Cash is king. For many businesses in start up mode or looking to expand, securing access to capital is a stressful and challenging task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some helpful tips on how you can boost your chances to earn funding for your business.
1. Complete Your Business Plan First
Remember the five Ps: “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” Before searching out funding agencies, you will need to be able to explain:
- How much your project costs
- How much money you are asking for
- Your financial forecasts for at least three years
- An industry/market analysis
- An operations plan
These basic components of your business plan not only force you to think of every contingency, but they also give funders certainty that you aren’t just looking for a handout.
2. Read and Follow Instructions
Many of us tend to utilize a generic template for a business plan or project instead of taking the time to understand what specific funders are looking for. By familiarizing yourself with the format and content that a funder is seeking, you can better understand which types of businesses and projects they hope to fund. For example, if a funder specifies that they won’t fund more than 25 per cent of a project, but you try to leverage 50 per cent, it won’t matter how fantastic the rest of your proposal is because it will get rejected.
3. Ask Yourself: What’s in it for Them?
Funders want to find a reason to give you money. But don’t forget that each funder has specific motivations for doling out cash. Earning a return on investment doesn’t necessarily mean a funder wants to earn XYZ per cent interest, but they will want to have assurances that their money will be spent to achieve certain outcomes, whether that be job creation, protecting the environment or improving peoples’ health. Make sure to explain how your business or project will help a funder attain their goals.
4. Research Your Compeition
Who else has been funded by the agency you are applying to? Look into what other sorts of business and projects have been funded in the past, it may give you a clue to the values of your desired funder. Even though your sales pitch must fit within the funder’s criteria just like everyone else, you also need to make sure you can articulate your unique selling proposition. Don’t be shy: if you believe your business or project is the best, make sure that the funder understands why.
5. Be Clear and Concise
Use lists or bullet points where appropriate. Avoid fluff. Make every word count. Ensure you have all the basics covered of who, what, when, where, why and how. Read the application out loud to make sure it flows properly. Try to utilize similar language found in the funding application. Don’t be afraid to get your proposal “red-inked” or have a friend give it a second set of eyes. And before you submit, use spell check.