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5 Tips for Grant Applications that Get Funded
It goes without saying that startups need money to build out their products, teams, marketing and operations. Many turn to banks, friends and family, and investors, while 77% rely on their personal savings to start their business. Government funded programs and grants are often an underutilized way of funding a startup with over 51% afraid to even try and 22% giving up before submitting an application.
Although these programs can be overwhelming which can be discouraging for many, surveys show that companies that apply 4 or more times have the highest chance of success. Use these 5 tips the next time you apply for the best chance of receiving grant funding from public organizations:
1) Build Relationships
Most grants have advisors that are employed to support businesses in accessing their programs. They can help navigate the different grants offered, review your applications, and provide advice on timing and strategy when applying. While this may be obvious, what many people don’t know is that these advisors often have advanced degrees and are extremely knowledgeable in their fields. When you develop deep relationships with your advisors instead of viewing them solely as an administrative function, they’re often able to provide valuable advice and connections as well as guidance on other applicable programs.
2) Understanding the Objectives of Funders
Every government funded program has a mandate and deliverables that must be achieved to maintain funding. Whether its job creation, IP generation, or environmental impacts there is typically a primary focus that drives desired outcomes. Why is this important? By understanding the objectives of the program and ensuring your project is presented in a way that delivers those intended outcomes, you are making it easier for the reviewers to say yes. You can usually find this information in the program guide, but sometimes you need to read between the lines. Does the application ask a lot about environmental sustainability? Is it asking for the number of jobs created? Does it ask if you are working with a vulnerable population? When you understand the purpose of the grant you can build that value proposition into your application and increase your chance of success.
3) Ensure Your Project is a Fit
You can have the most innovative and exciting company in the world, but if the project you are putting forth does not align with the program objectives and eligibility, you will not be successful. It’s important to read the entire program guide and work with the advisors to ensure your project is a fit. Once you have determined alignment, work on outlining the project first by putting together all necessary quotes, timelines, and partners before working on the other sections, as this will make or break your application. Many companies realize that they are missing key aspects while doing this exercise, so it’s best to do it first before spending time on the rest of the application.
4) Keep an Updated Business Plan
Looking at every new grant application can be overwhelming, but after you see a few you will notice they all have many of the same questions. Putting the time and effort into a well researched and polished business plan will help you put together grant applications quickly as you can pull many of your answers from the document. Spend extra time on your business and product/service overview. Have people outside your industry read those sections and ensure they are written in a way that anyone can easily understand (i.e. what you are doing and why they should care). Many reviewers may not have context for niche industries and you have a better chance of success if your description and value proposition are written in plain language.
5) Keep Your Projections Realistic
It can be tempting to be aggressive in your application and include optimistic growth projections, but this can often hurt your application more than help it. Government bodies are typically risk averse and want to invest in entrepreneurs that have a high chance of success. Throwing out high numbers can hurt your credibility, instead use research to back up all assumptions for your projected growth and present a conservative projection that you have a realistic chance of achieving. Tie in your assumptions to your risk assessment and use this section to get ahead of any doubts that may be in the reviewers minds by providing clear mitigation strategies.