In this blog I discuss the importance of connecting with different audiences when writing funding bids, based on my previous experience as a funding manager at the UK Research Councils. To get practical support, feedback and experience to help you develop your bid-writing skills please get in touch
Developing convincing arguments to successfully secure research funding is a real skill, and bid writing differs substantially from other types of academic writing that you typically get more experience with during the earlier phases of your research career e.g. writing papers, chapters, thesis etc.
As icky as it might sound, when you’re writing a bid for funding you’re essentially trying to ‘sell’ your research idea to whoever is reading your proposal, be it your host institution, potential collaborators, reviewers, funders, funding board/committee members…all of the above?
This concept of writing to ‘sell’ the research idea is often a challenging one. If it’s a fantastic research idea that has great potential for the field, shouldn’t it be obvious? Shouldn’t you just be able to write about what you’re going to do and it just sell itself?! Well, sadly (and you knew this was coming), the answer is no. The resources are too scarce, and the funding environment is so fiercely competitive that simply relying on the great idea alone to win you funding is not enough. Of course, you need a great idea, a clear plan of how to deliver the research, and the right team to make it happen. Without these key ingredients your proposal will be a non-starter. However, to write successful funding bids you need to go further than the essential ingredients, you will need to:
- Grab your readers’ attention and make them want to read/review the finer details of your proposal when they have 50 million other things on their to do list
- Get your readers to feel excited and inspired by your idea
- Help them to understand what’s new about what you’re wanting to achieve with your research
- Leave them in no doubt about why this research is important, why it needs to be you that does it and why it needs to be done now – yes there are three whys in that sentence and for good reason! If you want to know why the emphasis is on the why – take a look at Simon Sinek’s fantastic TED Talk
This is all complicated by the fact that when you’re writing a funding proposal you are writing for a variety of equally important audiences, all of whom need to get slightly different information from your proposal. Tough ask? Definitely yes, – no-one said winning funding was easy. Impossible? No, bid writing is a skill that you can learn and refine, and the more feedback and support you get along the way, the better.
Who do you need to convince of your research ideas?
A good first step is to get a handle on who your key readers are and what they might be looking for, so that when you write your proposal, you can write with your audiences in mind. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the people you will need to convince with your funding bid: