Government grants can be a vital source of funding for the small business entrepreneur. Grants have long been a major driver of growth and operations in the nonprofit world, but small businesses can equally benefit from the many opportunities provided by the state and federal government to expand operations, develop new products or services, and better serve their consumers and communities. If you are looking for a source of funding to grow your operation, it’s more than worth it to check out the many opportunities for government grants to provide for the needs of your business. Whether you own a child care franchise or run a retail store, you can succeed with government grants. Read on to learn how to apply for government grants for small businesses.
Find A Grant
When delving into the world of grant writing for the first time, it’s important to see what’s out there. Check out the Federal Government’s searchable grants database to find one that might apply to you. This database is a great start, and allows you to filter grant opportunities to display only those that apply to small businesses. You can also choose to search by category and federal agency to speed up your search and help you find the grant that works for you. Many states and municipalities also offer funding opportunities, so make sure to see if your state and local governments’ pages offer lists of potential grants that could help your business.
In this stage of the process, be open minded. While you don’t want to shoehorn your business into whatever lucrative grants you find (overreaching in that way will most likely be obvious to the agency that reviews your application), you might often discover that your business is more suited to a grant opportunity than you thought at first glance. Read the descriptions and see if your business answers a need that you did not realize to begin with.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve found a few grants, do some research that will help you in crafting your application. Search around to see if you can find other businesses that have received the same or a similar grant in the past. If you are involved in the house relocation business industry, look into the grants alike businesses received. Read up on the agency providing the grant to determine what their priorities are and how you can best orient your application in a way that will stand out to them. Knowing what is important to the agency will help boost your application.
Develop A Strategy
Now that you are ready to start applying, you need a strategy that will keep you motivated and ensure that your application is strong and consistent. Look over your small business plan and pinpoint all the ways in which your plan aligns with the mission of the grant for which you are applying. You can start compiling these points in a document that will help you be clear and direct in your application. Agencies review many thousands of grant applications, so having a clear sense of your own mission and knowing the ways in which your business needs align with the mission of the granting agency will make your application stand out above the rest.
Always Follow Instructions
The importance of following directions cannot be emphasized enough. The grant writing process can seem straightforward, but minor discrepancies, formatting issues, and missed deadlines are the cause of many disqualified applications. Make sure to go over all of the grant requirements and verify that you have all of the documents and information that is asked for, and ensure that all of your materials are provided in the proper format and well before any deadlines in case you run into any last-minute issues with submitting your materials. Again, making sure that all directions are followed rigorously is one of the most important aspects of applying for a grant: nobody wants to invest hours of work into a great application, only to miss the deadline by a day, or forget to include important documentation.
Be Prepared To Work
If you apply for and receive a grant: congratulations! But the work is not over. The grant life-cycle includes actions that often have to be performed after the money is awarded in the form of reporting. Make sure that you follow the grant’s guidelines and provide whatever reporting or documentation the agency requires you to furnish to ensure that their money is going towards the goal of the grant. If you have any questions about the reporting process, reach out to your contacts at the agency and they will be able to guide you in providing the documentation they need.
Grants are often described as easy money for small businesses, and in many ways they are. They can assist you in avoiding falling into business debt. Government grants also assist business owners in growing their businesses. Remember that grant writing is a skill, and the more you develop that skill, the easier it becomes to secure these sources of funding in the future. Past successes can often lead to more grant opportunities, and agencies and organizations that provide grants love to see an entrepreneur with a proven track record of putting grant money to good use. While your first grant may have taken up many hours of your time, with practice you may end up developing many of the qualities that make great grant writers.