Some tips on writing a successful bid

Having recently announced the winning projects for the latest eContent (Strand A and Strand B) and Rapid Digitisation calls, as Programme Managers we’ve also had to provide feedback to the unsuccessful bids we received, many of which were nonetheless of a high quality.

While going through the process, some common “feedback” patterns emerged, which might be useful to bear in mind when writing a bid for the next round of funding – whenever that might be.

As when buying a car we would expect it to have some basic components without much questioning (four wheels, a steering wheel, lights, seats and so on), it goes without saying that in a bid one would expect to see addressed all the relevant sections mentioned in the call (aims and objectives, methodology, project management, risks, dissemination, evaluation, sustainability and so on).

That said, the following are a number of issues that markers tended to highlight as problematic in many unsuccessful applications:

– need for more clarity and detail on what a project is proposing to do, who is doing what, when and how. Often these things are clear in the mind of the writer but not so for an “outsider” to the project, so it’s always a good idea to have an application read by somebody else as well before submitting it;

importance of the proposed work: again, while this may be self-explanatory to those writing a proposal mainly because of their subject area expertise, it is fundamental that the value of a project is well articulated and a strong case made for why this particular project should be funded – as opposed to any other competitor project. For example, why is a particular collection important to digitise? Who is it for? How will it benefit teaching, learning and research? What are we missing out at the moment from this collection not being easily available? And what could users do, that they can’t do now, with the collection once it’s online and accessible to them?

– any supporting evidence of current use or need for the proposed work will add weight to the application, and strengthen its case for funding – rather than more generic statements such as “this resource will improve teaching and learning…”;

impact: as a funding body, it is important for us to see that investing in a project doesn’t only benefit the institution receiving the grant – although obviously they are the main beneficiaries – but that the work is of relevance, or potential relevance, to the wider community and that through the right dissemination it can cascade through the sector, be it through case studies, exemplars, toolkits, the resource itself, technologies…Also, aligning a project strategically both within the host institution and through external links to other relevant organisations, networks and initiatives helps show that a project is well placed within its area of work;

stay within scope of the call: this is perhaps not one of the most common failings, but it does happen that sometimes a project is perfectly valid but it’s just not in line with the requirements and the scope of that particular call, and a lot of effort in writing the bid has been wasted.

Having said this, sometimes bids which are of a very high caliber might still not get funded and this might be due to a variety of factors, such as limited funds, the overall funding portfolio, the right mixture of projects and institutions …

When a call for funding is issued, JISC Programme Managers usually have time to discuss any project ideas, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch before embarking on writing a full proposal.

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