Now is a time when many small business owners are looking into alternative funding possibilities. One opportunity that will keep small businesses afloat during these times is grant funding. There are a variety of businesses, such as Facebook, and governments offering stimulus programs to keep economies rolling. Grants, however, are not simply passed out, you have to apply and make your case. You will need to assemble documentation, make a compelling argument, and follow through with your proposal. This can be a daunting process, especially if it is not something you have ever done before. In reality, if you love your work and believe in what you do, grant applications can be fun! Think of this as your opportunity to tell the story of your company.
In this grant writing guide, we are going to walk through how to write a proposal for funding from the government or the private sector. Providing tips and tricks of the trade along the way. If you follow our advice, we promise you will improve your grant writing skills. Instead of dreading the bureaucracy of grant applications, you ought to focus on the fun bit– telling your story! At the end of the day, all the best grant applications have a compelling tale to tell. They take time to set the scene, to describe where you work and what you do. They have strong characters; the owners, employees, and customers of your business. Finally, they demonstrate growth and hope for the future in the project you propose.
Where to apply
The first and potentially most important step is to select funding sources that are well suited to your company. You are going to dedicate time and resources to your application, so you want to ensure that you meet all the requirements before you start. Also, you will need to establish that your work is aligned with the funder’s goals and mission. No matter how well written your final applications may be, if they define a small business as 20 employees or less and you have 25, you will not get the grant.
Spend time on this step of the process. Research grant funders in your country, region, and city. Look into both the public and private sectors to see who might be passing out funds. Make sure to carefully read the solicitations. If you receive the funding, you will need to do exactly what you said you were going to. You want to apply to grants that fit your business, not try to make your business fit a grant.
Once you have decided that a particular grant is well suited for the work that you do, call them! Introduce yourself to the person in charge of handling the grant applications and let them know that you are planning to apply for funding. Before you do this, read EVERY WORD of their grant solicitation. If anywhere on their website it specifies that they prefer not to receive calls, be respectful of their wishes. If it doesn’t, compile some questions and get your answers from the source. This comes with the double benefit of getting you and your business on their radar and getting accurate answers to your questions and maybe a few extra tips. Often, on the phone, grantors will elaborate further on what they are looking for from your proposal for funding.
In grant writing, as in life, there is power in numbers. Grantors want to see that they are joining a powerful group instead of propping up a single individual. Find other businesses that do what you do and get working on a project together. Unite multiple funding sources on a single project. Ask your business partners and customers for recommendations and reviews. Here are some tips on reaching out for reviews that are applicable to your customers and your partners. Reviews provide a vote of confidence in your favor. Grantors are looking for trustworthy people who are going to do what they said they would. If other people are willing to vouch for you or work with you, that helps to build confidence and trust.
Define your project and outcomes
Grantors are generally looking to fund a clearly defined project with measurable results. Hiring a new employee, facilities projects, gas for house deliveries during quarantine, or rebuilding your website are all great grant projects! You want to define “SMART” goals for how you will use the funding that comes in the door. This means goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Use numbers and data to outline where you are right now and where you will be at the end of your project. Outline what success will look like both in the short and long term. Use logic models and clear rationale. Don’t be afraid to go big, address the social and economic impacts of your work, in your area, at this time.
Justify your means
Why are you going to do things in the way that you plan to do them? This is your opportunity to show that you have done your homework. Cite other companies that have been successful in applying similar methods. Again, use data! Look into what has been successful and what hasn’t in the past and tell the grantor how you plan to avoid common industry pitfalls. This is an important opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry landscape. Feel free to refer to the dominant literature or research in your field. The stronger your appeal to experts, the more secure grantors will feel giving you their money.
Check, check, and check again
Make sure that multiple people in your company read over your work. They should be ironing out ALL grammatical errors. Any errors in grammar in your finished proposal will detract from your credibility and professionalism. Internal editors should also be looking at the big picture. Can you do what you said you will do? Is this what this particular grantor is looking for? How well have you told the story of your company?
Remember to have fun with your grant writing. Sure, filling out grant application forms can be boring, but your proposal letter for funding should be anything but. Tell a story, use your imagination, and be creative. This is your opportunity to communicate who you are and why you do what you do. There isn’t anything boring about that.
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