I have been evaluating project funding applications for various funds for many years. You may find this an odd thing for a policy wonk to do but I’ve also been a producer of websites, was active in children’s television and was the business manager for a fund so have a wide-ranging set of skills that allow me to assess creative, business and marketing potential for projects. I’ve seen a lot of applications in my day and have a few tips that I’d like to share to make my life and yours easier. They apply to applications for television and digital funding applications.
- Read the guidelines. Read them again. Prepare your application and then double check the guidelines again. If you’re not sure about something, call the funder. They almost always are happy to talk to you though perhaps not on the deadline date.
- Every application requires a synopsis. This is a brief, one paragraph description. Forget the blah blah and focus on writing a tight, accurate description of the project that will set the stage for the rest of the material in the application. A properly written synopsis will set the tone for the rest of the application and strongly influence an evaluator’s attitude as they set out to read the rest of the application. Often the synopsis is the only creative that a jury or board member will read before they make a decision based on the evaluator’s recommendation.
- Do a search for exclamation marks and delete same. This didn’t used to be an issue but is increasing. I blame Twitter and texting. My daughter tells me that all adults overuse exclamation marks in texts and tweets. It may be becoming a bad habit. Don’t use them in funding applications but put your emphasis in your words! Otherwise it feels like you’re shouting at us! See what I did there?
- Spell check. Seriously. You have no idea how often the phrase ‘and I was irritated by all the typos’ comes up in an evaluation.
- If you are referring to past work as being ‘landmark’ or ‘groundbreaking’ or using other such ‘never been done before’ adjectives then it better be. Describing previous work as hugely innovative when it isn’t will just undermine your current application.
- Make sure that your budget reflects the work proposed. If the budget preparer is fully informed of the creative then this should not be a problem but sadly often is.
- If you haven’t figured out your story or your project then you are not ready to apply yet. Do not rush the application and try the ‘trust us, we’ll figure it out’ argument. If the words aren’t there on paper then the funder has no idea what it is being asked to fund and won’t.
- You need a business model, marketing plan, distribution plan. The funder needs to know that there is audience demand and a way to make money, even if the funder doesn’t take an equity position. If there is no international market or revenue potential but there are other goals then explain that. The goal of a funding agency is to build the industry and not just fund good ideas.
- Try very hard to avoid buzzwords. First, a buzzword has a limited lifespan and if you are new in the sector you could easily be using a buzzword that is no longer in use (e.g. mobisode) or has negative connotations often because of overuse (e.g. transmedia). If you must use a buzzword, use it properly and only when necessary.
- Make sure that the bios of your team show that you can do what you propose. If your main team is new or new at what you propose, hire a consultant with relevant experience. If you partner with a company to provide more experience make sure that your partner really can do what they say they can do. Include examples of relevant past work in your bios. Do not make the evaluators use google.
- Describe exactly what you plan to do with social media. Mentioning Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are not enough. You actually need a strategy and each strategy is different depending on the program and the audience.
- Use pictures, sketches, illustrations and mockups. You know, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The evaluator knows that they are just sketches, illustrations etc. to help communicate the idea but pictures do help communicate that visual idea. That means character sketches for animation, mockups and wireframes for websites but also stock images for live action characters and photos of possible locations or sets.
Hmm. I could go on but I think 12 are a good number for you to digest and think about. Most of these points are not going to make the difference between funding or no funding but they each in their own way can influence the evaluator’s assessment.