There is no secret formula to writing winning EU proposals.
The strength of your application depends a lot on the validity of your idea and how it complements the funder’s objectives, your own capacity and the capacity of your partners to carry out the work involved, and the current priorities at any given time in the cycle of a funding programme.
However, there are some tips that you can consider that can help to strengthen your application across all programmes and increase your chances of being successful.
We mentioned this already in our page on the Characteristics of EU funding, but given its importance it is worth reiterating: Results should be at the heart of any European project. Consider always what your impact will be, who your target group is, and how you will measure these results. They will often ask you to think about these results in both the long and short term.
Do not overlook the importance of these questions in any European funding application. Be clear about how you will measure and record results and what your key indicators for success will be. If successfully funded, this planning and the data collected from carrying out evaluation activities will help you enormously in demonstrating the impact and success of your project.
As with any funder, European programmes have their own objectives that they want to achieve. See Step 5 of our 5 Steps for Getting Started with EU Funding article for more information on this. It is important to demonstrate that you are aware of European policies and objectives in designing a good project. You can do this by bearing in mind the following when designing and writing your project:
If you are applying as a consortium, do you have a geographically widespread and diverse partnership? What strengths do they bring to the project in terms of exchange of best practice and innovation across Europe and the building of European networks?
This was also touched on in our article on the Characteristics of EU Funding, but it is important to emphasise again here that, with the exception of very few operating grants, the majority of European funding opportunities are project based. Consequently, EU funding will rarely cover core costs.
As a funder, the EC are generally interested in new, innovative approaches and solutions, and will not fund existing activities. Your application should therefore emphasise the uniqueness and innovation of your project idea wherever possible.
As with any funder, European programmes are eager to see value for money in the projects they approve. It may seem that European funding is bottomless but, in fact, budgets for most programmes are very limited with very ambitious targets to achieve. Bear this in mind when designing your budget and be clear about the added value that you and your partners could bring to the project in your application to ensure that the evaluator sees the value for money on offer.
This aspect is vital and usually falls under the category of “sustainability”. It is not always possible to measure long-term impact in a short-term project, but you can do your best to design your project with long-term impact in mind, especially in terms of its value to your organisation. Emphasise how this project will build on your organisation’s current work and how you will continue to use the results, even after the project has ended. Is there scope for a further project based on the findings of this one?
You should also include a plan for how you will expand on the European network you will have developed with your partners as a result of the project, and on the national networks you will have established by working with your target group. Be clear about how this projects fits into your organisation’s long-term strategy and what your strategy aims to achieve.
The funding programme sees these grants as an investment into Europe’s future and it is important that you do the same and that this is reflected in your application.
It may seem obvious that you should be clear about your target group but it is worth emphasising just how clear you should be. It is not enough to say that your target group is young people. You must be clear on exactly what sub-category of young people you are aiming to impact.
Consider the following when describing your target group and their needs:
When analysing needs, think of the following:
Defining your target group and needs will directly impact your project’s chances of success and so it is worth dedicating time to this in your planning.
Incorporated into any good European project application is a comprehensive 'dissemination' plan. Dissemination is essentially a project promotion or communication plan but, in the case of a European project application, it should be considered on a local, regional, national, and European level.
It is important to set ambitious but achievable dissemination targets that will clearly communicate the European value and nature of the project, and are measurable so that you can demonstrate their achievement after the project has been completed.
A good quality dissemination plan is one of the main criteria that your project will be evaluated against so make sure not to overlook its importance.
Get to know your partners before you submit the application. If every activity in your proposal is focused on what your organisation will do and your partners seem like an afterthought, it will be obvious in the design of your project and it does not bode well for its success. A partnership is a complicated and challenging opportunity but an opportunity no less.
Working as a team will give you the chance to greatly increase your capacity to work on a particular area, to trade new and innovative practices and ideas, to develop your organisation professionally and build its profile, and to be invited into other new and exciting projects. However, it does involve opening yourself up to risk and potential conflict. Evaluators know this and you as an applicant should too.
You can demonstrate that you understand this by considering the following: