Navigating the Grant Writing landscape: Preliminary Insights from Experience and Industry Evolution
Over the past two decades of writing grant applications, I've experienced the transformation of government funding. When InnovateUK was still called the 'Technology Strategy Board,' many businesses were unaware of available grants, and some were hesitant, thinking that such non-repayable funding was too good to be true.
I began my career at a university, working on spinning out companies. Consequently, I wrote numerous SMART applications for projects that often had limited funds. That's how I gained my initial experience, focusing on projects with remarkable, innovative technologies, but lacking commercial traction.
In the early days, one challenge I faced was finding providers who were well-versed in R&D tax credits, another government initiative that seemed too good to be true at the time. Over the years, the market has seen an influx of companies offering R&D Tax Credit services. While some providers are honest and experienced, others have entered the market, misleading clients about their eligibility and submitting dubious claims. Thankfully, recent changes by HMRC have led to a decline in such practices.
Recently, however, I've noticed grant writing services taking a similar route, with new market entrants offering various engagement models, leading to confusion for potential clients. When I speak to new clients, they express feeling overwhelmed by the diverse providers, messages, and pricing they encounter.
One piece of advice I will always stand by: In the world of grant writing, experience matters. With government funding opportunities continually evolving, it's essential to make informed decisions when selecting a grant writer. Let's talk about some important things to keep in mind during your search for grant writing services:
Look for grant writers with a proven track record and substantial experience in the industry. Evaluate their success rate in securing funding for similar projects or within your sector. While no grant writer can guarantee success, those with extensive experience are more likely to understand the intricacies of the application process and how to make your proposal stand out.
Beware of grant writers who claim an unrealistically high success rate (e.g. over 95%) or those who guarantee funding. Competitive funding rounds are unpredictable, and even the most experienced grant writers cannot assure success. Choose a grant writer who sets realistic expectations and is transparent about the potential outcomes.
The best grant writers take a comprehensive approach to the application process. They should be willing to invest time in understanding your project, conducting research, and refining your proposal. Be cautious of grant writers who only offer a "do-it-yourself" portal for filling in forms. A successful grant application requires more than completing the necessary paperwork; it involves crafting a persuasive argument and presenting a strong case for funding.
Select a grant writer who has a deep understanding of your industry and is aware of the latest trends and developments. Their expertise in your sector will enable them to present your project more convincingly and identify the key aspects that appeal to grant evaluators.
When it comes to pricing, grant writers may offer a variety of fee structures, such as a flat fee, hourly rate, or contingency-based pricing. Be sure to choose a grant writer with a transparent pricing model that aligns with your budget and expectations. Keep in mind that if you want great quality proposal writing, which has a respectable chance of getting funded, you will probably have to pay a writing fee. Successful writing companies don’t not typically work on a no-win, no-fee basis. They don’t need to. And why would they? Skilled, experienced writers warrant fair compensation for their expertise and hard work.
Effective communication and collaboration are crucial in the grant writing process. Choose a grant writer who values open communication and is willing to work closely with your team. This will ensure that your proposal accurately reflects your organisation's goals and vision, increasing the likelihood of funding success.
By considering these factors, you can select a grant writer who will maximise your chances of success while providing the human touch necessary for creating compelling grant applications.
By Jo Derbyshire, Inventya’s Director of Grant Writing with over 20 years of experience. Read more about Jo, here.