Thinking of applying for funding? Stop! Fine tune your application with these top tips from a funding assessor.
EPALE previously posted about things to think about before applying for EU funding. Today I’m taking it a step further by talking about five more aspects to keep in mind while filling in the application form itself.
While these suggestions might seem obvious, in my experience applicants still often ignore basic requirements. So if you are planning your next proposal or if you are already writing some answers, take a short break to read this post. Depending the kind of funding you plan to apply for, this checklist will hopefully provide some useful new ideas that can help you reflecting on your yet prepared answers.
1. Answer the questions you are asked on the application form, not the questions you would like to be asked
Reading applications, from time to time it feels like applicants try to interpret the meaning behind questions and give answers they think readers are really looking for. This can lead you astray. Instead, as a reader of application forms, I look for answers that answer the question honestly and directly.
If you realise you are drifting from the point, you can give yourself a two or three-week break from the application before you read it over again. Consider getting someone outside the project to read the finished application can also be helpful. All this requires is an early start but I’ve learned that this can noticeably improve your application.
2. Do not list the same facts more than once
Do you feel the need to stress a specific fact about yourself or your organisation? Try to find the question that fits this important fact the best. One mistake I have seen several times is that applicants underline that they have extensive experience and that this is one reason they are qualified to succeed with the planned activity. Rather than pointing this out over and over again, I suggest you bring up solid arguments why you are qualified. Even if the specific skill or knowledge-base is crucial for the project or exchange, I have never found it particularly useful when applicants repeat themselves over and over again. In my experience the point you want to emphasise will not come across any better if you explain it more often. I recommend instead that you use that energy to describe your argument more clearly and in the right place.
3. Do not exaggerate or lie
Again this probably sounds obvious, but after reading through many different proposals already, I am positive that I can tell whether an applicant is exaggerating or even lying. How do I know? Maybe at some point the applicant contradicts himself, or maybe I simply know that an explicit assertion is a lie. Surely, lying will lead to suspicion. Therefore you should take my advice and simply not lie in your application.
Remember that having only a limited amount of experience can be absolutely fine. When it comes to me, I like to know what unique experience or knowledge makes you likely to succeed with your project.
4. Reflect on the amount of funding you are applying for
Applying for funding simply because the application form offers you the possibility to do so is probably not a good idea. From what I have seen so far assessors will double-check the funding program you are applying for against the costs you may face during your activity. They will likely check the rationale you provide and whether it fits the amount of money you requested, thus I advice to think through the following questions. They can hopefully keep you from disappointment and most certainly will help you to write a better finance plan for your activity.
- If somebody examined me, would I be able to provide solid reasons why it is necessary for me to receive this specific amount of funding?
- Would I be able to reach the described goals with less money?
- Do I really meet all the conditions to apply for a specific additional funding?
And most importantly: Do I really need the funding I am applying for or would it just be nice to have?
5. Review your spelling
This is a really important one. Although as far as I know poor spelling does not influence the content review, it surely makes the application more difficult to read. I suggest that you write your answers with software that checks the spelling and the grammar of your writing. You can even save different versions of your answers on your computer. Take my advice and do not copy the text into the application form before you are absolutely satisfied with your answer (or when the deadline has arrived).
For several applications it is acceptable to use your native language even though it is not the language you will use during your exchange or project. Before you start to fill in your application form; look up the proper program guide! You may not even need to write the application in a foreign language.
There is no reason to be afraid of applying for European funding. The most important recommendation I can give is to start early! Consider getting some advice from somebody who already has experience applying for European funding. Even if you start from scratch, if you have a reasonable activity plan and a good rationale, in my opinion you already have the main ingredients for a well-written application.
And most importantly, take advantage of the different services the Commission offers applicants to improve their proposals and read their application guides. You can also read post on “10 top tips for applying for EU funding”, where many of these services are listed.
(Please note, this post does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. This advice should not replace full reading of the guidance issued by the European funding agencies. Official information on applying for EU funding can be found here.)