there are some key things you should do, some of which I referred to before here.

The one thing that continues to strike me is the lack of attention to detail in various different areas of applications and these normally fall into two categories:

1) Budget inconsistencies – Please check and double check your budget. A key aspect of this is getting your budget justification right and checking for accuracy. Make sure your figures add up and this includes any breakdowns you might include on various budget lines. If these figures are wrong it damages your credibility and raises doubts about your ability to manage budgets.

2) Broader internal inconsistencies – This is similar to the budget but at a broader level. One helpful way to resolve any issues relating to broad internal inconsistencies is to give yourself as much time as possible to complete an application. Further to this always try to make sure that any items referred to in the budget are referenced and explained in the narrative. I have read a number of applications recently where upon arriving at the budget I have noticed a number of budget lines, some of which are for posts, software, consultancy and other IT, which are not mentioned at all in the project narrative! This, perhaps even more than the budget inconsistencies outlined above, will damage your credibility and will pretty much guarantee that your application will be rejected. It suggests that the narrative and budget were written by different people or that the PI doesn’t have a good handle on what they are delivering.

These problems are both easy to iron out. Make sure you develop the budget at the same time as the narrative of the application and proof read your application a number of times. This is enhanced by sharing drafts with others who have the time to proof read it (and not the day before – give them time!). Don’t risk your application being dismissed out of hand by not addressing questions of accuracy and attention to detail. A concise, well structured and accurate application will help you go a long way towards success.