According to the Our Community Grants In Australia report, an estimated $80 billion in grant money is given away every year. The bulk of it is from the government, making up around 20% of state and federal government expenditure. It’s a common misconception that investment funds are only available to a select few. There are many grants designed for specific industries and purposes - and a lot of them are suitable for small businesses.
Whether you’re developing a new product or service, growing your business, employing and managing staff or improving product competitiveness, there’s a grant that applies to you.
Let’s take a look at how you can find and apply for funding to help future-proof your business.
At first, searching for the right small or start-up business grants can feel like a mammoth task, but the trick is to know where to look. Here are a few good places to start.
The Australian state and federal governments alone fund over 700 grant programs and their Grants and Programs Finder is where you’ll find them. You can use this tool to search grants by location, industry, objectives, and business structure and stage. It also clearly outlines the kinds of support types available, like advice and mentoring programs, funding, loans, sponsorships, subsidies and rebates, and tax benefits.
It’s also worth searching for grants on your local council website to see if there’s anything specific to your local government area.
Specific industries and start-ups
If you work in a niche industry or run a start-up, there are specific sites and private organisations that can help you find support. If you work in the arts, ArtsHub, Australia Council and Rise Fund all offer major opportunities. Some grants will require you to have an auspice, which is an organisation who’ll manage grant funding on your behalf. For example if you work in the arts, Auspicious Art Projects can help you out.
If you’re a farmer, Farm Table has a huge database of agriculture-focussed grants.
There’s also Our Community, which works to demystify the grant seeking and application process for not-for-profits. They created the Funding Centre, one of Australia’s largest directories for grants and investment funds.
2. Define your project
Now that you’ve found a few grants, it’s time to define what your project is. If you’re a performer, your project might be to go on tour. If you’re a farmer, you could use your project to purchase the equipment you need to continue your work. If you run a hospitality business, you might need support to hire new staff after the move from lockdown trading. Whatever your project is, be specific about how this will benefit your business and how the investment funds will support it. This is what selectors are looking for.
Once you’ve defined your project, do a thorough read-through of each criteria for the grants you’d like to apply for. This will help you whittle down what funding best suits your project. Test it against each criteria and ask yourself these questions:
- Does it match up perfectly? Often, if a grant is backed by a local government, there will be stipulations attached to where you live and work. For instance, if you live in the City of Yarra, you won’t be considered for City of Melbourne funding.
- Will receiving this grant bring you closer to your goal? If it doesn’t, reconsider whether it’s worth the effort to apply. Be mindful that gathering the relevant information and filling out each grant application takes time. Don’t let that deter you but be sure that it’s worth it before proceeding.
Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start your application. First ask yourself, “Can I articulate my project and its purpose?”. This is the backbone of your application and clearly communicating it will set you apart from other businesses. It works to increase confidence with the selectors that your project is a low-risk, worthy investment. Remember, the grant seeking process is highly competitive, so take the time to reflect on what will give you the edge.
Tips for writing a strong grant application
- Don’t write or apply for every grant.
The secret to receiving funding is consistency in the number of grants you apply for. But if you feel like you’re crowbarring your project in, it might not be worth the effort. Wait until you get more clarity or find one that is more suitable.
- Check your eligibility.
Double check your eligibility from your location to your business size and annual revenue. This will save you time and energy applying for funding that you’re not entitled to.
- Read all the guidelines and criteria.
Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding the guidelines. It’s a common mistake that grant seekers make and showing that you’ve done this will help you stand out. You don’t have to meet every priority area, but it’s important to the selectors. So put your energy into giving them exactly what they ask for.
- Set aside a lot of time to read, research, and apply.
Read anything that’s provided for context – even if it isn't directly about the application. For instance, reading the State Government’s strategic mission for the next 5 years will give you an idea of what they are looking for. Use their KPIs to structure your submission, showing how your project could help them achieve their goals.
- Proof-read your application.
Get someone to proofread your application, like a friend or colleague. If you’ve got a bit more budget, get a professional grant writer or proofreader to look over it for you. If you’ve got no time but have a great idea and are clear on what you want from your submission, you can hire a professional grant application writer to put together the application for you.
Grants are just one way you can plan for the future by investing in your business. Make sure you’re covering all bases.
Your checklist to prepare for the future
- Review your business plan and what you want to achieve – and keep an open mind to any new opportunities or changing business directions that may arise.
- Think about what your customers and clients expect from you and whether they enjoy dealing with you. Then, consider how you can improve this to give you a competitive edge.
- Review the short-term, medium-term and long-term opportunities for your business, so you can decide which emerging technologies will be the best fit.
- Lean on specialists to help you choose the most suitable technologies and opportunities, then implement them.
If you’re fortunate enough to receive funding, that’s fantastic news! But if you’re not selected, don’t be disheartened. Once you’ve gathered all your information, continue applying to new grants and those you’ve missed out on. Just because you weren’t selected once, doesn’t mean you won’t be considered again. If you’d like to learn more about how to future-proof your business, check out the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Thriving In The Digital Age.