Most of us (I hope) watched Kung Fu Panda and you may remember how the dad of the main character was famous for his bowl of noodles. It was delicious and very popular presumably because of the secret ingredient. Well, at the end of the movie, it turned out there was no secret ingredient.

Many times, companies and organizations approached me asking to give a talk on grants for companies. Invariably, the conversation will turn into a discussion of how to write a successful grant proposal. My answer could be very simple: just follow the guidelines. But because it is so simple, no one would believe me. (Well… there is a bit of art to it, too, but this is a story for a separate blog.)

So, today, I will give an extended version of “just follow the guidelines”.

What makes a successful grant proposal?

What I mean by following the guidelines is that you really have to sit down and sift through the text of funding program guidelines and get to the core of the content. What I usually do is print out and go line by line through the guidelines, digesting every single word of it. Why? Because it is easy to miss the crucial piece.

I know it sounds boring and you must be yawning by now just reading about it.

But let me ask you – do you want that money? Yes? Then you may want to keep reading.

The eligibility criteria typically has three parts:

Who can apply for the funding?

What can be applied for the funding?

When can you apply for the funding?

Let’s quickly look at each of these.

Who can apply for the funding?

If the funding is for non-profits and you are for profit, then obviously you won’t be eligible. If the funding is for non-profits and you happen to be non-profit, then you may want to keep reading to understand what types of non-profits can apply. Let’s say you are a small group of female entrepreneurs, but the funding is for angel-investor groups. My advice to you in this case: keep looking for funding somewhere else. This particular program would most likely be a waste of time for you.

What can be applied for funding?

Have you noticed how funding programs would say they cover up to $x.xx of the eligible cost? Most of us would only notice the dollar amount and immediately get excited about it. The trick is in “eligible costs” – again, read them through and see if yours qualify.

When can you apply for funding?

The program deadlines are easy to spot and take notice of. What else you should pay attention to are such things as:

Is there a limitation on the age of your company? (Does it have to have been at least one year in operation? Can it be older than three years? etc.)

Do you need to show financials for the last two years? If so, most likely you need to have been at least two years in operation. And young start-ups (less than two years old) will not qualify, even though the program did not explicitly say so.

To Sum Up

In summary, if you can, try to separate yourself from your company and look at it from a person-on-the-street perspective. Be honest with yourself. All three elements need to fit nicely with your company profile to satisfy the eligibility criteria.

Imagine there is a grant for digital media companies. If the grant says “50% of your revenue must come from digital content sales”, it must come from the digital content sales. If you have been selling a toy and now want to turn it into an online game, your company is NOT eligible. You did not sell any digital products before. The other part – your company moving into digital products – fits perfectly with the grant goals, but because of this little sentence in the eligibility criteria, the application will not be successful.

But don’t be discouraged! Honestly, you never know – and who knows, even if you are not eligible you can still get funding. Just be proactive, ask questions, and do not give up! Good luck!

ConnexFund specializes in grants and funding for innovative companies and start-ups with focus on technology and manufacturing. Many Canadian businesses are aware that there is some free money available for them. But not so many know where to find it, how to access it and how to prepare a grant application that is successful. And this is exactly what ConnexFund does!