Let's have a tough conversation about grants...
Grant funds are usually created to fund public interests or social good causes. Grants are a way for larger entities to reinvest and give back to local communities. Their efforts are typically rewarded through tax write-offs, accolades, and their impact on the community, which, in turn, creates customer loyalty. This is an incredible loop and when used properly, it can truly change society. With the right people involved it will, but often, organizations that would be best suited to execute the mission of grants are unable to access the funds due to systematic barriers. In this article, we will review some of those barriers and how S. Jones Books and Education is working to make the granting process much more accessible to disadvantaged business owners.
The grants process is rigorous and starts long before you actually put in an application. It requires expert reading comprehension and the ability to decipher exactly what is required and requested in the often 20-120 page Requests for Proposals (RFP) or Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA), which are public announcements that grant monies are available and that the organization is asking for applications. It requires knowing where to look to find grant opportunities, how to construct attractive grant proposals (which can be 20-50 pages long), what documents and legal certifications need to be in place before applying, and how to position your company to have a high likelihood of winning.
Grants are highly competitive and require anywhere from 5-80 hours of time to complete one application. While running a business and trying to sustain operations, who has time for that when the chances of you winning are probably 1 out of 1,000 (or more)? This is where a grant writer comes in. Grant writers are experts at constructing grant proposals, and grants consultants can work with you long in advance to position your company to actually win awards... but where most small businesses miss out is when it comes to the large, luxurious expense of hiring a grant writer.
Since 2013, S. Jones Books and Education has worked diligently to minimize barriers small businesses face to hiring a grant writer and winning grant awards. Let's review the 3 main barriers and how SJBE can help you overcome them.
Strategic Alignment: Many organizations hear grants and think FREE MONEY, sign me up; however, free grant money is not so free! The purpose of grant money is for an organization to execute its mission through partnership with a small business or a non-profit organization (NPO) that has boots on the ground. Before you go applying for just any old grant (and investing your money on a grant writer), you need to determine whether, in essence, your business is actually aligned with the mission of the company that is issuing the grant. This makes it significantly more likely that you will actually win a grant award! SJBE consultants work with you to find organizations you align with and grants your business would have a high probability of winning, as well as private grant opportunities that require invitations to apply, and other, creative funding opportunities that will support your business objectives.
Preparation: Many organizations are not properly prepared for the grant process. They may lack things such as financial statements, an operating budget, a project design, or a plan for how they will actually use and account for the money they receive when they win the award. Expert consultants recommend preparing for the grant seeking process between 3-6 months before you start applying. SJBE will look at your company profile and help you get clear on what's needed to prepare your business, develop a grants strategy and database to keep your company on track with the process, and help you determine how and who to strategically partner with to make your business more attractive to funders.
Grant writers are expensive AF! Most small businesses simply cannot afford the cost of an expert grant writer. When entering the grant writing space, we recommend hiring an expert who can do more than write proposals; one who can add much more value in many more ways through their years of experience. Expert grant writers charge a pretty penny, anywhere from $125-200/hour. The average private grant application takes anywhere from 5-15 hours and the average public grant application can take anywhere from 20-80 hours to complete! You do the math! SJBE works with clients to minimize those costs by offering services that are 25-40% less than standard industry rates. We also offer payment plans and grant proposal packages that are project based rather than hourly, meaning you may get 2 proposals for the price of one! We have provided this arrangement since 2015 to ensure that we meet disadvantaged businesses where they are and fill in the gaps!
There's much more to learn about the grant process, and we're so happy to support you in your journey. For more information, complete this intake survey , so we can schedule a free, 15 minute consultation and get to the money!