A business grant is a form of assistance, usually financial in nature, the benefit of which is non-repayable. It is given by one organization to another to encourage it to undertake or continue activities that it would not (or could not) otherwise do without that support. Alternatively, a grant may be used to persuade the organization to refrain from certain activities.
Grants can be distinguished from other forms of finance available to individuals or organizations by the fact that the grantor's decision to support an organization is made without the need for direct commercial gain.
Over recent years there has also been a trend to see grants being offered to encourage public – private sector co-operation rather than offering public support to encourage companies to undertake projects they might not otherwise do. Increasingly, government support is provided to encourage local authorities to work with the private sector to release properties that would otherwise remain derelict, empty or under-utilized. In so doing regeneration in areas of social, economic and other need will be accomplished.
The not for profit sector in particular has had to consider funding how to obtain funding, requiring it to be more businesslike in its approach. Charity funders are unlikely to support any scheme that has not been thought through or could not be continued once their initial support ceases.
Increasingly, the lines of division between the profit and the not for profit sectors are becoming blurred - sports, arts, medical care, education are but four examples where requests for help could be directed to government, charitable trusts or commercial sponsors.
Grant Money For Small Businesses
Many people today searching for small business grant money to start their own for profit business assume that grants are nothing more than “free money.” Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but small business grant money is hardly “free money” at all. In fact, these grants are more like contracts with their own set of obligations and restrictions that you must comply with or risk suffering sanctions imposed by your funding resource.
In the case of government grants, the rules are even stricter. One of the first places that people often turn to is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, which is where all listings of government grants approved by Congress are announced. The problem with this resource is that there are very few programs available for small businesses.
These grants are usually awarded to deserving individuals or nonprofit organizations having some community-based project in mind. Rarely will you find a government grant awarded to help set up a for profit business. That is why when searching for a small business grant you should not turn only to the government for funding resources.
A good source of grant money is the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). The AFP is considered the chief professional association for fundraisers. The association was formerly known as the National Society of Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE). Their website at AFPnet.org offers sections on ethics, public policy, publications (including AFP’s online bookstore), professional advancement, local chapters, jobs, and youth in philanthropy (along with a member gateway / dashboard).
Besides that, the AFP also provides a list of organizations (including their websites) that are among the top basic resources of grant money. Foremost on their list is the Foundation Center at FDNCenter.org, which publishes the revered Foundation Directory.
Consider contracts. Government money can sometimes come in the form of contracts. If you can demonstrate that your company can execute a budget line item, if you can shape part of your idea to what the government wants done for a particular project – say something educational or construction-oriented – if you can fill a need, you can compete.
The process of finding a small business grant program and reviewing the requirements can be very time consuming. Eligibility can be based on location, sales revenue to date, years in business, sex, race, and purpose of funding. Should your business embark on a small business grant seeking mission?
- Do you have the time and resources to search for a small business grant program and apply?
- Can you hire a consultant or learn the grant application process by yourself?
- Does your business need the money now for expansion or can you wait up to a year?
- If you do undertake the grant process, will it hurt your business taking away time from selling and marketing?
Venture Capital and Grants
You did your research, made the best business proposal and are about to send them out. While it may seem the perfect financing scheme for you, what you and most people don't know is, it does not apply to all types of businesses. For one, these firms have a certain investment criteria, and if your proposed business does not fall within their specifications, then chances are your proposal will not be approved. Because of the many proposals that they receive, and with the limited slots that they provide, screening of these proposals is rather strict. There is therefore the need for you to draft a stand-out business proposal because of the stiff competition. Or you would need the referral of a friend whom the firm trusts.
These firms concentrate on specific fields, so if it does not fall under these industries, then VC is not right for your business. These are technology-related industries, those which can give a high yield of profits after a short period of time. If you want to invest in industries like real estate or a restaurant business, then VC is not for you. If you're thinking of a long-term investment, or if you make the mistake of falling in love with a company too soon, then forget about VC.
