Wendy Gibbs, Hertfordshire Growth Hub
One of the most common questions we are asked is, ‘Are there any grants available?’ Grants are obviously popular at any stage of a business, as they are not required to be repaid. However, grants should be thought of as a means of supporting planned business activity, rather than for undertaking an activity because grant funding is available.
How do you find grants and what do you need to consider when you do?
Finding grants: Hertfordshire Growth Hub has made ‘Grant Finder’ available to enable local businesses to search for funding of all types, not just grants. Registration is completely free and you can access it on our website. Although searching is straight forward, you can also download a short user guide. Remember to use the filter options to add the type of funding you are looking for, the amount and then select the funding status to ‘open’ for applications; there is no point getting your hopes up thinking that you have found a grant, only to find it is no longer available.
Once you have completed a grant search and filtered the results, you will be left with a more workable list of possible grants but that does not mean that they will all be suitable. There are a few more steps you need to consider.
Eligibility criteria: Every grant scheme will have some application criteria. These may include business sector, location, number of employees, grant purpose. Match funding may also be required. You should check that you can meet these criteria before going any further. If you do not meet the criteria, then you will not be eligible, so there is little point in taking the time to apply. Do not be tempted to try to make your purpose for funding or business fit the criteria, this is highly unlikely to work in either obtaining funding or operating the business. Where the criteria are ambiguous, or you are unsure if you meet the requirements, contact the funder.
Application process: Check the requirements, just like the eligibility criteria, these will be different for each grant scheme, both in terms of how you apply as well as the information that the funder requires and deadlines. There could also be a need to provide reporting information, either during or after completion, of the project you are seeking funding from.
Should you apply: Having found a grant that you are eligible for and checked the application process, you will then need to decide whether to apply. Some grants are competitive, so even if you meet all the criteria, there is no guarantee that your application will be successful. Therefore, consider if the time spent on the application and any subsequent reporting is worth the financial reward.
Also, check how the grant is paid. Some require you to pay first and then claim the grant funding back, so you would need to have enough cash available for the project.
Funders may also require you to fulfil certain objectives, such as job creation. You should check to see if the grant fund claws back the grant if you don’t meet these objectives or fail to fully complete the project that they have provided the funding for.
Applying: If you decide to go ahead and apply, make sure that you follow the process and adhere to any deadlines. When completing an application, ensure that you have read the questions and answered them correctly. This may sound basic, but it is easy for answers to start drifting away from responding to the questions. Where funders have stated their aims and objectives for a fund, try to highlight in your answers how the funding you seek will help them to meet those aims and objectives. Finally, if there is a specified word count, stick to it. Some funders may dismiss an application or “score” it lower if you go over the word count.