Before you plunge in and apply for a government grant, consider why you are applying, is the grant suitable for you and what are the potential benefits / returns to your business?
Applying for grants – particularly government grants – is usually a complex and protracted exercise. It can be very off-putting, especially for SMEs who are already stretched for resources and time.
You may see lots of grants and funding streams available on the site from government or elsewhere that you think – WOW! If we won that money, imagine what it would mean for our organisation!
But before you jump in and start the application process, consider the following:
What EXACTLY are you applying for? Does it suit your business model?
Be really clear about the purpose of applying for the grant and what would be the potential benefits of winning the money. How would it be a game changer for the organisation? Have a broad discussion across your organisation to workshop this before moving ahead.
For instance, don’t apply for research grants when you don’t have the capacity or resources to undertake the research in a comprehensive way.
Make sure the timing of the grant is going to suit you – if your organisation is looking for some funding to support a major event for example, you need to factor in the time taken to apply; for a decision to be made by the grant provider (this step can take several weeks or months!); signing of agreements (can be complex and time consuming); and finally distributing of the grant payments by the provider.
If the timeframe doesn’t match up to your scheduled event, it may not be ideal. Factor in MUCH MORE time than you think for all these steps to be completed.
If the title of the grant sounds like it is in your sweet spot, then take a deeper look at it. If it’s not in your sweet spot, forget it.
Why are you applying?
Grants are almost never the panacea for financially ‘rescuing’ or propping up a business. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that cash via a successful grant application is going to solve any of your liquidity problems. There are significant responsibilities attached to being a successful grant recipient and the bigger the grant amount, the more responsibilities it comes with.
If winning a grant is not going to make a substantial difference to your organisation, then it may not be worth the time, effort and money to apply.
All grant providers (government in particular) will want to see a return on their investment in you.
There is no easy-win grant – every applicant will need to build a compelling business case to the grant provider about how you are going to use the grant money if successful.
If you are successful, you will need to attend to many other items during the grants life-cycle. These include having to report to the grant provider on a regular basis and demonstrate the use of the grant money in milestone activities as time goes on.
At the completion of the grant agreement, you will need to acquit the monies received in a detailed format including (for instance) stat decs, audited accounts, quarterly reports, project meeting minutes and even evidence such as media releases, letters of support from stakeholders and photos to demonstrate that the money has been spent in the intended and appropriate way.
If you are not up for this amount of work, don’t apply.
So you have decided to apply for the grant
You have researched the grant on the site. You can see that it is:
- The right shape and size for your needs – it will make a substantial difference to your business/organisation or community group or association.
- Going to help your business to develop a new research idea, raise its profile, connect you to the right people, take your business to the next step, assist in training up your people, allow you to recruit new staff, run that event or showcase a new product or even move into some sorely needed bigger premises etc.
Now the work starts to pull the application together and submit it on time!
For this to work for your organisation, you need to ensure that you have:
- Enough time before the grant applications close (late applications will almost never be accepted)
- Someone dedicated to managing the application process and writing the application
- Communicated the news to the wider organisation and its key clients and stakeholders
- At least 3 referees available to speak (glowingly!) about your organisation to the grant provider if required
- Evidence of previous grants if any.
- Full financials for this FY and probably the previous 2-3 FYs as well (P&L, cash flow and audited accounts). Having all these in good shape and up to date demonstrates a high quality and sustainable organisation that is worthy of a grant and that can manage the rigours of its components. A comprehensive, cash-positive and up-to-date set of financials also reduces the risk for the grant provider and is especially favourably viewed when the grant provider is government.
The Grants Whisperer