It always surprises us when clients neglect to ask what NOT to say in their SBIR/STTR, which is arguably as important as what is said. There are a few consistent rules to follow when crafting your SBIR/STTR proposal. One, of course, is to follow the instructions and write clearly and concisely. However, rarely is there a list or rule that talks about what should NOT say in your proposal.
Here is our quick list of things NOT to include in your proposal.
#1 – “We hope to”
This is not your Amazon wish list. There should be no hoping and wishing in your proposal plan. The proposal should illustrate a concrete plan of activities to carry out the required project work. Do not, in short, “wish”, “hope”, “plan”, or “want” to do any project activities. Tell the reviewers what you will do, what you can do, and what you have done to prove feasibility and demonstrate proof of concept. “Our team wishes to…” is the top phrase not to include in your grant proposal.
#2. Anything that implies the program can not exist or continue without this funding
Every business needs capital to continue to function, and funders understand this. There is a big difference between an existing company expanding programming or adding a new research and development component to their project activities list and a project that can not get off the ground without major funding. This is a clear indication to reviewers that the project is still early in the ideation stage and likely not ready. Even if not receiving this funding could set program activities back, refrain from saying anything to the effect of additional funding being a requirement for the project. “We need your funding to continue to operate” ranks high on the list of things not to say in a grant proposal.
#3. Overly ambitious outcome statements
Be realistic about project outcomes. Take into account how long the project will be, how much funding is on the table, and what steps still need to be accomplished to take this product or idea to full market launch after the specific project you are applying for ends. For instance, if this is a 6-month Phase I proof of concept research grant, do not tell the reviewers you will have a fully commercialized product at the end of the grant. Similarly, if you have a social enterprise pilot in one small town, do not tell reviewers this project is going to end world hunger or climate change in one year. Overly optimistic and impossible project outcomes are red flags to reviewers.