It helps to test your business idea or real estate for sale against questions on a grant application form. Those who wish to attract capital must seek objective feedback. A grant application is just like applying for a bank loan or preparing your detailed pitch for your startup before a board of venture capital investors. You must get your ducks in a row. Sure, we are idealists and relentless optimists, however occasionally it helps to put the idea through a controlled reality check. They don’t want to put unnecessary obstacles in your way, they actually want you to succeed, and are giving you every help they can to get your act together and start planning. A grant application is nothing more than a detailed plan.
A government or foundation will finance a project in line with its objectives when it sees a proof of sustainability in the applicant. It’s not so much the novelty of the idea, but the sound impression the applicant and his or her team conveys to the committee, what matters most.
First of all, a team which is not capable of submitting 100 pages of carefully compiled and edited information in time, is probably not capable of supervising an 18-month-long project involving tens of engineers and developers. The whole presentation must be designed for a board of objective professionals, free of redundancy and sales jargon.
Prepare a business plan with a profit & loss statement and balance sheet for the current year and previous 3 years. You can download templates from the internet, schedule an appointment with your accountant and get it done.
Here are some actual questions from European Union grant application forms:
Briefly summarise the professional career, successes and failures of owners, managers, and key officers of the company. “Key” officer of the company is anyone whose skills, abilities, network of contacts chiefly determine the success of the company.
Yes, you have to be able to speak about this. Get serious.
Briefly describe the labour management, organisational structure, information systems of your company.
Your enterprise has to have the look and feel of a company. The smell, the sound, the taste of a company.
Please describe your business and the business idea, why you do what you do, why in that particular industry? Describe the location of your business with its advantages and disadvantages. Access to workforce, proximity of customers, public transport, local taxes, etc.
Because all these things matter.
What product/service do you offer, who are the primary customers?
Good question. Get back to basics.
Please describe the market of your business, and which markets you intend to target. What advantages do your products/services have over your competitors? Who are your chief competitors? How do you envision the distribution of your products/services? What advertisement methods and sales incentives do you plan to utilise? Briefly describe the future prospects, plans of your business.
Present the possible obstacles and conditions (i.e. regulation, standards, social acceptance, workforce, financing the steps of reporting, cooperation with other parties in the value chain) which may negatively affect the achievement of the desired results, and if so, to what extent.
Describe the critical risk factors regarding the realisation of the project, which may impede the attainment of the set goals. Elaborate on risk reduction actions. Please submit a table presenting the identifiable risks and recommended action steps to reduce them.
Present risk (indicate probability: Low/Medium/High)
Competition analysis. Risks. Force yourself to do some market research, you will be a lot wiser. These questions must be answered if you wish to attract capital. If you will not answer them, someone else will. The sooner you get answers, the more transparency there will be regarding your business idea, clarity for you and clarity for the investor. Also, it forces you to think of ways to eliminate risk.
You will also have to prepare a budget, a list of overhead costs, inevitable expenses. Think on paper. Every minute spent in planning will save you many more in execution.
Describe the special goals of the project, which must be straightforward, measurable, realistic, and attainable within the time frame of the project. Strive for consistency when setting goals, bearing in mind the anticipated application and impact of the project.
Is there a roadmap or are we just drifting along?
Specify where the project stands on the scale between for example “idea and realised project” or “laboratory and market.” Elaborate on the Level of Technological Readiness, where necessary.
This is exactly what we call the “investability scale” of the DealWorkshop, where Experts help move an Opportunity along the scale, so it eventually becomes a Deal. It is great feedback for the Owners, because the value of an idea is much less than a realized product.
Present and describe the complete methodology, and if necessary, highlight the activities related to the subject specified in the work programme, for example research, visualisation, supervision, first industrial production, etc.
Present the highest level of development which your project can offer, its scope and impact.
Present the innovation opportunities (i.e. pioneer goals, innovative concepts and approaches, new products, services, or business and organisational models) featured in your application. Please mention the already available products and services, where applicable. Mention the results of patent inquiries.
Methodology is the key word. There is a standardized way of doing things, one step is taken after another step. Break your project down into small steps. People will understand and invest.
The achievement of significant results not mentioned in the work programme, but which increase innovation capacity; the creation of new market opportunities, the strengthening of competitive advantage and growth; targeting of issues connected to climate change and environmental protection, and the attainment of any quantifiable benefit in society.
This gets you thinking. Wow, did you think anyone cares about what benefits your project may have for mankind? And yes, it matters, this is how you can start the spark of creativity, there may be much more in your idea than you originally thought, and you may be able to make much more money from it.
Present the activities of public and social responsibility related to the project, if applicable.
If your project has a social entrepreneurship or corporate social responsibility aspect to it, it will weigh in positively for a grant. Community consciousness pays.
The institution allocating the grant also wants to understand your work plan. Yes, they want to see you working. Receiving a grant, or an investment means somebody just hired you, it’s work time! Now is when the real work begins. Project execution! But first you have to have a project. And this means Gantt charts (Timing of different work packages and their components), work packages, determining the number of employees, their working hours, pay, description of work all itemized, broken down into tasks… When was the last time you used project management software? When was the last time you worked in a team?
List of key performance milestones in a table.
This is one of the most important takeaways from grant applications, performance checks. After each work package is completed, the project manager must verify its completion. The management of the development process extends from the beginning of the project until closing, making sure all the product specs, deadlines, and budgets are respected. The method of performance check is also very important, in this way everyone knows when the work is done and what “done” means. Also, if there is no performance, there is no pay, and the valuation of a project becomes objective. Some form of documentation or an inspection of the new system or facility in operation is a method of performance check.
Present the consortium. How does it fit the goals of the project and how does it harmonise the necessary know-how? How do the members complement each other’s knowledge (and cover the value chain, where applicable)? How does each party contribute to the project? Describe the role of each member, and prove they have the necessary resources for the fulfilment of their role.
Nobody can do it alone. I know there a lot of lone wolf entrepreneurs out there, but why struggle when you can work in a team? Just like a startup is rarely taken seriously if there is only one founder, grant applications also like to see consortiums, even applicants from different countries join forces and work on something great, something beyond themselves.
All this is too daunting? No problem, this is why we established the DealWorkshop. Just submit the project in its current form (free of charge) and let the Experts in the workshop fill in the missing bits. Some of them are professional grant application writers. Others will do the economic calculations and accounting work. Still others the copywriting. Please understand, if you don’t hand in your application, you will never ever be considered for a loan. For an investment. For anything. Get to work! Get noticed!