Who has your money?
If you’re in business, then you know that someone somewhere out there holds in their possession your future riches. It could be a client, customer, investor or funding agency. If you’re in business, you also know that it’s not just about who has your money but it’s also about what you are going to do to get that money…legally of course.
Last month we covered the client/customer part of this. This time around we will focus of the investor/funding agency and it’s the same sentiment. Give them what they want. We have yet to be in a real investor/investee relationship, but we have had our share of seeking funding from agencies and here is what we have found.
You have to work for your money even if it appears to be free. Grant funds are a great way to seek additional capital to move your business forward, but the application process can be a tedious one; and depending on the amount of money that the grant disburses, that process becomes even more tedious. The forms are long and the agencies ask for a lot of information because they want to ensure that you have fleshed out all the elements of your plan or strategy. If you can’t do this then you are not ready to move forward and should re-tweak your strategy for the next grant period.
Your application has to make sense and must align with the theme/function of the grant. If the funding agency is issuing grants for persons to build aquariums maybe you should not apply to build a supermarket.
Put all your ducks in a row. This is a re-iteration of the first two points. Funding agencies are very clear about what they want to see from you. They literally spell it out in all the documentation. They also itemise exactly what additional elements they need. Each application sent in goes through a points system, just like at school so it is important that you follow the instructions.’
If you are unsure about any element, ask for help. It may seem that due to the “difficulty” of the applications, that funding agencies secretly are trying to keep the money to themselves. However, the truth is that if the monies allocated for a grant are not used then, not only has the agency failed because they were not able to affect change or give assistance as promised but the funds are no longer made available. Most agencies therefore, give some level of assistance when it comes to filling out your application. They are not going to do the work for you but they can offer case studies, sample applications and assess persons who may be able to answer your questions should you get stumped at a particular section of the application form. It is beyond wise to use these resources.
Seek help from persons around you as well. As the saying says, “no man is an island” and this cannot be truer than when you are applying for funding. Sometimes as you work your way through an application you realise that there are things being requested that you have never done or prepared yourself e.g. financial statements, sales forecast, action timelines, etc. If you are not experienced in preparing these things, then it would help if you seek out a partnership (if you are not able to afford it upfront) with someone who has this expertise.
Be prepared for the work to continue even after you are awarded your grant. The work with the funding agency does not stop when you are awarded the grant. There will still be reports that have to be hand delivered on how you are spending the funds and how the funding has helped you achieve success and further your business. These reports dictate whether you are given further disbursements. To not hand them in would be a breach of contract and would have a negative impact of your company’s reputation.
The grant funding process is somewhat cookie cutter if we really are to be honest, but it becomes a task when we realise that the process is also like baking a million cookies on a tight deadline. What helps is not only having a great product but also being prepared and being meticulous in making sure that you are checking all the boxes. If you do that then there really should be no reason why you should be denied. And if you are it is within your right to try to find out where your application went wrong so you can be prepared to give them what they want the next time around.
(By Kerri Birch)13 Degrees North, Entrepreneur, Funding, Helpful Tips