Chapter 7: Small Business Grants

By Rachelle Hare, Senior Commercial Lawyer and Business Adviser, Owner of Blaze Business & Legal, 19 November 2023. Rachelle has been advising startups both legally and commercially for over 23 years.

Chapter 7 of the Ultimate Guide to Startup Funding

Introduction

Small business grants represent a unique and potentially transformative funding opportunity for startups and entrepreneurs. Unlike loans or equity investment, grants do not require repayment and can provide a significant financial boost to your business.

In this chapter, we explore the concept of grants, discuss the sources of grants (government, corporations, philanthropists, non-profit organisations), elaborate on eligibility criteria, and offer comprehensive guidance on crafting persuasive grant applications. Small business grants offer non-repayable funding opportunities, and this chapter will give the knowledge and tools to pursue them effectively.

Understanding Small Business Grants

Small business grants are financial awards provided to businesses, often by governments, corporations, foundations, or non-profit organisations. These grants are intended to support specific initiatives, projects, or business activities.

What sets grants apart from other forms of funding is that they do not require repayment, making them a highly attractive option for startups and entrepreneurs seeking financial support. 

Sources of Small Business Grants

Small business grants can emanate from various sources, each with its own unique objectives and criteria:

  • Government Grants - Many government agencies, at the federal, state, and local levels, offer grants to stimulate economic development, support innovation, and address specific societal challenges. These grants may be available for a wide range of purposes, including research and development, job creation, and community improvement projects.
  • Corporate Grants - Some large corporations and businesses have grant programs designed to support small businesses, particularly those that align with their industry or corporate social responsibility initiatives. Corporate grants can be a valuable source of funding for businesses in specific sectors.
  • Philanthropic Grants - Foundations and charitable organisations often provide grants to support initiatives that align with their philanthropic goals. These grants may cover various areas, such as education, healthcare, or social impact projects. Philanthropic organisations are driven by a desire to create positive change and are willing to support innovative ideas and projects.
  • Non-Profit Organisations - Non-profit organisations, which focus on various causes and community development, may offer grants to support projects that align with their mission. These grants can span diverse sectors, from arts and culture to environmental conservation and social justice.

Eligibility Criteria: The Key to Unlocking Grants

To secure small business grants, you need to meet specific eligibility criteria. While these criteria can vary widely depending on the grant's source and purpose, some common factors include:

  • Business Size - Grants may be targeted toward small businesses with a certain number of employees or specific revenue thresholds.
  • Industry or Sector - Some grants are industry-specific, designed to support businesses in particular fields, such as technology, agriculture, or healthcare.
  • Location - Certain grants may be restricted to businesses located in specific regions or communities.
  • Project Alignment - Your business and the proposed project must align with the grant's objectives and focus areas.
  • Legal Status - You may need to have a legally registered business entity to be eligible for certain grants.
  • Social Impact - Grants from non-profit organisations often prioritise projects that have a demonstrable positive impact on society or the environment.

Crafting a Persuasive Grant Application

A well-crafted grant application is your ticket to securing funding. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to create a persuasive grant application:

1. Research Grant Opportunities

Identify grant opportunities that align with your business and project goals. Research the grantor's mission, previous grant recipients, and application requirements. Understanding the grantor's objectives is crucial for tailoring your proposal.

2. Develop a Clear Proposal

Create a clear and concise project proposal that outlines your business, project objectives, expected outcomes, and how the grant funds will be used. Be specific and articulate your vision clearly.

3. Address the Grantor's Goals

Tailor your proposal to address the specific goals and priorities of the grantor. Clearly demonstrate how your project aligns with their mission and how it contributes to their broader objectives. Show a genuine understanding of what matters to the grantor.

4. Provide a Detailed Budget

Include a detailed budget that outlines precisely how the grant funds will be allocated. Be transparent and realistic about your financial needs, and ensure that your budget aligns with the project's scope and objectives.

5. Highlight Impact and Outcomes

Emphasise the potential positive impact of your project on your business, the community, or the target beneficiaries. Use data and evidence to support your claims and illustrate the lasting benefits your project will deliver.

6. Demonstrate Sustainability

Explain how your project will be sustainable beyond the grant period. Grantors often want to see a clear plan for how the project will continue to thrive and make an impact long after their funding has been utilised.

