It doesn't matter how skilled you are or how brilliant your business idea is, there is one thing every business owner needs to grow their operations—money. Whether it's for launching a website, purchasing furniture, or renting an office space, you can't get your business off the ground if you don't have enough money to execute your plans. Unfortunately, securing enough funds can be a challenge, especially if you're a small business. If you're looking for viable funding opportunities, government grants can be a great option.
Whether you're new to business or just to the business of applying for grants, this post addresses a few essential questions to help you decide if this path suits your needs.
What is a government grant?
There are many kinds of government grants, but today we're talking about public funds set aside to help businesses grow and develop. Every year, the Australian government puts millions of dollars toward the advancement of the business sector, and a certain amount of this money is awarded to select businesses in the form of grants to help them achieve their stated goals. It's important to keep in mind that grants are usually given for specific business projects or to help businesses recover from the impact of a specified crisis rather than for funding normal business operations.
Should government grants be repaid?
In most cases, government grants needn't be repaid. In addition to not having to pay back the principal, you also don't have to pay interest or give up any equity or ownership in your business. Even though grants mainly deal with financial funding, they may also offer help in the form of training or providing advisory services to guide businesses in the right direction.
Which businesses are eligible to receive grants?
The Australian government provides financial assistance to businesses, sole traders, and not-for-profit organisations across a wide range of industries, which includes but is not limited to:
- Arts and Recreation Services
- Education and Training
- Financial and Insurance Services
- Health Care
- Social Assistance
- Rental and Real Estate Services
- Retail Trade
- Transport and Warehousing
- Wholesale Trade
However, whether or not your business receives financial assistance will entirely depend on the eligibility criteria set for each grant and how well your application fares against your competition.
Where can I find details of all government grants?
Researching and applying for the right grant opportunity may improve your chances of getting funding. However, with so many grants out there, it can get challenging to spot all the government funding opportunities your business is eligible for. The government’s grants and programs finder tool can be good place to start. Upon entering details like your business' postal code, industry, and the kind of support you seek, you can find grants or programs your business is eligible to apply for, and what form of assistance you'll receive if your application is approved.
You can further continue your research through GrantConnect, the Australian government's web-based information system that allows all potential grant applicants to find all publicly available grant opportunities and related documentation. By registering yourself for free, you can sign up to be notified through email of all new Commonwealth grant opportunities based on your specific areas of interest for your business.
How long will it take for grants to be approved?
Perhaps one of the largest downsides to government grants is that process of applying and getting approved for one can be incredibly time-consuming. From investing your time to draft a perfect application to waiting to receive your funds, it can take weeks or even months. Each grant has a deadline for accepting applications and that often varies based on how much the total grant is worth and for how many businesses the government is ready to extend aid to. Furthermore, the duration of the approval process also depends on how many applications they receive and how competitive they are.
What do you need to apply for a government grant?
The prerequisites for each grant will vary, but you will always need to:
Write a compelling application that defines your project and budget, how you plan to spend the funding, and how receiving the funds contributes to the grant's overall objectives
Have the right documents and paperwork to show important business evidence, such as your business' annual turnover, the number of years you've been running the business, compliance and tax documents, and more
Demonstrate a clear understanding of the grant guidelines to prove you know what areas the money should and shouldn't be spent on
Tips for creating an excellent grant application
A grant application isn't just another document template that you can copy-paste for every grant you submit. Your application must be tailored to the specific grant you're seeking. In case you don't have enough time to devote to writing a targeted grant application, it's best to seek help from individual grant writers or agencies that specialise in crafting a perfect grant proposal.
If you do wish to take up the task on your own, there are still resources available to you. Check out this guide by the Victorian Government on how to write a good grant application. Community Grants Hub also has a comprehensive guide with examples on how to draft a perfect grant application. Have a look at it here.
Apart from that, here are a few tips we'd like you to keep in mind for writing your grant application.
Follow a professional and consistent writing style throughout your application, and avoid using unnecessary conversational language or abbreviations. The goal is for your message to be as straightforward and concise as possible.
Keep in mind that the guidelines for each grant may vary. Pay attention to even the smallest details, such as the word or page limit, and provide all the necessary documents or details that you've been asked to submit.
Set realistic and achievable goals that will show the fund were put to appropriate use. Yes, a brilliant project idea could be the deciding factor for your business being picked over others, but be sure that it's something you can reasonably produce with the funds allotted.
Do extensive research on previous recipients of the grant you're going for. If you get an opportunity, talk with them to learn what they did differently or how they approached their projects.
Remember that your application will be one of hundreds, so make sure you put in enough effort to stand out from the crowd. Whether you want to incorporate a short case study from an actual client you served or want to present evidence that shows how your past projects have benefited people, include any details that show how your business stands apart.
Finally, have your application reviewed by critical editors and aim to submit it ahead of time rather than postponing it to the last minute. You never know when you may run into unforeseen errors or want to include something you hadn't thought of before.
Obtaining government grants isn't as easy as one would assume, but the benefits they can provide to your small business' growth could be enormous. If this is the path you choose to go down, increase your chances of success by devoting enough time and effort to prepare a targeted application, and win the financial support your business deserves. We hope this post gives you some clarity about government grants and what to expect when applying for them. Have any other topics you'd like us to cover? Let us know in the comments!
Note: This article is intended only to help small business owners get a basic understanding of government grants and should not be interpreted as legal advice for making business decisions. If you're unclear whether a specific grant is right for you, we recommend contacting the grant officer directly or speaking to a business consultant.