7 tips for winning US government grants to fund your small business
You’ve heard the phrase “There’s no such thing as a free breakfast.” But sometimes, there is! The United States federal government frequently wants to incentivize Americans by offering grants with specific goals that fix existing problems that face the government.
Created in 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) exists as “an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise, and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” In short, the SBA “helps Americans start, build, and grow businesses.”
This article will discuss 7 distinct ways on how to mold your business to fit various government grants for which you may be eligible. While specific states may have specific requirements, this piece will focus on the USA’s process in general.
7 Ways to Mold Your Business To Be Eligible for Government Grants
Applying for a government grant might be easy, but winning a government grant is the real challenge. The government says, “The federal government typically awards grants to state and local governments, universities, researchers, law enforcement, organizations, and institutions planning major projects that will benefit specific parts of the population or the community as a whole.Contrary to what you might see online or in the media, the federal government does not offer grants or ‘free money’ to individuals to start a business or cover personal expenses.” This is only somewhat true: if you already have a small business or non-profit, you can utilize your existing organization to apply for government funding in the form of grants. And you can also apply as an individual too.
Here are some tips to remember when you’re applying for a federal government grant:
1. Make sure you are eligible for the grants that you apply for.
Put simply, if you aren’t eligible for a grant, you are wasting your time applying for it. Read the instructions on a grant closely. For example, one recent grant says, “Eligible applicants include institutions of higher education, hospitals, other nonprofits, commercial organizations, individuals, and state, local, and Native American tribal governments.” Thus, if you’re not one of the above, don’t bother.
2. Read specific guidelines to make sure your application gives the government precisely what it is looking for.
A recent government grant application states, “Applicants should be familiar with herring RSA compensation fishing, the mechanism by which herring RSA quota is harvested and used to fund research.” If you don’t know about fishing and herring specifically, with a scientific background, you have no business applying for this grant.
3. Be cognizant of the specific locations that the government wants its grantees in.
Again, this may be logical, but it is important to make sure you have a real presence in the location where the grant’s work will be carried out. For example, some grants require applicants from places as specific as “Mississippi and Craigshead Counties, Arkansas,” so if you aren’t in these places then there’s no point in applying for the grant.
4. Assemble the right team, including subject matter experts that grants require.
For example, a recent grant states: “The purpose of this project is to create a fire history for the wetter eastern half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park using soil charcoal analysis, so as to put the catastrophic Chimney Tops 2 fire into perspective and predict future patterns of fire in this habitat.” If you’re a fire historian in Tennessee or North Carolina, great, but if you’re not, then don’t bother applying.
5. Spell out how you intend to spend the money you will be given.
The government does not want to waste money: it has specific objectives that it wants to meet through each grant that it offers. Therefore, you must present a clear plan with how you will spend the money that the government is offering you. Yes, you can pay people salaries with the money won from grants, but no, $1 million salaries for your employees will not get you the grants.
6. Communicate clear and measurable objectives for your grant.
Create a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) when you are submitting your grant application. State clearly how you will measure your objectives, and discuss what both success and failure look like. This will show the government evaluators that you have thought in depth about the proposal you have created.
7. Articulate why your application is the best application for the position.
When you are applying for a grant, there is a high chance that you will face stiff competition. This is why you must go above and beyond to explain why you and your team will do the best job to achieve whatever the government’s goals may be. It is important not to deviate from the government’s stated goals, even if your personal or company goals might be different.
If you’re looking to innovate using science or need money to do research and development, the US government is an excellent resource to turn to for financing. But, it is also important to note that in addition to the thousands of grants that appear on government web sites every year, there are also thousands of loans available that may also help you grow your small business.
While the process of applying for grants may be cumbersome or tedious, there is plenty of money out there that the American federal government is trying to spend. So take your time, prepare careful applications, and win some government grants!