While knowing what to do when applying for a grant is critical, knowing what not to do is equally important.
Avoid falling prey to common application mistakes. Nicolas Straut, business grant lead at Fundera, said a seemingly innocent but very common mistake is overapplying. When business owners apply for too many grants at one time, they decrease their chances of getting one due to reduced time and quality spent on each application.
“There is a wide market of business grants available, and you should explore as many you can before selecting one or two you have a high chance of acquiring,” said Straut. “You’re very busy as a small business owner, and it’s essential you use your time tactfully to acquire funding for your business without spreading yourself too thin.”
According to Ebrahimi, many business owners make the mistake of being too general or unoriginal in their proposals. They describe their mission statement in general terms, as opposed to listing specific solutions as to how they can satisfy the funder’s interests.
“Describe how you can meet the funder’s needs in a unique way so your proposal doesn’t read like a cut-and-paste job,” Ebrahimi said. “Additionally, consult your business manager when putting together your grant proposal to make sure your budget is realistic. Grant funders are good at spotting unrealistic budgets.”
Reischer said a common mistake among business owners is not following directions. Grant suppliers are looking for a very specific set of criteria, so following directions is an absolute must.
“If the guidelines say they want two pages, then do not write three,” said Reischer. “If the guidelines give a date for submission, then get the submission in on time. Every detail in a submission must be perfect.”
Key takeaway: Carefully choose the grants you apply for. Make sure all directions are followed when applying. Be sure to avoid being too general or unoriginal in your grant proposal.
After you receive the grant
Occasionally you may find a grant that comes with no strings attached, but this is uncommon. Once you receive a grant, you are accountable for following the guidelines set forth by the grant provider.
“Different grant issuers will have different expectations of grantees, but one thing most funders have in common is that they expect periodic reports from the business owner regarding the progress of the project in question,” said Ebrahimi. “You may well be required to meet performance goals, so be prepared to do so.”
The requirements for maintaining a grant are something you should be aware of ahead of time, although they are usually not too difficult. Once you establish an agreement between the grant funder and yourself, you are ready to move forward with your business or project.
Key takeaway: If you are awarded a grant, it is critical you use the money as you said you would in your proposal. Provider the grant provider with periodic updates on the project’s progress.