Maybe you’ve done the research, found a grant that seems to be a good fit, and now you’re ready to apply. Or, maybe you’re just getting started on your grant search. Either way, before starting the application process, it’s essential to know what documentation and information are needed to submit your application.
While applying for a grant is an exciting process, you want to make sure that you know what you need before you start. Otherwise, you might find yourself running all around your office scrambling to find documents — and no one needs that kind of stress.
How Do I Apply for a Grant?
For business owners who haven’t yet settled on a grant, you can start by researching and finding a grant that fits your business. You want to find a grant that aligns with your business goals and vision, giving you a higher chance of winning the grant.
If you’re stumped on where to start your search, the Fundid grants marketplace is an excellent place to begin. You can narrow down your search by using filters such as government grants, state grants, or even grants specifically for women of color.
However, the question remains, what do you need to apply for a grant? So let’s dive right in and find out.
Common Documents Needed for a Grant Application
Before compiling all the documents needed for a grant application, you need to know about the documents required to complete it. Your grant application should answer questions like:
- What is your business’s mission statement and history?
- Why should you get the grant?
- What problem are you aiming to solve? Why is this relevant?
- How much money do you need to achieve your goals? How do you plan to fund your business in the future?
Here is a basic grant application outline to follow when preparing to apply for a grant:
Detailed Business Plan
Depending on your company, each business plan will vary. However, most business plans include these components:
- Company Description: In this section of your business plan, give a brief overview of your company. This is where you can share a bit about your company’s experience and what you do as a business.
- Structure of the Business: Give detailed information about the infrastructure of your business.
- Services Offered: What services does your business offer? Outline these here and give a concise explanation of each.
- Financial Goals/ Projections: How much money do you expect to make with your business? How will you fund your business in the future?
What should your budget include? While each business is unique, a basic grant proposal budget should have the following sections:
- Personnel Payroll: In this area, provide numbers that reflect how much you plan to pay your personnel and the amount of hours/weeks they’ll be working.
- Travel Expenses: If applicable, provide clear reasoning why travel is necessary for your business. Once established, include information about the number of trips planned, who will need to attend, and the costs of each trip. This could be anything from the price of plane tickets to hired cars for a trip.
- Equipment Costs: Explain why your business needs this equipment to run successfully. Include specifications about the kind of equipment you’ll be using. For example, if you plan to supply everyone on your team with laptops, mention the brand and type. (i.e., Apple Macbook 13-inch instead of just “laptop.”) Explain how these items will contribute to the growth of your business.
- Supplies: What kind of supplies will you need to run your business? If you’re working out of a central location, office supplies will fall under this category. Plan on streamlining your hiring process? You’ll need to produce training and other educational supplies.
- Services (Contracted): You may have to hire certain services, such as a translator or caterer for events. Provide details about their salary or the number of people attending events where a caterer will be necessary.
Be sure to include a document in this section about your audited financials, as your prospective funder will want to see this information as well.
If you’re not sure what to include, we recommend submitting these five financial statements and documents:
- Income Statement: Including your income statement in your grant proposal is non-negotiable. This document shows whether or not your business can generate profits. It will also reveal if the profits you stand to make are sustainable.
- Statement of Cash Flows: Potential funders are curious about how your business uses money, and this statement shows the inflow and outflow of cash in your company.
- Balance Sheet: Do you own property or currently owe money? Your balance sheet is crucial to lenders looking to see how much investment in your assets and liabilities is needed to sustain your business’ profitability.
- Projected Financial Figures: Depending on how long your company has been around, you’ll need to show projected financial figures anywhere from the following year to up to five years. Include items such as income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and a project budget.
- Due Diligence: In this section, you’ll need to include any information that won’t appear outright in your financials. For example, are you currently part of an ongoing lawsuit or class action settlement? Disclose this information here.
Written History, Mission, and Vision for Your Business
In this section, shine a light on what makes your business unique. Outline your business history and how you got your start. Aim to answer these questions in this section of your proposal:
How was your business founded?
What is the mission of your business/company?
Where do you see your business going in the future?
What does your business bring to the market that doesn’t already exist?
How will the grant help you fill the space in the industry?
Blow the readers away with your story and show off how passionate you are about your mission. You want to appeal to their emotions in this section and connect to the funder’s mission too.
After outlining your vision and describing the goals you have for your business, it’s time to tell the funder how you plan to achieve them. You can pull details about personnel, equipment, and other items from your budget to outline how each of these items will help you succeed as a business and accomplish your mission.
Share information about methods and strategies you have in place now that are helping your business. You can also explain how you will apply these methods if you receive the grant.
Feel free to provide examples of how the methods described applied to previous projects you took on. Clear explanations will give your potential funder an idea of your work ethic and past accomplishments.
Although this is often the last piece you write, the cover letter is arguably the most crucial part of your grant application. While the rest of the information in your proposal could be top-tier, an ill-prepared cover letter could turn potential funders away.
Think of your cover letter as a formal introduction to your business. When you meet someone for the first time, introductions are usually short and sweet, and you leave the interaction with a decent idea of who they are and what they do. Your cover letter should be the same.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when structuring your letter:
Keep it simple: Your cover letter should only be about one page long, ranging from three to four paragraphs. Make it brief, and don’t be afraid to get to the point after your opening.
Address the Funder: Directly address the founder by their name. Greet them with “Dear” followed by their title (Mr., Mrs, Ms., Dr., or Miss) followed by their last name. You don’t want to get this wrong, so call ahead to the foundation to make sure that the person you’re addressing in your letter is correct.
Hit the Key Points: Introduce yourself and the name of your company. Explain why your business needs the grant, your mission and vision, and the budget you’re requesting. Include at least one statistic to emphasize the need for your business.
Include Business Structure: Incorporate two to three sentences that briefly cover your business structure and when it was founded.
Explain Your Organization's Goals: Next, state the goals and purpose of your organization and how it aligns with the funder’s goals and missions.
End on a Positive Note: End your letter with a paragraph that summarizes what this grant will mean for the future of your business, and use a friendly closing remark such as “Sincerely” or another closing statement that sounds thankful and hopeful.
Once you’ve compiled and submitted all the documents needed for your grant application, all that’s left is to wait patiently. While the funder will generally notify you about the rejection or approval of your grant application, it’s best to wait between three to six months before following up.
Find the Right Grant for Your Business
While you can always flesh out your grant application outline with more information, starting with these sections will give you a strong foundation when applying for multiple grants. If you’re really at a loss for what to include, don’t hesitate to reach out to the grant organization to get some clarity.
Are you currently looking for the right grant for your business? Start by searching through our Grant Marketplace. There are dozens of grants for small business owners from all walks of life, and you’re sure to find one that will meet your unique business situation.