You’ve spent a lot of time looking for the perfect government funding programme that is right for your small business, and now it’s time to apply. Before you grab a pen and start filling out the application on your own, here are a number of useful tips to writing small business grant applications like the professionals who get funded do.
While small business grant applications aren’t insanely difficult, depending on the funding programme and the funding agency you apply to, they may be a bit difficult to understand.
So before you get started, consider the following funding application tips:
Understand Your Goals: When you are looking for government grants for your small business ensure that you know what you need funding for. How will this new found money help you achieve your goals? There has to be something in common with your goals and the funding agency you are applying to, simply for the fact to know whether or not the funding agency or the grant programme in question will support you.
Time: As you get the grant programme application and you jump for joy because it’s only 2 pages you may soon realize that the 2 page application has a lot of requirements which you can’t just complete in one sitting. Best tip to give you when filling out government grant applications is to ensure you have plenty of time.
Get Help: I can do it on my own! – is the wrong attitude. While you may be the best suited for the job of filling out your own application and doing all of the research, isn’t your time as a small business owner better spent on working on your business or doing as little as necessary when it comes to government grant applications? Get professional help to research the programmes, to help you with your business plan, to speak to grant makers, to find the applications and even to fill them out if you can.
Contact The Programme: Remember to read the funding application in detail and follow it to the letter. If you have the resources at your disposal, get in touch with recent success stories or grant recipients of that programme and discuss what they did in order to get funded. At times simply following in their footsteps could help you get funded. Speak to the program director or the account manager who is in charge of that program to learn as much as possible in order to ensure your application to the program is perfect.
Don’t Assume: Your business is the best and it’s guaranteed to work, right? You and a million other people think the same about their own small businesses. However when it comes to grant and loan programme agencies, don’t assume that they know the same. Instead use your business plan and show it. Ensure that the programme agencies, the grant reviewers, agency directors, or whoever needs to look at your application understand your business, the significant need you have for their funding and how it will help solve a problem and the problem in your or your business community.
The Proposal: While most funding agencies ask you only to fill out the application and often provide a business plan, one key components is the funding proposal. Think of it as a cover letter to your resume (but for your business and your funding needs). The first paragraph of your funding proposal is actually the single most important paragraph of your entire application. If the funding agency reviews your application and believes your idea is moving in the right direction, it creates a great first impression! Good funding proposals are very easy to understand. Ensure you keep your funding proposals short, straight to the point and answer the questions that the funding agency wants to hear.
Be Realistic: As you open doors to potential funding for your small business and you get closer to the money, remember to be realistic with your activities as well as with your “asking amounts”. Be sure to set attainable goals and show how the funding that could potentially be provided to you could help you achieve those goals. Remember that the government agency is not any different then a private investor or a stock broker looking to invest. They have the money, and they are simply looking for a good place to put that money into in order to get a return on their investment.
Proofread: Spelling and grammar errors do not convey a positive message. Small business grant applications need to be perfect. Think of the application as a chess board and the funding agency is looking for any mistake in order to destroy you.
The Review: You’ve finally completed your application and it looks great. You believe that you did everything right and you are going to get funding. You send in the application and a big fat “application declined” is sent back. But why? Well if you had somebody review your application you would have noticed that the application was not to be in blue ink, or that your business plan format needed to be different, or you needed to send application elsewhere. Having somebody review your application could mean the difference between getting funded or not. Get the help (even if it’s from a family member quickly skimming over your small business grant application for errors).
Follow-up: Once you send in the application the fun is just getting started. Once your application is in the mail it’s often recommended to get in touch with the programme director or somebody in charge of applications at the agency (especially if you’ve been in touch with them before for information), simply to let them know you’ve completed the application and you are looking forward to hearing their feedback. If you are successful at obtaining funding, great. If however you are denied, still be in touch with them to get their feedback as to why. The more you know about your strengths and weakness of your application the better your strategy will be next time around.