AcWriMo: Writing Funding Applications

Your ability to bring money into your institution through winning grants and sponsorship is becoming ever more important. Regardless of your discipline, knowing how to approach a sponsor – from research councils, to industry, to charities – will improve your chances of success, and hopefully make the process less daunting. Here are some things to think about when writing your application.

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Thoroughly research your sponsor and the conditions of the funding. Understand their eligibility, timeline and assessment criteria, or you might just be wasting your time. Do they have a particular focus this year that fits your research?

Know what will happen if you win the funding: What are the sponsor’s policies for successful bids (e.g. Open Access), and what data management plan do you need to have in place?

Give yourself enough time – writing, editing, gathering documentation (e.g. references) and submitting.

Be aware of deadlines and processes for submission. There may be steps to take within your institution, before you can submit to the sponsor, and these can take several weeks.


Think Project, Person, Place – a good match between you, your research and your host institution can make your bid much more compelling.

Seek feedback repeatedly and revise your proposal. Be prepared to do this multiple times.

What is your WOW Factor and how can you show it off? Very early and loudly declare why your work is novel, exciting, why only you can do it, and what the larger outcomes are. Communicate strongly, especially in key areas, such as the lay summary, your title, impact assessment, public engagement. Is your abstract clear and convincing?

Suit your proposal to the demands and style of the sponsor – checking this against past applications can help. In particular, listen carefully to what each section of the application is asking you to provide; don’t be afraid of reusing key or impactful words. Most sponsors will also have a programme manager you can talk to, if you have questions about what is sought.

Seek feedback repeatedly and revise your proposal. Be prepared to do this multiple times.

Make your justifications clear and relevant to that sponsor. Make your targets feasible. Acknowledge and tame your limitations or weaknesses.

Budget as accurately as you can – time, resources, people, travel, events. There is no advantage to underestimating your spending if it makes your proposal look unrealistic. This is especially important if you are working with research partners, who may have their own requirements and commitments.

Proofing and presentation count. Even small errors such as typos can be costly, and your report needs to be accessible. Graphics can help if they are of good quality and informative (e.g. a Gantt chart of your research plan).


Inevitably, some bids will be unsuccessful, as funding is always competitive. Sponsors always have to choose between many excellent projects. Learn from the experience, and persevere!

funding apps pic 2

Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash