Grant Writing

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GreenTec Capital Africa Foundation

Grant Application Guide


There is an abundance of funding opportunities available in the ecosystem. However, grant application writing can be a time consuming and even tedious process. Typically, opportunities such as grants, prizes, pitching competitions and other events receive hundreds of applications resulting in fierce competition. Naturally, any grant writer will have to face unsuccessful applications.

However, at GreenTec Capital Africa Foundation, we have over the years developed best practices to maximize chances of applications’ success. This document is meant to serve as a source of advice and a reference point for you and your peers to use in future applications to opportunities such as grants, prizes, workshops and pitching events. It is structured in XX segments, each focusing on a different stage of a typical application process. 

Identifying Opportunities

Firstly, we will elaborate on where to find opportunities suitable to your venture. The vast number of players and opportunities make it difficult to get a concise overview of what opportunities are out there. However, there are several websites that already do a lot of the work for you. Therefore, be sure to check the following sources regularly, and/or sign up to the newsletters listed below. 

Source Description
Disrupt Africa 
Global Grand Challenges
Global Innovation Exchange
Opportunities for Africans
Opportunities for Africans Newsletter
  • How to Screen Opportunities Effectively

From the sources listed above you will have access to a large amount of information. However, it is imperative to then identify the opportunities most suitable to your venture. To guide this screening process, be sure to follow the steps below.

  • Confirm your eligibility

The first step when screening opportunities is to confirm your venture’s eligibility. This may seem obvious but strictly checking for eligibility first instead of reading background notes or descriptions of the type of support offered will save you critical time.

  • Understand the objective

Carefully read the opportunity outline/description to understand the objective the organizing entity is pursuing by offering the respective opportunity. Hence, in addition to the eligibility criteria, take this information into consideration when evaluating your venture’s fit for the opportunity. Furthermore, this information will be helpful when writing the application – however this will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

  • Check past winners

As a third step, to get an even better understanding of what kind of applicants the organizing entity is looking for, be sure to check past winners of previous selection rounds (if the criteria have remained the same). This will give you an idea of how advanced previous winners’ solutions are and what kind of solutions have previously convinced the organizing entity.

  • Confirm Match Funding

Some grants will require awardees to provide a portion of the total grant as matching funding for the project. Read all guidelines on required funding, as this will determine your eligibility and how much funding you can request. In some cases, it may be possible to contribute to match funding with team salaries or other in-kind project contributions. In some cases, it may be necessary to demonstrate proof of the matching funds.

  • Know when not to apply & don’t chase the money

Based on the information extracted as part of steps 1-3, evaluate the chance of success of your application. Proposal writing is time consuming, so it is imperative to only apply to opportunities that fit your venture very well. Even if the opportunity seems particularly interesting (e.g. large amount of funding), be sure to not just chase the money but reflect on the likelihood the time you invest in an application will pay off.

  • Contact the organizer in case of any confusion

Even though organizing entities tend to meticulously develop eligibility criteria and descriptions to avoid any confusion of potential applicants, never hesitate to reach out in case you need further clarification. This only emphasizes to the organizing entity that you are taking the opportunity seriously and are reflecting on your ventures alignment to their goals.

  • Applying to Opportunities

Once you have identified an opportunity you wish to apply for, the actual work begins. Organizing entities regularly receive hundreds of applications and application reviewers will read through many of them in one sitting. Hence, put yourself in the position of these reviewers and make sure to deliver an application that is convincing from start to end. In this section, we will share several tips to consider in order to write a successful application.

Pre-write your answers in a word document 

Don’t answer questions in the online form immediately. Instead, copy and paste the questions into a separate document (google docs, if you are working on application with colleagues). This will allow for a better overview of all questions to be responded to and help you to cross check your application’s content for consistency at the end. 

Align to the opportunity’s purpose

By the time you are writing the application, you should have a clear idea of what kind of ventures it targets. Make sure to emphasize the aspects of your venture that are most relevant to the goal the organizing entity is pursuing by offering the opportunity. However, always remain truthful. Most often there will be in depth due diligence procedures for successful applicants in which you will need to prove the validity of the statements you made in your initial application.

State S.M.A.R.T objectives

In your application, you will likely need to outline the objectives you are planning to achieve through the opportunity. Make sure that these objectives must be S.M.A.R.T, that is specific, measurable, obtainable, realistic, and time bound.

Furthermore, pay special attention that the objectives stated align with the goals the organizing entity is pursuing with the opportunity on offer. For example, if a grant is meant to be put to use to support smallholder farmers in West Africa, make sure your objectives align with this vision and make sense as part of your overall activities. 

Back up statements with sources

For example, when describing your market or the problem you are trying to solve, make sure to back statements up with credible sources. This will be important to strengthen your application’s credibility and persuasiveness.

Don’t get lost in details

As reviewers tend to read applications in bulk, providing too much detail can be confusing and thus counterproductive. Instead, for each part of your application ask yourself what the reviewer wants to know and what information is relevant.

Plan out answers in bullet points

For more complex questions, it can be useful to plan out your answer in bullet points, listing the important points you wish to communicate. This technique will also help you structure your answer and ensure a sound flow of information.

Pay attention to language

Avoid overly complex or technical language to ensure the reviewer understands what you are trying to say at first read. Additionally, if you notice certain buzz words used in the opportunity’s description, consider incorporating them into your application where applicable to showcase alignment. 

Get an external opinion

The more time you spend on an application, the easier it is to get lost in small details and lose sight of the bigger picture. It can be quite beneficial to get an outside perspective on your application from someone who is not involved in your venture and knows it in and out as you do. This will help you prevent potential misunderstandings or confusion on the reviewer’s side. 

Proofread thoroughly

Avoiding spelling and grammar mistakes in your application is critical. While language mistakes will certainly not disqualify you immediately from an application round, it does make it more difficult for the reviewer to read and understand your application as well as raise questions concerning the effort put into the application. 

Save your work properly to use it for future applications

Many opportunities will require you to answer quite similar questions. While you should pay attention to the focus and individual requirements of each application, you can often reuse key sentences in several applications. This may help you to have a solid base of content to modify in each additional application.