How to apply for a business grant in 7 steps:
1 Get in touch with the grant awarding body
When thinking about applying for grants in the UK, you should first contact the grant awarding body. You will be able to get a better idea of your chances of submitting a successful application. This is also a good opportunity to go over any aspects of the specification you’re unsure of. If you have any additional questions once you’ve read over the specification, this is a good opportunity to ask. They’ll likely be more than happy to answer any questions or provide you with more information.
2 Read the grant specification and objectives
Reading the grant specification and objective properly is an important step when applying for UK grants. You should be taking the time to understand why this fund is being awarded and what it aims to achieve. This could range from hiring staff to tackle unemployment to developing environmentally friendly, innovative solutions or training equipment. If a grant is suitable for your business, both its objectives and yours should align well.
When applying for a small business grant, you should be referencing the objectives closely throughout. This can help strengthen your proposal and increase your chance of success. Clearly signposting each objective will enable a funder to see you’re addressing each objective.
Reading the specification thoroughly can also help you check your eligibility. There may be certain qualifications or criteria that you need to have to be eligible to apply for the grant. You must establish this early on before you start applying or planning your response if you’re eligible to apply.
3 Start planning and applying early
It is crucial when you apply for a business grant that you have impeccable time management and planning. Completing your proposal may take weeks or even months depending on the size of the grant you’re competing for. You should take note of what grants are suitable for your business. Some are only open at certain times of the year, so it’s best to put the date in your diary. You could plan backwards to ensure you have enough time to formulate a winning bid for funding.
You should be realistic when planning and set achievable internal deadlines when applying for grants in the UK. Breaking down the grant specification can help with this. Give plenty of time and allow extra time for any unexpected delays or issues to arise. Make sure you give enough time for your co-workers to gather any information, especially for data and statistics. Having facts and stats will strengthen your response.
A helpful way to formulate a response is by using the P.E.E method:
It is always better to be over-prepared, than underprepared! You could make a checklist of requirements of what’s needed for the application. For example, you could make a note of:
- Submission deadline date and time
- Format of the proposal
- The number of questions that need to be address and their word or page count
- What additional documents need to be attached
- The number of copies required
- How to submit (via a portal, email, hardcopy etc).
4 Have a flawless business plan
A business plan is an essential part of any grant funding proposal. Funders want to know who and what their money is going to be spent on. The more in-depth information you provide, the easier it is for a funder to understand how they can help. However, you should keep it clear, using short sentences and paragraphs.
Don’t assume that the funder knows anything about your business or any technicalities unless specified. This is not the time to use overly technical jargon to impress the funder. They may get frustrated with this, particularly if they are not experts in that area.
Some grants for business start-ups will include mentoring and working with you to develop a solid business plan. This can help you organise your business before applying for funding.
If you’ve already started to trade, you’ll likely need to provide examples of your business’ position and balance sheet. You should clearly explain how both you and your funders will benefit from you receiving funding. Applying for grants in the UK can be daunting and comprising a business plan can take time.
Questions to consider for your business plan:
- What is the nature of your business?
- What products and services do you offer?
- Who is the target market or audience for your business?
- Do you have any advantages or a unique selling point that your competitors do not?
- What needs will your company fill?
- How will you fill those needs?
For new businesses:
- Experience and background – What led you to start this business? Where do you hope your business will go?
- Description of the company – What does your business stand for? This is a great opportunity to make a good impression, ensuring your business sticks in the funder’s mind.
- Research and analysis – Show that you’ve done your research. Data and facts backed by stats are an effective way to convince a funder that you mean business. Demonstrate the gap or need in the market for your offering as well as why and how it meets that. What’s your unique selling point? How will your approach be more successful than other attempts?
- Needs and market – Describe your target market, and why you believe you will be able to provide and fulfil their needs. Not only that, but how you will do it successfully and exceed expectation.
- Financial projections – Ideally, you’ll include your financial projections once you’ve analysed the market, setting clear objectives.
For existing businesses:
- Information about the company – Basic information such as when the business was founded, by whom, how many employees and where you’re located.
- The business’ mission statement – Explain what your company is about. What difference would you like to make to your community/problem? What are your short and long-term goals? What do you stand for?
- Highlights – How has your company grown? You could include market and financial highlights and other measurables.
- Products and services offered – What does your company offer in terms of services and products?
- Financial information – You could include your current investors and financial position
- Plans for the future – what are your business projections and where do you see it going in the next several years?
5 Focus on grant use – what will the grant be spent on?
There’s a wide array of grants available across an extensive range of sectors. For example, there are grants for fisheries and seafood, green funding for trucks and busses and research and development. Additionally, there are small business grants that will only contribute to some equipment expenses or broadband installations, for example. You should clearly detail within your application how you will use the funding, providing breakdown costs. You should also demonstrate how it will help grow your business and benefit others.
Justify your expenses
Provide a full justification for all expenses, but don’t take advantage or over project. For example, don’t say you need 20 Apple Macs when a computer of a cheaper make and model will suffice. Do the research and back it up with evidence. When you apply for small business grants, having a high-cost projection can lose you the grant. It can be seen as profiteering. It would be a shame to lose out on funding because you thought you could ‘get away with it’.
In the same light, don’t underquote your needs. It may result in a win, but you might not be able to deliver on your proposal. Depending on why and what grant you’re applying for, this could have a knock-on effect on your project or business. Although underquoting may appeal to a funder, asking for additional funding at a later stage might not go down well. This could be playing with fire, damaging your reputation and your relationship with the funder.
Ensure that the grant benefits are tangible, measurable and benefit a wide spectrum of your community. Moreover, how they will benefit your business and the positive knock-on effects from that as a result.
6 Double-check your finances
Funders want to know that their money is in safe hands. They want to be assured that you aren’t going to waste your money on unnecessary things. They’ll be expecting you to demonstrate sound financial management, and you should realistically evaluate your running costs. You should exhibit good value for money.
Including past examples of projects when you’ve managed cash flow successfully can help strengthen your capabilities. When you apply for a business grant, you may want to realistically consider the following running costs:
- A fully costed project
- The financial controls and safeguards you have in place
- A business plan for the implementation of the project or funding
- The degree of financial knowledge and skills within your organisation
- A cash flow analysis for the use of the grant
- A previous annual report
- Your company’s annual income and expenditure.
7 If unsuccessful, ask for feedback and try again
It can take a while to be successful with grant funding and bear in mind that it can take a while to hear back. Especially when you are applying to a large funding opportunity. However, applying for grants in the UK can be greatly competitive. You may not be successful with every grant application you submit and that’s only natural.
Try not to be put off or feel defeated, dust yourself off and try again. There are ways you can improve for next time. Asking for feedback from the awarding body and continue to apply for small business grants to help fuel your business. A lot of successful companies have faced rejection and unsuccessful attempts at funding before they succeed.
Persistence pays off at the end of the day. Ensuring that you have a lot of grant applications on the go can increase your chances of success. This is because it can take a while before being successful with receiving grant funding.
A grant writing consultant can help optimise your grant application efforts. They are experts in grant proposal writings and know what funders are looking for and how to best convey it. Outsourcing your grant proposal can help.
So, now you know how to apply for a business grant. This 7-step plan should get you on the path to success when it comes to applying for grants in the UK. Don’t give up and remember that your perseverance will pay off.
Need help with writing your grant application?
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