I'm here to let you in on a little secret: there is probably no such thing as a “grant writer”. In general, a business owner can obtain a small business grants by completing an application. So - if you can write, about your own business, then you can be your own grant writer. And, I suppose, that is the thing - you have to be able to write. We’re not talking about dissertations here, but YOU have to be able to articulate your business, vision, purpose and plan in written form. If you’re not a strong writer, then perhaps you'd feel more comfortable hiring a “grant writer”. But be clear that you are essentially paying a person to “apply” for you - in the same way you would pay someone to complete your taxes or complete a resume. The person you hire to “write a grant” will need to learn about your business, understand your plan and articulate your financial position. In short - they will have to ask YOU the pertinent questions in order to complete the grant application. Again, if you’re a weak writer, it could be beneficial to hire someone to assist you, but you will have to be super-involved in the process. Only you can decide if it’s worth the cost.
Here are some quick tips to applying for small business grants:
Determine whether you are qualified to apply. Each grant targets a different industry or demographic and only you can determine whether your business will qualify. EmpowermentSource is a great source to locate grants, but you have to decide which opportunities are right for your business.
Read the application instructions. No - seriously - read the instructions multiple times. If you have determined that you qualify for the grant, then you need to understand the requirements intimately. Are they asking for an essay or a business plan? Is there an application and a financial plan requirement? Read the instructions to ensure that you have the information required, that you meet the minimum requirements and that you are willing to put in the time to apply.
Take notes from the instructions - make a list of the items that you need so that you can develop a checklist. Consult your checklist multiple times throughout your application process.
Check the application deadline. Check the application deadline. Put the deadline on your calendar. Don’t miss the deadline. Don’t miss the deadline. Don’t miss the deadline.
Once you’ve decided to apply for a grant, here are some generic tips on “how” to write it:
Answer the question. You’ve read the instructions - what specific questions are they asking? Answer each question or prompt specifically. Explain, in detail, why you need the grant, how you will spend the grant, what impact the grant will have on your business. Learn about the organization that is offering the grant; understand their purpose.
Stand out. Your business is unique, your brand is unique, your vision is yours alone. Explain why you are different from every other person applying for the grant. Explain why you should be funded over all of the other applicants. Spend some time thinking about this, it could be the deal maker.
Be yourself. No one knows your business like you do. (See my post on learning your business). No one can write about your business like you can. So don’t spend any time trying to sound like another business or another brand. Tell your story authentically and do it well.
Proofread. This means, find a friend or colleague who is a better writer than you are, and ask them to read it. This means ask someone whose opinion matters, to read it. This means find a printer, print it out on paper and read it to yourself out loud. Be excellent. Pay attention to detail and consult the checklist that you developed to ensure that you have followed the directions.
Let it go. This grant didn’t make your business, it won’t break your business. Submit your application before the deadline and let it go. Chase the next opportunity, the next customer, the next step for your business but don’t fixate. Be persistent and tenacious but not obsessive. Trust your God to make it so.