7. Follow Application Instructions

Carefully follow the grant application instructions provided by the grantor. Ensure that you adhere to formatting guidelines, include all required documentation, and submit your application by the specified deadline. Failure to do so can result in your application being disqualified.

8. Seek Professional Guidance

If you're new to grant writing or require additional expertise, consider seeking assistance from grant-writing professionals or consultants who can help you create a compelling application. They can offer valuable insights into the grant application process and help you put your best foot forward.

Scenario

Sarah has a vision to transform a historic building in her town into a thriving community center. She believes that this center will provide a space for cultural events, educational programs, and gatherings that celebrate the town's heritage.

Sarah learns about a government grant program specifically designed to support the restoration and preservation of historical sites with a focus on community engagement. The grant aims to empower local businesses to take on projects that have a significant cultural and societal impact.

Sarah decides to apply for this grant, understanding that it aligns perfectly with her vision. She researches the grant requirements, examines the grantor's goals, and develops a compelling proposal that outlines her plan to restore the historic building and create a vibrant community center.

In her application, Sarah emphasises the historical and cultural significance of the building, highlighting its potential to become a focal point for the community. She provides a detailed budget that transparently breaks down the allocation of grant funds, ensuring that every dollar will be put to good use.

Sarah's application also outlines the expected outcomes of the project, including increased community engagement, a boost in local tourism, and educational programs that celebrate the town's history. She underscores the sustainability of her project by outlining plans for ongoing maintenance and community involvement beyond the grant period.

And she makes sure she complies with all the grant requirements when completing her grant application.

As a result of Sarah's compelling grant application, her project is selected for funding. The grant not only provides the financial resources needed to restore the historic building but also ignites a sense of pride and community involvement.

Sarah's community center becomes a hub of activity, hosting cultural events, educational programs, and gatherings that bring people together. It preserves the town's heritage and also strengthens the bonds within the community.

This scenario illustrates how small business grants can have a profound and lasting impact, not only on the businesses that receive them but on the communities they serve. With the right vision, determination, and a well-crafted grant application that meets all the grant requirements, entrepreneurs like Sarah can access the resources they need to turn their dreams into reality.

Conclusion

Small business grants represent a valuable source of non-repayable funding for startups and entrepreneurs. By understanding the sources of grants, eligibility criteria, and how to craft persuasive grant applications, you can tap into these funding opportunities to support your business initiatives. Small business grants have the potential to transform not only your business but also the communities and causes you are passionate about.

What's Next?

In the next chapter, we'll shift our focus to the art of pitching for business funding. We'll explore the key elements of a successful pitch, explain how to demonstrate a well-defined plan and financials, and provide tips for getting investors excited while remaining realistic. Effective pitching is essential for attracting investors, and we'll equip you with the knowledge to master this critical skill. 

Learn how to pitch for startup funding in Chapter 8.

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About the Author

Rachelle Hare

Rachelle Hare

Rachelle Hare is a highly experienced Construction Lawyer and Contract Lawyer, with over 23 years of experience in Tier 1 and Tier 2 Construction Firms, Top Tier Private Practice and Government.

With 23+ years of experience as a Senior Lawyer, Strategic Contracting Adviser and Management Consultant in Construction Law, Contracts, Major Projects, Commercial Advisory, Compliance, Procurement, Contract Management and Risk Management, Rachelle has the rare skills to offer you seamless business advice and legal advice to help support your organisation.


As well as a Lawyer and Business Adviser, Rachelle has also acted as a Strategic Procurement Adviser, Compliance Manager, Strategic Risk Adviser and Commercial Manager.

Rachelle owns
Blaze Business & Legal, a combined Commercial Law Firm and Business Advisory Firm located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Blaze Business & Legal assists a broad range of clients in the Construction Industry and related industries, and advises owners, contractors, subcontractors, NFPs and other organisations on a broad range of Construction Law, Commercial Law, Business Advisory and Management Consulting issues in Brisbane, Queensland and around Australia.

Rachelle also owns Blaze Professional Learning, where she offers practical contracting skills, hands-on experience in drafting and working with contracts, and industry insights to help Professionals upskill and advance their careers with real-world skills.

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