Grant Writing For Impact Focused Small Businesses
Sep 06, 2022 | Vaibhav Kumar
Before you start
Before you start writing the application, always check the eligibility first and then proceed further. Finding eligibility is quite easy and is available on the website. In most the cases you can directly make a google search. Check if the project you have, or the problem you are trying to solve, and asking for the grant money for, is aligned with the organisational funding objectives. Eg. Organisation providing grant money for research and development will reject the applications focusing on product marketing and sales, though, it might be a good one.
If you’re applying for a grant to an international organisation, check if your country is a part and is eligible or not. All in all, see how and where you fit in.
Start with an appealing Problem
The first impressions are important and can be a differentiating factor between you and others applying for a grant. Organisations have a budget in their mind and they fund accordingly. Mention the exact problem and the intensity by which it is affecting the lives of people. Assessors always want to see the impact. Quantify it wherever possible. Eg. About 10K+ people left the handicraft industry because the revenue in this sector fell by 30% from the last year and there is no support to preserve the traditional methods of product development.
While starting with the problem, do keep in mind the objectives of the funding organisation.
Remember, major problems will have a lot of research already done and you just need to add it in your project. If you do not find much data, it is not an impacting problem. Always remember, assessors are interested in data. Say you mention, “This problem has broad bearing in the lives of people at XYZ”, they might think that this is a mere 1-2% impact, hence, numbers are important.
What can you do?
Assessors have got a fair idea about what the problem is, how it is affecting the lives of people, and what your business does. Having all, now tell them about, what you can do and what you are seeking funds for. It always looks good to draft the solution first then the problem but we don’t recommend this. The simple reason is, the problem and the solution tend to deviate and the problem is now solution focused. Draft the problem first and write the solution by making sure it does not deviate from what you define to solve. Eg. We are planning to build a computer application to manage all the manufacturing tasks and globalise our products to boost revenue by 30% (estimated).
Also mention the current progress of your project if any. As in, what you have done so far.
Project Costing & Funds request
This section is about estimating the costs for your project and requesting a certain amount.
Costs can be broken down into the following depending on the calculation:
Labour & Overheads
Another way to go about doing this is, by dividing the costs into direct such as consulting, training, operating, any other cost ‘directly’ associated with your project and indirect costs which are also called overheads. You can do the costing in excel or google spreadsheets and finally add all the costs to come up to the total project cost. Giving a detailed plan on how you are going to use the funds is always good.
Now that you have the cost to be incurred in the project, you have to request a certain amount. Most organisations will not fund 100% of your project. You should look at the organisation page to find how much they fund. They directly mention that they fund x% of your project. Do remember, every organisations’ funding opportunity has a budget and they fund projects within a certain range, say, £150,000 - £300,000. The best is to choose a number above average but not too close to the maximum they provide. Your goal is to maximise the funding request without keeping the chance of it getting rejected.
We classify impacts into three categories:
Economic Impact: This deals with the impact on an economy. Time, money, value it is generating, new jobs created, how well your product is scalable to international markets, etc. This is sort of the returns you are expecting. Do keep in mind that economic impact is important and must be measured cleverly as the organisation funding you will be expecting good returns, at least more than the project costs, in coming years.
Environmental Impact: Not to forget the quote “We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children”. If your project creates a positive environmental impact, Eg. Reducing office wastage where possible and recycling, Large batch shipping, etc. which is an added advantage. We suggest you mention at least two environmental impacts. If nothing comes to mind, you can focus on Carbon Offsetting, reducing waste, e-paper for documents, etc.
Social Impact: This measures any impact of your project on society. Find whether your product is going to empower the public, improve health and/or safety, improve education, improve worker autonomy or working conditions, etc. Eg. The Handmade sector is dominated by women and any improvisation made will ultimately support them.
Also, try to look for government policies or initiatives related to your project. This can make your application heavy as your project is encompassed by the country's goal which is a positive sign. Eg. Our project is aligned with the country's aim to become net zero in carbon emissions by 2040.
Again, do not forget to add numbers. Impacts should be mentioned with their respective numbers. It need not be very accurate but an educated guess based on factors and strong enough to believe.
People often think that saying their project has no risk will increase the chance of getting funds, while the opposite is true because the investors might think that you don’t have much knowledge about the project. Every project has some risks associated.
For simplification, classify risks into four categories and check what is associated with your project:
Technical risks: Eg. Performance slowdown issues due to scalability, response failure of any software, etc.
Managerial risks: Eg. Poor control of resources, poor timeline, etc.
Commercial risks: Eg. Competitors delivering similar products, customer hesitation while buying your product, etc.
Environmental risks: Eg. Massive energy use, wastage of equipment, etc.
Also, mention how you are planning to mitigate the risks. Eg. A project manager will be hired to keep account of all the resources used and to be used in an optimised way.
Need is already in the market but we influence the want. Knowing and talking about your target market is important. Segment the whole market based on criteria such as gender, age, income, education level, etc. which totally depends on the project and come up with the exact market you plan to target. Eg. If you're into the jewellery business and working on a project on it, focus on the population of women in the total market then segment by age, then by income, etc. to reach the target market. You can use websites like Statista, Data Gardener, etc. to help you get the correct number. If you can mention the planned market penetration, it will be helpful.
Project Management & Work Packages
Work Packages include dividing different tasks into buckets and determining the time required, cost allocated, Team leader, cost distribution, etc. Eg. Ryan is the head of “Work Package 1 - Research” which has an estimation to incur $25,000 (further divide the cost) and it is estimated to take 3 months to finish. Project Management is a specific type of Work Package which spans the whole project. Talk about who is going to lead the Project Management team, budget, time, etc. You can talk more about how you plan to measure
Deliverables or Expected Returns
For some grants, this needs to be explicitly answered in a specific question, while for the rest, if not asked directly, it should be mentioned clearly in the impact or solution section. The application should mention in clear words, what at the end is expected. It can vary from an x% increase in revenue to delivering a specific product, etc. Note that the solution should be compared and aligned with the problem, likewise, expected returns should be compared with the cost you plan to incur.
It was overwhelming but important.
Remember a few points: quantify wherever possible, show how your product is differentiated in the market, how it is capable of solving a problem and delivering value to end users, and your project yields good returns.
Wish you very good luck with your next grant proposal.