|Grants as a source of capital funding|
|Public and private sources provide options|
|Published Thursday, April 19, 2012 7:04 am|
Access to capital is one of the greatest challenges for small business owners. Bank loans, personal savings, angel investors, and venture capitalists are top of mind for funding sources. However, grants are a tremendous source of funding. The most important feature of a grant is that you do not have to pay the money back.
Knowing where to look and how to sift through grant information that applies specifically to your business can be laborious. But, it can also be very rewarding. Business owners can write grants. However, grant writing is a very specialized discipline and requires strong compliance, research, and writing skills.
The relationship between grant makers and grant seekers is governed by specific grant protocol, which refers to the rules and requirements governing the provision and award of grant funding. Protocols are grant-specific. Grant makers include foundations, nonprofits, businesses, corporations, clubs, and professional organizations. Grants are also provided by state, local, and federal governmental agencies. Grant seekers are the individuals, organizations, and business entities interested in making application and being awarded grant funds and services.
State, local, and federal government grants are driven by legislation. Every year, the government awards $400 billion in grants. Federal grant information is available on Grants.gov. Accessing information on federal grants does not require registration or a fee. However, you must register to apply for grants. The registration process typically takes three to five days. Grants.gov offers an email service to alert you of funding opportunities that meet your specific criteria.
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (cfda.gov) is a government-wide compendium of federal programs that provides information on state and local governmental assistance. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance provisions include grants, loans, payments, goods, advisory services, training, employment, and the use of property. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance website provides guidance on developing and writing grant proposals.
Private grant funding sources include foundations, nonprofits, businesses, corporations, clubs, and professional organizations. Information on private grants can be found on the Grantsmanship Center website (tgci.com). The website provides information on top grant making foundations, community foundations, corporate giving programs, and state government grant opportunities by state. Accessing the Grantsmanship Center is free. However, there is an annual charge of $495 for accessing Grantdomain.com, a database that provides detailed information on government, foundation, and corporate funding opportunities.
Information on independent, corporate, and community foundation funding sources are also available on the Foundation Center website (foundationcenter.org) and the Council on Foundations (cof.org). The Foundation Center provides grant seekers with information on philanthropy opportunities, proposal writing, research, and training. The Council on Foundations provides grant makers (foundations, corporations, and philanthropic entities) with foundation management services.
Foundations and corporate giving programs offer two types of grants: general purpose or program development. General purpose grant awards can be used to fund operating expenses and special programs. Program development grant awards are restricted to funding specific projects.
Grant writing skills
The quality and completeness of your grant proposal has a tremendous impact on whether or not your project is selected for funding. Most universities, community colleges, and foundations offer grant-writing workshops. The language and terminology used in grant proposals is typically specific to the type, purpose, and funding agency of the grant. It behooves small business owners to build a relationship with the grant maker to validate the grant proposal approach, if possible. If a face-to-face meeting is not feasible, a letter of introduction and a conference call is the next best option.
Small business owners can opt to write a grant proposal themselves or contract the services of a grantwriting specialist. The grant proposal must be compelling to be competitive. The deadlines established by the grant-making agency tend to be firm. Therefore, it is critical that you start the proposal with enough lead-time to allow for revisions, edits, and reviews.
WESLEY CARTER D. Mgt., is a partner at KRS Consulting, LLC in Charlotte. Email questions regarding grant writing services to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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