I’ve been in the business of writing funding applications – mostly to Innovate UK – for 15 years, the last five of which on a consultancy basis. I love this kind of work, as it has allowed me to get to know so many industries, from cutting edge tech industries, to food and agriculture, to finance! This doesn’t make me an expert in any of these industries of course, but I’ve been lucky enough to gain a huge amount of experience in grant writing. Thankfully, my applications have been very successful, too! So in this blog, I’ve decided to share my top tips for applying for business grants.
What’s a Business Grant?
Before we get to that though, let’s think about what a business grant actually is. First thing’s first – it’s not a loan. Loans are repayable, but grants are not. Often though, they do require some level of match funding. This means that the grant will contribute a certain amount to your project costs, but you will be required to commit to paying the rest. There are some grants that won’t require a match, but they are harder to come by.
Secondly, there are lots of different types of grant out there. Some are for research and innovation. Others are for capital purchases. Many have a regional focus, like improving the rural economy. There are also grants that require you to apply as part of a partnership or consortium. Finally, grants can sometimes become available in response to a particular situation – as was the case during the pandemic. The key therefore becomes finding the grant (or grants) that are right for you and your business.
Tips for applying for business grants
I’m well aware that the prospect of applying for a business grant can be daunting. You might feel like your chances of success are low. You might just feel overwhelmed with the options that are available and where you and your business fit in. But this brings me on to my top tips for applying for business grants!
1. Do your research
There are many types of grant out there, as I’ve indicated above. And many different funders. So the first step is to do your research. All grants have some sort of criteria attached to them, so when you think you’ve found one that might work, do your research. Read about the funder and their priorities – this will give you a steer on how closely your project fits. Understand the eligibility criteria. Look into any post-award processes or requirements that you might need to be aware of. And don’t be shy about reaching out to the funder directly with any questions you might have.
2. Timing is everything
Often, a funder will have a certain ‘pot’ available for a particular grant type. This might be a case of ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone for good’. Or it might be an annual budget with a certain number of application windows over the course of the year. Grants can be extremely competitive, and so the sooner you apply to the fund, the higher the chance that there will be money available to support your project!
Equally, if there is a deadline – don’t leave your application until the very last minute! Technology can fail. The post can be delayed. Processes can even change slightly at the last minute, so give yourself plenty of room to manouevre in your timing!
3. Consider working with an expert
As I mention above, grants can be extremely competitive, and so it’s important to put together the best application that you possibly can. So if you know that this kind of activity could be a challenge for you, consider working with someone with experience. If you’re applying for something in partnership with, for example, a university, this support may be available within your partner institution. Or if you’re applying alone, you can choose to work with a consultant like myself. Be aware though, that many funders don’t accept applications made via consultancies – they can support you to put the proposal together and then submit it yourself though.
4. Pay close attention to the criteria, and be truthful in your responses
It might seem silly, but pay close attention to the grant criteria and scope. Make sure you address every point when you make the application, as every aspect of those criteria will be considered when your application is assessed. Produce a thorough plan of work if that’s required, and make sure it demonstrates exactly how you will deliver your objectives. In addition, make sure that you’re truthful in your responses. You never know how much background research the funder will do when they’re assessing your application. Sometimes it’s also possible to see what has previously been funded, which can be very beneficial.
5. Consistency, and attention to detail is key
Tell your story consistently and thoroughly. Make it compelling for the assessor. If you make a claim on one page, make sure you follow though on that claim throughout the whole application. Make sure your numbers add up, and check your application thoroughly before you submit. In short, ensuring that the assessor can completely understand what will be achieved if they give you a grant is absolutely crucial. If you don’t, or if there are gaps or inconsistencies in your story, why should they choose to support your project?
I hope that you find the above helpful, and we wish you the best of luck with any grants that you decide to apply for! And if you need help to put a proposal together, get in touch!