A lot of people think that writing business cases, plans and funding applications is a complex and drawn out process. I don’t reckon it needs to be. Over many years, I believe that the best and most successful submissions are based on a set of sound principles:
1. Start at what’s wrong (or what the opportunity is)…
– What are the current issues?
– What is ‘broken’/ or could be improved?
– Why does it need to be ‘fixed’?
– What evidence is there?
2. Look at what can be done to ‘fix’ the issues…
– What are the options?
– What are the compelling reasons for the reader to buy in to fixing your issue/s?
3. Describe what success looks like…
– What are the benefits that result from the solutions?
– Finally, ensure that you describe all of this in a ‘story’ with your audience in mind.
Often, we focus on the solution to the problem, and not what is broken and what to do to fix it. I don’t know how many workshops I have facilitated where the attendees already have a solution in mind – and this mindset often misses ‘left of field’ opportunities to resolve the issues more efficiently.
Listening is really important too. I can remember one specific meeting with my CEO, with one of the first Government funding submissions I was involved with (for then named Expenditure Review Committee ‘ERC’, a subcommittee of the Victorian Government Cabinet). I had drafted a detailed document, and we sat down for a review. She provided some great comment on the document, and I sat there, getting more and more frustrated, defending the drafting of the document. What I missed at that meeting, and what I now know is critical for success, is that you are writing for others, not yourself.
Other’s perceptions and opinions are critical. That’s not to say that every comment or feedback you get is important – it means that for the document to be successful, you need to understand who your audience is, and write a compelling story for them. If you are able to get feedback directly from who is to provide funding, listen very carefully – tease out what is important for them to buy in to your story. Doing this is no guarantee of funding, but often gives you a much better chance.