It’s the time of year when information about available grants begin popping up in your newsfeed and through email newsletters, and you’re starting to take a closer look at the opportunities. Maybe you have heard of other businesses in your area who have done some amazing things with grants and are wondering when is the right time for you to get into the grant writing game? 

Writing a grant can be intimidating for business owners already working long hours and often overwhelmed by the needs of entrepreneurship. The good news is, writing a grant doesn’t need to be a big production, and the potential rewards will almost always outweigh the drawbacks.

That said, just as you shouldn’t buy something that’s on sale because “you couldn’t afford not to buy it,” you shouldn’t apply for a grant just because it’s “free money.” The truth is many grants require a contribution from you (often 50 per cent of total costs), take time to manage, and may not be the best choice for every business.

If you’re thinking of applying for funding, there are a few things you should know up front, like:

  1. Grants take time to prepare so you should evaluate which grants are the most likely to pay off and will lead to a successful application. 
  2. A grant is a good idea if you are ready to expand or enhance your business in a way that will generate additional income for your business, OR you are thinking about updating infrastructure to ensure your business can continue to operate. 
  3. Only apply for a grant if you have the time to commit to executing it, which will involve budget monitoring and reporting, not to mention executing each of the project deliverables, and will add to your current workload.

Given the above, if you have a great idea for something that will give your business an edge in your industry or are in a position where you need to consider making changes to ensure the longevity of your business model or operations, then maybe the time is right for you to get into the grant game.

Before you start your first grant, read on for tips to a successful and easy application.

Tip #1: Have Your Paperwork Ready

Make sure your information is in order before you get started with writing your first grant application. Keeping these items in a digital format in a central file on your computer will make it much easier to get your grant application in on time.

You may need:
•    Proof of insurance
•    Audited financial statements for the previous two years
•    Rough budget for the proposed project 
•    Incorporation documents (if applicable)

Tip #2: Find the Right Grant for You

There are some excellent government websites that provide details about numerous grants, depending on your industry. Start by subscribing to updates on grants you think are valuable for your business, that way even if you’ve missed the submission deadline you will be in the know on the next one.

Tip #3: Tell Your Story & Build Your Case for Support

Before you start writing your grant application, think carefully about how to craft your story. Write down a few sentences that clearly describe who you (and your business) are, what you want to do, and why you want to do it. Take some time to refine them into a compelling description. This is your story.

When filling out your application, start with the strongest argument you have to tell your story – be clear about what will happen if you DON’T get the funding, instead of simply focusing on what you will do with the funding. Don’t exaggerate but also don’t underplay the importance of the situation and the need for funding. Be realistic.

Tip #4: Partnerships

One of the best ways to build your support case is to share recommendations from other businesses and organizations that you partner with regularly or for a specific project you are applying for. Reach out to your partners for letters of support and make sure to let them know which grant you are applying for. 

Pro Tip: Share a template letter with details you'd like them to include as it will make it easier for them to edit and send back, ensuring you meet your application deadline.

Tip #5: Sell Yourself

A grant application is not only about selling your idea for what you will do with the funding, it’s also about selling you and your business. You need to prove your business is viable. Include information like how long you have been in business, any partnership organizations you are part of (like OHTO) and other successful projects you have brought to fruition.

Tip #6: Read the Fine Print

Read the documents or application guide carefully to make sure you aren’t missing something and you understand the scope of the funding and what they are looking for in terms of wording, types of projects etc. Include the same wording they use in the application guide in your responses whenever possible.

Tip #7: Good to Know

  • Don’t leave submitting your application to the last minute. Plan to submit a day or two in advance of the deadline in case you run into technical issues in the eleventh hour.
  • Ask organizations you partner with for a letter of support for your project. Consider approaching your Business Improvement Area organization (if relevant) or Chamber of Commerce if you are a member. Your local municipality or county may also provide you with a letter of support.
  • Be creative when finding ways to make your project fit into the program guidelines. Just because a grant provides examples of suitable projects doesn’t mean that yours can’t still qualify by wording your application in a way that supports the grant’s eligible activities.