Business Grants – 5 Steps in Navigating through the Process

Strategy Plan One

January 8, 2012

Federal and local government agencies in the US and Canada are excellent sources of non-repayable or conditional funding support for business.  Grants usually have limited conditions attached and are non-repayable.  Contributions from agencies may come in different forms, such as non-repayable, partially repayable, or fully repayable, based on whatever the Terms and Conditions are.  Our group of advisors and mentors have experience in not only working for government, but in assisting clients to successfully secure grants and contributions from all levels of government.

Here are 5 steps that may assist you in acquiring the resources for your business.

Step 1:  Business Planning

Develop a strong business plan and know your own business requirements, including financial resources required to establish or expand your business.  Funding agencies will want a very detailed business plan within the application in most cases.  Ensure you do you homework and get prepared to rationalize your request to the specific program or agency.

Step 2:  Knowing the Grant and Contribution Program

Seek out the external and internal information on the program you are applying to.  Ensure you understand what the program or agency is all about.  It is important to understand what the mandate of the program or agency is to make sure your requests and your project align with program or agency objectives.

Most government grant and contribution programs are posted on websites, which will include information on the program details, criteria, application, deadlines, and process.  This is usually the starting point of information gathering, but not the last point.  Always with polite and professional demeanour (and I will discuss behavioural approaches below), start making inquiries to the contacts listed in the program information to get further details, and don’t be sheepish about asking for as much external and internal information as you can gather.  You may be able to obtain some additional tips that will strengthen your application to the agency.  Also, if you have become aware of another party, business or individual that successfully navigated through the processes, it would be advantageous to seek out this source and have a full conversation.

Step 3:  Application Process

I want to stress here how important your demeanour is towards any official working for the agency or organization you are applying to.  Never take the program for granted or approach the process with a sense of entitlement.  In this age of high accountability, most programs are designed to ensure that clients must meet criteria or that decisions for funding are merit based.  The stronger the application, the better chance you have of successfully acquiring resources from the program.  Be strong, pro-active, polite, professional and cooperative.

After understanding what is required to apply for funding, nail those requirements.  This may include detailed application forms and business plans, supplementary documentation, financial spreadsheets, and appendices.  Be prepared in advance and apply with a complete package.  Ensure you meet all requirements and meet deadlines identified.  You can check in with the agency office for feedback of your application and to ask questions on process timelines.

Step 4:  Proposal Assessment & Follow up

Program officials will most likely inform you that assessment of your proposal or application will now take place.  The official may request that he/she would contact you should any questions arise.  It is important that you are very responsive to this process to increase the chances of success and to shorten the duration of the assessment process.  If you are not easily accessible for questions, clarification or more information, you proposal may be declined, or placed on hold; both would be detrimental to your plans.  If you are required to provide further documentation, be pro-active and professional and work on it and submit as soon as you can.  Now it’s a waiting game for the decision.

Step 5:  Approved or Not  – the final step!

Let’s start with the approval of a proposal or application.  If approved, this is excellent news for your business.  The official with contact you with the news and advise you of the next steps, which most likely will include steps for a legal funding agreement, and for the claims and payment phases.  Generally there are additional claim forms to fill out and most all highly accountable programs today require detailed reporting from the recipient (you).  Follow through with all requirements so that you adhere to all Terms and Conditions.  Good luck – a grant or contribution may give you that financial advantage you need.

If you are not successful in the process, don’t give up.  There may be an opportunity to revise and reapply.  Continue to maintain a high level of professionalism and ask questions or seek clarification on the decisions made.

Whether you are successful in acquiring the resources or initially declined, take this as learning exercise.  The preparation and knowledge gained may assist you in successfully securing resources from other avenues, or the same avenues when reapplying in the future.

Strategy Plan One

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© Strategy Plan One 2012

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