How to find and apply for small business grants
How can funding help my business?
It may seem like we’re stating the obvious, but before you start a business, or launch a new idea, it’s important to know how you’ll fund your project.
According to AustraliaStartups.org, lack of funding is one of the most common reasons new businesses don't make it past the development stage. The same rule could arguably be applied to new projects you’d like to undertake, even as an established small business.
What you’re about to start a business or you want help to grow your brand further, it pays to find out what funding may be available to you.
What amount of funding is available in Australia?
As reported by AustraliaStartups.org, as an Australian small business owner, you are in luck. Why? Because the Australian government allocates billions of dollars each year to support small businesses across the country.
As a small business owner in Australia, you may also have access to hundreds of private funding sources, such as angel investors, venture capitalists and banks.
Funding may be granted in the following forms:
- tax credits, and
- private investments.
Who is eligible for grants in Australia?
If you thought funding was only available to a select few, think again. Grants are often designed for specific industries and purposes, and many are suitable for small businesses.
Whether you want to develop a new product or service, grow your business, or improve your competitive edge, there may be a grant that can help you make it happen.
Here, we share tips on how to find and apply for funding to help you plan your future.
How to search for funding and business grant opportunities
Finding a grant can feel daunting, but the trick is to know where to look. Here are some ideas on how (and where) to start your search.
Look for Government grants
The federal and state governments of Australian offer over 500 grants and programs. You can browse opportunities by visiting the grants and programs finder.
You can apply the following filters to the to the finder tool to help your search:
- Business structure
- Support type
- Business stage
- Grant status
- Indigenous businesses
The grants and programs finder also provides information on the kinds of support you may be eligible for. Types of support state and federal governments may offer could include:
- Business advice and mentoring programs
- Subsidies and rebates
- Tax benefits.
Tip: Check your council website for funding opportunities that may be available in your local government area.
Search for grants that apply to specific industries and start-ups
If you’re a start-up or are looking for support specific to your field, it’s worth searching for grants designed for your business stage or industry.
For example, businesses in the creative industries can search for opportunities via:
Businesses in the agriculture industry can browse for opportunities via:
And if you plan to start a business, you can look for start-up funding via:
Tip: You may need to work with an auspice organisation to apply for certain grants. As defined by The Grants Hub, an auspice is an organisation who manages grant funding on your behalf.
For example, Auspicious Art Projects is a not-for-profit creative community management organisation that helps artists apply for grants within Australia.
An auspice organisation could also be:
- Your local council
- A not-for-profit organisation
- An organisation that you're already a member of
If you aren’t sure who to approach, your local council may be able to assist.
Consider funding opportunities for not-for-profits
If you run, or would like to set up, a not-for-profit, Our Community may be able to help. Known as one of the best sources for information on grants in Australia, they created the Funding Centre, a database that helps you find funding opportunities for your business.
How to define the project you need funding for
Before you apply for a grant, you need to clearly define your project. Here are some project examples:
- Sole trader performance artists may need a grant to fund a tour.
- Agricultural businesses may need funding to buy new equipment.
- Café owners may need support to hire new staff after temporary closures.
To gain funding for your project, you’ll need to communicate the following to decision makers in charge of distributing funds:
- What you want to achieve with your project.
- How the project will benefit your business.
- How much funding you’ll need to achieve your goal.
Once you’ve defined the general scope of your project, you’ll need to read the criteria for the grants you’d like to apply for. This will help you determine if the grant is right for you.
When reading the criteria for different grants, ask yourself the following questions:
Will the grant suit your project?
Not all grants will suit your needs. Certain local government grants may require your business to be in a certain area. To be eligible for a Business Victoria grant, for example, you may need to live and work within the state.
Will the funding help you achieve your goal?
Certain grants may not make a positive impact on your goal. If this is the case, the effort invested in your application could be time better spent elsewhere. That being said, while applying for grants can be time-consuming, it’s worth the effort if you feel the funding will serve you well.
How to submit your grant application
Once you’ve found a grant that may help you achieve your goal, it’s time to prepare your application. To begin, ask yourself: Can I clearly explain my project and its purpose? If the answer is yes, you’re ready to proceed. Decision makers are more likely to feel confident in your project, and to view it as a low-risk, worthy investment, if your intentions are clear.
Tips for writing a strong grant application
- Don’t apply for every grant. Routinely applying for grants can help increase your chances of receiving funding, but that doesn’t mean you should apply for them all. It pays to limit your applications to grants that suit your business objectives.
- Check your eligibility. Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements of the grant you’re applying for, which may include things like location, business size, and annual review.
- Read grant criteria closely. When you’re familiar with the guidelines of grants and programs you can be sure of your eligibility, or lack thereof. Funding providers want to know your project aligns with their requirements. Understanding funding criteria completely helps give you a competitive edge.
- Do your research. It pays to write about how your project could benefit the party offering funding. For example, if you’d like grant from state government, learn about their mission. If your project aligns with their vision, and helps them to achieve their own goals, you can write about how in your application.
- Ask someone to proofread your application. You can engage a professional grant writer to write and edit your application. But if you’re writing your application yourself, it helps to ask a friend or colleague to proofread it for you. Fresh eyes can help you make sure you’ve expressed your intentions clearly.
Things you can do to plan for your future
Grants are just one way you can invest in your business. Here are a few other things you can do to plan your future.
- Review your business plan and what you want to achieve. And keep an open mind to new opportunities that may arise.
- Consider the expectations of your clients and whether they’re satisfied with what you offer. Understanding customer needs can help give you a competitive edge.
- Work with digital experts to help you choose technologies for your business, and to discover how solutions and devices can help you reach your goals.
What to do after you’ve submitted your grant application
An application with either be successful or unsuccessful. It’s great to get a positive outcome, but if an application is unsuccessful, don’t be disheartened. You can continue to search for new opportunities or apply for the same grant or program again in future. Just because your business wasn’t chosen once, doesn’t mean it won’t be considered again.
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