What’s the most important part of your grant funding bid? What single thing will most affect how your bid assessor rates it?
It’s how you begin it.
Because even in the world of bid writing first impressions matter most. A brilliant opening sentence casts the rest of your bid in a glowing light. Whereas a dull opening condemns your reader to a dull experience, no matter if your bid shines later on.
Those first few words of text massively affect your bid’s chances of success.
Your bid assessor has probably got fifty other funding bids to read today
Imagine your assessor reading your bid. It’ll be one among a whole pile of others that they need to get through. Those bids are going to vary in quality and interest, and so is your assessor’s attention. They’re only human after all. This is bad for you because it means that unless you stand out you’ll end up in the big ‘No’ pile.
The best way to stand out is by grabbing their interest at the start; immediately letting them know that your project is exactly what they are looking for. Do this and your assessor’s energy and attention will be stimulated for the rest of your proposal.
On the other hand, losing their attention at this point is the worst possible place to do so. Even if the rest of your bid is brilliant you’ll be making your assessor work uphill to recognise it, making you less likely to get good marks.
But if you can fire their synapses first and make the rest of your bid pretty jolly good then you’ll deliver an easy and inspiring reading experience for your assessor. And if it inspires them then you’re much more likely to get funded.
How to create an explosion in your bid assessor’s mind
You want to drop them into your bid with a bang and get right to the point. That way you capture their interest and pull them deeper into your bid. This takes creativity and courage. Here are five ways to do it.
1. Address the funder’s aims directly
However you begin your bid those first few words must reflect the funders aims and agenda. Whatever they are that’s what you need to talk about, using their terms, not yours. No distractions.
If their funding programme aims to strengthen and connect communities then you need to state in your first few words and paragraph that you do exactly that. If the programme aims to create system change then you need to state that you do that.
And if you can’t talk about your project in their terms then maybe your project isn’t a good match for their funding programme.
2. Cite a statistic
What are the interesting statistics about the need you’re trying to meet? What’s the worst part of the problem and how many people does it affect? Using a unique or startling factoid in this way will generate emotion and interest. The statistic should be directly relevant to the problem you’re trying to solve.
Once you’ve stated it, quickly describe the impact you’re making on the problem.
3. Share a quote that brings the problem to life
Does the problem have a high profile? What have authorities said about it, or about your success in tackling it? A well sourced quote from an authoritative source can hold attention and build engagement in the same way as a statistic. Make it short and direct, no more than 3 lines. Then follow it up with some context that connects it to the rest of your bid.
4. Tell a story through the eyes of a beneficiary
Telling a quick story about the problem you’re trying to solve can bring it so vividly to life that it immediately establishes empathy with the assessor. It shows you’re in touch with the problem. This builds trust. And trust builds engagement with your bid.
Your story could include how you solved the problem, or you could leave that part to later on in the bid.
4. Give a glimpse of the future
Creating a vivid mental image in your assessor’s mind is a powerful way to communicate your project’s ambition.
Ask them to use their imagination. Do this by using invitations e.g: “Let us take you on an imaginary journey three years into the future.” or “It’s 2022 in Tower Hamlets and…”. Then succinctly and vividly describe that future in a way that reflects the funder’s aims and agenda.
5. Use analogy, metaphor or simile
Analogies, metaphors and similes are powerful because they stimulate mental imagery. Like anecdotes they can bring your problem vividly to life. They are easy to engage with because they tell a story.
However, they also need to be used sparingly and with care. This isn’t an exercise in creative writing. Metaphors should enhance, not distract.
What to do when your application form won’t let you begin in the way you want
The first question on your application is likely to be a variant on one of the following:
- Describe your organisation
- Describe the problem
- Summarise your application
However, sometimes it won’t be, or the way it’s worded won’t, at first, seem easy to answer with a bang. If that’s the case then you’ve got to be creative while still answering the question and addressing the programme aims, all within the first few words.
There will always be a way
Here’s an example of how to do this for a funding programme that aims to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities, and an application form where the first question is “What is the aim of your project?”
Our project will aim to improve the transitions experience of 4000 young people with learning disabilities in the West Midlands. This will lessen the negative repercussions of transition that can last into adulthood. It will help them to have a better transitions experience so they become more confident, empowered and less service dependent.
Compared to the more effective version 2:
Every year over 4000 young people with learning disabilities have a negative experience of transitioning into adult services in the West Midlands. The process can have devastating repercussions that last throughout adulthood. Our aim is to transform their experience so they become confident, empowered, and less service dependent adults.
Do you see the difference? Version 2 is punchier, more vivid and uses less words. If you wanted to improve it further you could use a quote, a story, a more specific statistic, or you could describe the future.
Did this article’s opening lines make a bang for you?
Hopefully by now you’ll be convinced of the importance of your bid’s opening words and you’ll have some good tricks to use the next time you write one.
Looking back, can you see the techniques used to start this article. Think about how you felt and how you reacted when you read the first few words. Did they work for you?
Want more advice? Check out 7 Smart Ways to Improve Your Next Grant Funding Bid That Anyone Can Use.