Small business grants can be an important revenue stream for new and established small businesses alike. Whether you are trying to grow to the next level or get off the ground, sometimes revenue alone isn’t enough to bridge the gap. That’s where small business grants come in.
Although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, grants come close: they’re no-strings-attached funds you can use to grow your business. Unlike a loan, a grant does not need to be repaid; and unlike venture capital, the funds do not entitle the grant-giving organization to partial ownership of your company.
We’ve shared a few tips on best practices for writing winning proposals, and we’d also like to share some mistakes to avoid. Here are five mistakes that winning grant applications never make.
Not Asking for Feedback When Offered
Some grant-funding organizations offer to provide feedback before the deadline of the current round. When you find one that does this, always take advantage of it. Essentially, you have an opportunity to find out directly from the judges where the weak points in your application are. Their comments can only ever help your chances of winning.
If the organization only provides feedback after rejection, you can still learn from it to improve your chances of being selected in a future round. The feedback can also help strengthen your applications for other grants.
Focusing on the Nuts and Bolts of Your Idea
It is tempting to pour every detail of your product, service, or operation into a proposal, but when it comes to grants, less is more.
You will find much greater success if you focus on your story and the impact the grant funds would have on your business. Ask yourself questions like:
- What made you decide to start the business?
- How will the grant empower you to improve the lives of others?
- How are you changing the world (or your corner of it)?
Reflecting on questions like these and weaving the answers into your proposal will make it much more memorable, compelling, and– most importantly– more likely to win.
Using All Allocated Space and Time
Be as concise as possible. If you can tell your story in 300 words instead of 500, do it. This helps ensure that you are trimming the fat, focusing on only the most important and impactful elements of your story without adding unnecessary details that the reviewers may get lost in. Again, less is more. Resist the temptation to add more words just because there is space.
Similarly, if there is a video component of the application, do not use the full amount of time allotted. If you can tell your story in ten minutes instead of fifteen, then tell it in ten minutes.
Taking “No” as a “No Forever”
Many factors go into decisions. Just because you weren’t selected for one round doesn’t mean you will not be selected for a future round.
Perhaps there were five winners and you happened to be choice #6 this time. Maybe another winner from your town was selected and the organization only chooses one winner per city. The fact is, you simply don’t know.
If you are eligible, have a compelling story, and grant funds would make a significant impact for you, then you should continue applying in future rounds.
Not Following Directions
When organizations receive thousands of applications, they start looking for easy ways to narrow the field. Many applicants are disqualified over small technical errors rather than the quality of the content or their strength as a candidate.
For example, if you exceed the word limit on your proposal, use a PDF rather than a Word document, or submit more than the permitted number of attachments, the selection committee may not look at your application at all.
Bonus: Taking Yourself Out of the Race
The biggest mistake you can make is not applying in the first place. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The most important thing you can do is try– and keep trying until you get the one “yes” you need to take your business to the next level.
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Need money for your business? Apply today for Small Business Grant funding from EnrichHER.
EnrichHER is a financial technology platform that matches revenue-generating companies led by women and founders of color to individual and institutional sources of funding. Since 2017, EnrichHER has deployed upwards of $4 million through its platform and matched business-owners to $13 million in working capital through its Accelerator. By providing capital, coaching, and connections, we are fueling the fastest-growing demographic of business owners. Our network has engaged with over 23,000 advocates through its digital community and in-person activations.