Also, if you are the type of person who wants to be in control always, then VC is definitely not for you. Once you enter into a venture capital scheme, you must be ready to give up the reins to the capitalists. They call the shots. They provide the directions and strategies necessary to carry out the business. They perform management decisions. If you want to do things your way, then perhaps consider other funding sources at this point.
If venture capital is not for you, then there are other funding sources available. There is what is called as angel investors, or individuals who also provide funds for start-up companies. This is ideal if the capital that you require is not that big. You can also secure bank loans. However, the disadvantage of this type of funding source is the liability of repaying the loan regardless of your success or failure.
There are also investment programs provided by the government such as the Small Business Investment Company Program. There are also other federal, state or local programs that you can enroll in. Of course, there are the ever-reliable family and friends who can lend you some money for capital.
Venture capital and grants is not something that is impossible to attract. As long as you know how and where to find these financing firms, then there is the chance for you to raise venture capital, but before you start working on the financial aspect of the company that you wish to establish, you must first consider if venture capital is applicable. You need to look into other sources and not set your mind on venture capital. Otherwise, all your efforts will be put to waste.
Writing The Grant Proposal
Anybody who has looked into the possibility of getting a grant before will know that there are two distinct types of grant application. The first is a grant application concerning funding for undergraduate degrees. For example, an individual coming from a family 200% below the poverty line will most likely attempt to obtain a grant to make life a little easier whilst attending college. In this instance, the student will most likely be sent a form to fill in asking for the annual income, personal details, dependent details, a quick summary of what the student intends to study an other similar information. This is pretty straightforward and requires very little effort because the federal government education department will do the calculations for you. You are not asking for a specific amount of money, just a little help.
The other king of grant proposal and application is at the opposite end of the spectrum to a hardship grant. These grants are usually requested by individual students, or those intending to be students to fund research or invention. Certain schools and colleges accept certain grant proposals for different things, for example, one college may accept an application for an archaeological dig, whereas another may only look at scientific research and inventions. This is of course down to the discretion of the school and the size of the budget. If you do happen to be a Masters or PhD student and want to make a difference, then you can apply for a grant, but you would have to make it unique so that it catches the eye of the individual in charge of grants and stands a better chance of approval.
To help your grant proposal stand out from the crowd then always remember to do the following:
- Include a comprehensive research proposal - This must be in plain English with a little jargon for effective, but easy to understand and laid out really well so that the professor will not scan the first page and throw it away. If it is cluttered or messy, or even too long, then he will. 6 pages, no more and no less, double spaced and in 12 point font is the standards layout, but do not use a fancy font because it will look as though you are trying to make up for something.
- Put forward a well-reasoned and logical argument - never back track or try to argue against yourself because you will seem uncertain of what it is that you are trying to discover. Make sure the aims are clearly defined, preferably in bullet points, and demonstrate that you have already started basic research.
- Plan out your time - Break your work down into manageable sections that show you have thought out what it is you are to do and have set reasonable goals. When you get to the analysis and fieldwork, make sure that it is clear how you will reach your conclusion and highlight any unique issues that you expect to come up during your investigation and analysis.
- Include the extra material that gives you credibility as a researcher - This should include a recommendation from a respected member of the faculty who will supervise your throughout. He or she should clearly state how they will become involved, what his or her function is and exactly how much of the workload her or she will be taking on. You should also include a resume for yourself, which should be no more than two pages long.
- Set out the all-important budget by laying out your sums effectively so they show that some thought has gone into them. You will have covered all angles and probable costs, even those that it may take to get your research back on track if something goes wrong. This is the one page that most grant applicants for get to include. It need only be a side of A4, but enough to show the college just how committed you are!
- Make sure that it is all your own work and is delivered in the traditional, plenty of white paper layout! This will impress them more because it shows professionalism, and thus it will appeal to them!
A Great Business did not happen by chance
It was planned that way
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