***Guest blog post by Lisa Nardone, Director, GrantsPlus Consulting Pty Ltd – on Business Grants
If business grants give you a headache, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
There are many different types of grants out there for businesses and so much information and red tape to navigate, that most business owners get a headache just thinking about it! The different types of grants are confusing; eligibility criteria are confusing, the questions can be confusing and even the application process itself can tie you in knots (Hello Queensland Business Basics grant!).
Not everyone has the time to wade through the mire or sit for hours in front of the computer – and if they do, the guidelines and processes often raise more questions than they give answers.
So, to help you along here are 5 things you might like to know about business grants before you decide whether or not to dive in.
1. Business grants are NOT for everyone.
There are many different types of grants for many different purposes, but there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ grants and there is not always a grant for every business type. If you’re discussing your business goals and someone tells you “you could get a grant for that” don’t necessarily believe them… Do your own research, read guidelines, contact government providers and find out if and where other businesses like yours might have gotten a grant from.
Typically, larger grants are aimed at scalable SME’s and large businesses in sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, science, tech, medical; and at entrepreneurs and scalable businesses that can demonstrate rapid growth potential.
Micro and small business grants are less frequent, less dollar-value and there’s less to go around so they don’t go as far as they are needed. There are rarely grants for businesses to do ‘everyday’ business activities or pay bills, except in extreme times.
2. Grants serve a purpose.
Most business grants serve an economic purpose – they’re about new jobs, increased revenue, increased productivity, market expansion, economic growth etc. If what you want to do doesn’t really help achieve a grant program’s goals, then you’re unlikely to be competitive (or maybe even eligible).
Do your research. It’s possible that their purpose and yours will align, but if your business or activity can’t help the grant provider meet their goals, then you’re unlikely to be a ‘good fit’. WALK AWAY. Save your time and your sanity.
3. There are lots of different types of grants.
Business grants are often ‘open competitive’, where businesses are assessed against others on merit and in line with the grant priorities; but there are other types of competitive grants too. The thing to remember is that grants are ‘responsive’, so they change often. Pandemic conditions and natural disasters in recent years, have resulted in the rise of ‘relief’ and ‘stimulus’ grants. These are a different beasts.
Competitive grants are most commonly larger and about business growth and expansion in specific markets, while relief and stimulus grants are short-term and faster turn-around funding designed to ‘plug holes’.
Competitive grants typically require more work, more planning, and some of your own money as ‘matched funds’.
4. Competitive grants require time, effort and energy.
Competitive grants are a contract to deliver something (new, novel, different, better, more). They don’t usually have to be repaid. They result in measurable outcomes. They need to be reported on and acquitted. They require work and effort in both application and execution.
Do your sums – make sure it’s worth the effort to apply and that you have the resources to deliver on your promises.
5. Just because you’re eligible, doesn’t mean you’ll be competitive.
Eligibility criteria are often quite broad and open, yet most programs still receive applications from ineligible applicants.
Read the guidelines carefully, if you don’t clearly meet eligibility criteria, there’s no point ‘just having a go’.
Similarly, even if you do meet eligibility, you may not have any chance of being competitive if you don’t align well enough. Check out the FAQs too and wherever possible, do your homework to see who has been funded previously. You find out a lot about your chances of success by reading between the lines and doing your homework.
If you’re still with me and I haven’t turned you off business grants completely – congratulations!
You can achieve a lot with a grant, but it’s not without sacrifice. Grant writers and other professionals can help you develop your application, but in the end, no-one knows your business better than you. You will still have to do the hard yards, but hopefully you’ll also reap the rewards.