Small business grants can be a lifeline or means to overcome the inevitable hurdles business owners face. However, just because you typically don’t have to pay back a grant doesn’t mean companies hand out free money to everyone. That’s why knowing how to craft an excellent grant proposal is a valuable skill that can earn you thousands of dollars for your business.
We’re excited to share “Small Business Grant Bootcamp,” a free mini-course taught by corporate trainer and President of The Village Education Solutions, Brandi Spencer. In just a few short lessons, you’ll learn how to set your funding goals, write an outstanding grant proposal, create a budget, and find your dream funding sources.
At Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, it’s our mission to support small businesses and freelancers with the tools and resources they need to succeed. From now until May 2022, we’re giving away $200,000 to minority-led small businesses through our Grow program. If this funding opportunity is a good fit for your business, the tools in this course can help you stand out.
Click here to start “Small Business Grant boot camp. Or, read on to for descriptions of each day’s lessons.
Day 1: Funding planning
Before you hit the ground running and start applying for grants, it’s essential to know how much money you need and what you need it for. In today’s mini-lesson, you’ll learn about the most common funding categories and how to set your funding priorities.
The 3 most common funding categories are:
Are there specific items you need for your business? These could include everything from office equipment to items for giveaways to extra staff for special events.
This includes mentorship and business training. It can be anything from bookkeeping to marketing support.
Support through a complicated process
Are you looking to get certified as a minority-owned, LGBT-owned, or women-owned business? Grants can help you get help to move seamlessly through processes like these.
Also, in this lesson, you’ll get tips on how to share your company’s story. Learn why it’s so important to explain how your work will positively impact the greater community.
For today’s homework, you’ll organize the essential documents that granters ask for, including your mission statement, EIN, articles of formation, DUNS #, and banking information. You’ll also take some time to jot down answers to the questions in today’s lesson.
Day 2: Outline the problem and solution of your grant narrative
Today is all about effectively describing the need or problem your organization seeks to solve and how the grant will help achieve that goal. There are 2 basic steps to outlining the core of your grant narrative.
Step 1: Define the problem or need
Paint a picture about your business and community using emotion. For example, describe in detail how your service positively impacted your community. Be sure to include unique elements about your business and mission.
Step 2: Share how the award will you meet that need need
Next, define how the grant will help you solve the need or problem outlined in step one. Will you have more money for payroll or operating expenses? Are you using the funds for a specific initiative or project?
Share data and statistical information to help to enrich your story. The clearer and more detailed you are, the better your chances of winning the award.
In today’s homework, you’ll collect data and information to make your story more persuasive. You’ll learn quickly to get helpful information from Census.gov, non-profits like AARP, and state and local websites.
Day 3: Define your mission and create a compelling story
Use SMART goals to define your project mission
Good goals are SMART. That means they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
So, for example, a not-so-great goal is: we will serve people. This doesn’t say anything about who you’re going to do business with or the timeframe. There’s also no way of measuring if you’ve met your goal or not.
A better goal is: we will serve 10,000 people by Dec 21, 2022. This way, we know how many people and by when you will have served them. It will be easy to tell if you’ve achieved this goal, which is essential for you to explain on your grant application.
Answer the 5 Ws with your project design
This is the nuts and bolts of your grant narrative.
- Who will you serve and who will be responsible for key actions?
- What are you going to do exactly?
- When will your program begin – what is the timeline and what are the milestones?
- Where will you be conducting your business?
- Why are you doing this and what problems are you solving?
It’s also beneficial to explain how your business will continue after you use the grant award. Be sure to include how you plan to cover additional costs and explain your efforts to sustain your business long-term.
Define strategic Partners
Finally, consider what additional support do you need for success. What are the stakeholders from your community that should be considered in the project and planning?
To help you quickly answer these questions, use the program planner worksheet in today’s homework to get organized and craft clear answers to these questions.
Day 4: Create an organized, well-developed budget
In today’s video, you’ll learn how to create a complete budget that outlines all the expenses needed to launch your program. No need to feel overwhelmed – the tips and strategies in this section will help you create a budget like a pro.
Project your costs and income
Start by forecasting costs, including equipment, staff, insurance, rent, supplies, and software.
When it comes to income, go beyond the amount you expect to make from your sales. Include sign-ups, grants from other organizations, donations, sponsorships, and other resources you anticipate coming in.
In the beginning, simply jot down your projected costs and income as a brain dump. You don’t have to get too detailed just yet.
Organize your budget
After you’ve completed your brainstorm, use today’s homework worksheet to begin categorizing your costs and expenses. As you organize your financial information, add more details in the description for each section. Be sure to complete the notes section and provide as much information as possible.
Once you’ve completed your budget, you’ll have a clear picture of how much money you need for each category of your business. You’ll now know precisely what numbers to put down on your grant application with a clear explanation behind them.
Day 5: Identify grant funding sources
Congratulations! At this point, you’ve completed the most challenging part of the small business grant boot camp. Now that you have all your information organized, it’s simply time to start looking for your dream funding sources.
Your ideal funding sources are companies, individuals, and social enterprises that align with your business’s strategic goals and values.
Some great places to start are:
- Grants.gov - free federal resources for grants
- Challenges.gov - creative, technical, and science prizes to drive innovation
- State, federal and local agencies - search online for grants in your state or region
Additionally, search for grants from companies that share your business values. For example, Walmart tends to allocate money for education-based grants. FedEx, Visa, American Express, and Facebook are other large companies that provide grant opportunities each year.
There are also plenty of grant opportunities based on community, identity, and cultural background. For minority-, LGBTQ+-, or women-owned businesses, check out our program, Grow. The Small Business Association, Hello Alice, Comcast, The Women’s Sports Foundation, and Amber grant are other excellent places to look.
Use the worksheet in today’s homework to start creating your list of dream funding sources. Research online and add your notes. Once you’re ready to apply, you’ll have already done most of the work, so submitting an excellent application will be much more manageable once the opportunity arises!
Ready to dive into our small business grant boot camp?