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Tips on Designing Effective Public Sector Grant or Loan Applications

2020-03-10


Meeting government objectives while facing increasing fiscal constraints can be challenging. For some programs, making progress can be achieved through funding private and / or not-for-profit organizations with grants and / or loans to support projects that advance the government agenda.

The objectives of these grant and loan programs can vary — from poverty reduction to increasing economic development, improving mental health supports to advancing scientific research. But regardless of the program objectives, at a high level, the process for determining which projects are approved typically is consistent:

  • An organization submits an application describing a proposed project, defending how the project meets the program objectives and backing up their ability to complete the project.
  • Program administrators complete due diligence / an evaluation of the application. In some cases, a quick triage determines if the applicant meets the eligibility requirements prior to a fulsome evaluation.
  • Program staff recommend funding, sometimes with conditions.
  • The governing board or committee approves or rejects the application.

The timeline from application submission to decision varies widely between programs for a variety of reasons, but one significant factor in the duration (and effort) is the complexity of the evaluation process.

Make It Simple and Be Clear

The evaluation process becomes much simpler if all (and only) the information required to make a decision is provided by the applicant up front. This small factor will make a significant reduction in the time and effort to complete an evaluation.

The following are some common pitfalls — and good practices — in application design:

  1. Ensure program guidelines and eligibility criteria are clear and communicated in plain language for applicants. If an applicant can read the guidelines and determine if they are eligible or not, it will save everyone time and effort if they are ineligible.
  2. Define your “showstoppers:” If there are mandatory eligibility requirements, clearly ask the applicant to demonstrate them. This may involve pointed check-box questions or the requirement to provide supplementary evidence (e.g. audited financial statements to demonstrate financial viability). Make it easy for the applicant to give you what you need and easy for the evaluator to quickly ensure the project is eligible.
  3. For competitive programs, be transparent about what the ideal project entails and the elements that will set one project apart from the rest. Ask specific questions to enable applicants to demonstrate how they can differentiate themselves or the project.
  4. Any question added to the application should serve a purpose in the evaluation. Answers to all questions should either demonstrate eligibility or the potential for project success and alignment to program objectives. The response to each question on the application should influence the decision to fund the project. If it won’t, remove the question.

Finally, ensure the technology used for the administration of these programs is built to streamline the process. Technology solutions can ease the burden on both the applicants and the evaluators and provide a more transparent processing process for both.

For more information on streamlining your application and evaluation process, contact Jen Hayes, Partner, Consulting Services, at 416.515.5055 or [email protected]