Seven Tips for Application

Seven tips for a successful funding application

The funding application plays a key role in the evaluation and possible authorisation of a project. Nowadays most funding schemes – mostly due to time constraints – do not request a verbal presentation, as a result in many cases the written application is the only document representing the project idea.

Thus a well prepared and thought-out project application is vital. It is not the volume of the application that counts, but rather an easily understandable description of the project objectives and the measures to be funded.

The project applicant should obtain the following information before filing his application:

    * What are the objectives of the funding program, what is its main focus?
    * Who is the person responsible for my project?
    * What is the funding process for my project (deadlines for submission, approval period, etc.)?

Most funding programs have mandatory application forms, which can be obtained (often online) from the competent authorities.

1. The project name

The name of the project contains a lot of information about the content of the project.

The project name should be
    * short and precise (around 4-8 words)
    * measure-oriented
    * locatable

During discussions about the possible granting of funds for the project (e.g. in advisory councils or boards) the project name will be quoted – a well-fitting name will support the project, a misfitting name might result in the opposite.

·         Maintenance management Gorski kotar
·         Distributary connection Drayva
·         Hay meadow festival Djakovo
2.  The “Short Description“

A clear short description of the project will enable the person processing the project within the assessing authority to give an optimal short and efficient explanation of the project application to third parties. This is essential during the administrative process when e.g. political decision makers quickly have to be briefed on the content of the project or when the advisory board compares your project with the other applications, etc.

The short description is also important for possible decisions. Short descriptions, if meaningful, will usually be included into the minutes of meeting or are the basis of proposals for government decisions.

It is a big advantage if the own words of the project applicant are included in relevant minutes and resolutions. Otherwise the administrative person working on the application will often condense the long versions, sometimes without consulting the project applicant. This can then lead to misunderstandings and problems during the project implementation, if the content has not been summarized, as initially intended by the project applicant.

As short description should
    * be really short (about 5-10 rows)
    * contain the motivation for the project, the objectives and the planned measures
    * contain the expected results
3. The long version

The long version of a project description (at least 2 pages, maximum number of pages dependent on the project content) should give a detailed account of all project aspects (motivation for the project, objectives,…) and will ideally cover any possible questions the authorities might want to ask. It is the responsibility of the project applicant to consider upfront, which questions might be important for the authorities in connection with the project and to include those in the project description.

It might be a viable idea to actually include typical question into the description e.g. as subtitles like

·         What was our motivation for the project?
·         Do similar projects exist which have the same objectives?
·         How is the general public involved?

A frequent source of problems is the distinction between objectives and measures as well as the expected results of the project.
4. Objectives and Measures

The objectives describe, more or less in detail, what shall be achieved with the project and which motivations lay behind it. The objectives of the project don’t have to be identical to the objectives of the funding program, but they should be derived from them.

·         Improvement of the population size of the corn craker in the Lonjsko polje
·         Public awareness raising with regards to the topics weeds
·         Development of diverse meadow society in the flood areas of the Kupa in the municipality x

The measures describe how the objectives of the project shall be reached. The project measures should focus exclusively on those activities actually planned for in the project and not include any “potential” measures.

The measures also have to comply with the fundable measures outlined in the program. Different measures go along with different funding rates. The person working on the application will consider the measures in accordance to their fundability as per the program. Thus it is advisable to structure the various measures according to the funding program, e.g. “investments”, “planning”, “organisational expenses”.

Analogue to examples given in “Objectives”
·         Creation of feeding areas and prohibition of farming activities around the Crex Crex’s nests
·         Realization of information evenings and guided hikes
·         Return of existing crop land, sowing of autochthonous wild flowers

5. Expected Results

The chapter “expected results” should contain what exactly shall be achieved with the help of the project (in contrast to the “objectives”). The results should be measurable. They are important for the evaluation of the project and will determine if the projects is perceived as successful or unsuccessful.

Analogue to examples given in “Objectives” and “Measures”
·         Increase of the Crex Crex population of at least 1 pair
·         Increased awareness in the general population for weeds
·         Creation of 5 hectare of new diverse meadows
6. Milestones

The presentation of actual “intermediate results” or “milestones” will offer the funding authorities insights into the planned project organisation and implementation. Milestones can also be integrated into a work schedule.

A milestone includes:
    * description of the intermediate result
    * separate description of which “measurable” product is available at that point in time
    * a fixed date, when that specific project part has to be concluded

 In many projects “milestones” are also used as triggers for invoicing, which further enhances the importance of the described “measurable” product, as e.g. in Rural development  every invoice can be checked by inspectors.
7. Project costs and financing plan

A precise presentation of the expected costs of the project as well as a financing plan is a central prerequisite for a positive evaluation of an application. Inaccurate figures, slouchy mistakes or lack of knowledge about some application terms can lead to embarrassing questions from the authorities and may negatively influence even projects with a very interesting content.

Most of the funding programs distinguish between project costs and project financing.
Project costs

Project costs are the sum of all expenses of the project. It is advisable, like for the measures, to adapt your presentation to the structure of the funding program.

The following distinctions will be useful for nature conservation projects:
·         Expenses for planning (e.g. develop plans and concepts, write reports, compile studies)
·         Expenses for project management (e.g. ecological supervision during the implementation of a building measure, local consulting activities)
·         Expenses for investments (e.g. production of exhibition boards, construction of a water biotope, plantings, purchase of seeds)

 If the application form distinguishes between personnel expenses and non-personnel costs it is recommendable to request a definition of the two categories.

Usually personnel costs are expenses which are limited to employees of the project applicant and which must be justified with the help of a list of hours worked. Non-personnel costs are any other expenses (so e.g. also contracts for third party services, sometimes also freelance service contracts

 But there are also other funding programs, which will define as “personnel costs” all personnel expenses in the broadest sense (e.g. also service contracts).

Admissible total expenses

The administrative person evaluating the application will investigate which of the applied for services and expenses of the project are “admissible” according to the funding scheme. The total amount of admissible expenses is the starting point for calculations of the funding intensity. Non-admissible expenses are not going to be included into the financing plan.


Funding application:                                         127.000 €
Non-admissible expenses:                               -23.060 €
Total admissible expenses                         103.040 € (= 100%)
Funding intensity 30%                                       30.912 € (= 30%)
Own capital 70%                                                 72.128 € (= 70%)

As shown in the previous example the project financing plan can be changed during the course of the evaluation of the project by the authorities, thus the applicant should be well acquainted with the criteria for the admissibility of expenses.

Financing plan

The financing plan of the project explains how the project applicant plans to finance his total expenses. The summary also states the exact amount applied for funding. The financing plan should at least contain the following funding options:

Public funds, subsidies

Any financial means coming from public subsidies (EU, federal, provincial, municipality) – each administrative public department to give subsidies must be listed here.

External funds

Any financial means received from a legal entity or person with the exception of governmental units (see “public funds”) – each institution or person that financially support the project.

Own resources (Cash)

Any means which the project applicant will contribute himself in cash.

Own services (Non-cash)

Any services which are not remunerated upfront but contributed “voluntarily”. In some funding schemes such services can be evaluated according to standard rates and subsidised .

The sum of own services, own funds, external funds and public funds are the total expenses of the project (= project costs, see above).