A Guide to UK Small Business Grants
Ask any entrepreneur or business owner what the largest obstacle they’ve ever encountered was and they’ll most likely say lack of funding. The age-old expressions “you have to speculate to accumulate” and “you need to spend money to make money” both come into play here, as risk-taking and having the capital to do so are integral to launching and growing a business.
That’s all well and good, but what if you simply don’t have enough money available and you don’t want to take out a huge loan with a high interest rate? Or what about if you’re willing to take out a loan but your bank won’t offer you one? When this is the case, it’s time to consider funding applications, which can unlock boundless potential for your business and help you take it to the next level.
What are small business grants?
The beauty of a grant is that you don’t pay it back. Whilst this may sound like a dream come true, it does make the application process highly complex and extremely competitive. Whilst a start-up grant is designed to help an entrepreneur cover the costs of setting up a new venture, small business grants focus on developing certain areas of an existing business and reaching specific milestones.
As we’re sure you can imagine, grants are a very popular route for all kinds of businesses, as they don’t need to be paid back like a loan, nor do they mean handing over some shares in the business to an equity investor. Instead, you receive the funds and use them to improve your organisation in the way that you outlined in your winning application. So, the next question is, how do you write a business grant application so that it grabs attention and stands out from countless others?
Top tips for writing a grant application
If you’re looking to apply for a business grant, there are multiple steps that must be followed:
1. Choose the right grant and funding source: Applying for an unsuitable grant wastes your time as well as that of the people who have to read it. Do some research first to ensure you’re applying for a grant that will create synergy between you and the funding body.
2. Allocate plenty of time: Rushing a grant application will very rarely bring the desired results. Instead, you need to think about each section thoroughly and explain your reasons for requesting the grant in a concise and impactful way. All questions need to be answered in full, with relevant data and facts given where requested, and the overall flow should make it easy for the funding board to read and digest. You may also be asked for testimonials or letters of support from clients, in which case you need to provide enough time for them to be supplied.
3. Have the right people in place: Applying for funding usually means that multiple people will be involved in using the money to achieve specific goals. For instance, it could be an R&D grant, in which case you need to show that you have a research and development team in place who can hit the ground running as soon as you receive the funding.
4. Consider your audience: So many businesses write a single funding bid and then use it every time they’re applying for a grant, regardless of who is offering the funds. This is a major pitfall, as the funding body could be anything from a government department to a LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) or even a charity that supports business growth. The tone of voice, direction and overall theme of the grant application must be fine-tuned so that it appeals to the people who are going to read it, so a copy and paste job will simply not suffice.
5. Explain how the money will benefit others: Sure, the funding will greatly benefit your business, but who else will gain from it? Will you be creating new jobs in the local area? Is it for a project that supports a local community? Is the funding going to increase diversity, inclusion and accessibility within your company? By explaining who will benefit and why, you make a much stronger case.
6. Share your passion: Grant applications for business funding can’t be too flowery but they can definitely include an element of storytelling. An exciting, passionate and focused application with a strong narrative will engage the reader and get your bid to the top of the pile.
7. Mitigate risk: If there’s any kind of risk involved in your planned project, make sure to mention it and then explain how your business will minimise the chances of it occurring. This could be in the form of strategic precautions or a contingency plan, as well as demonstrating your confidence in the project going ahead without any problems or delays.
8. Involve multiple people: A funding bid should never be created by a single person. Instead, it should contain input from stakeholders and senior management, plus it can even take into account any suggestions from employees and trusted individuals in your network. You should also ask some of your peers to read through your funding application and share their thoughts – you can do the same for them the next time they’re applying for financial support, making it a mutually beneficial arrangement.
9. Check, check and check again: From confirming facts, data and timelines to giving everything a thorough proof and edit, which includes chopping, changing and extending where required, your funding bid deserves ultimate attention to detail. Do not send it off before you’re 100% sure that it’s a strong contender, and always remain within the allocated word limit for each section.
10. Submit it on time: This may seem really obvious, yet some businesses do make the mistake of leaving a funding application until the last minute. Though it should still be accepted even if it’s sent five seconds before the deadline, what if you have computer or internet problems that slow you down? Providing you’ve followed all of the tips above, we recommend sending your application at least a few days before the deadline.
Support with grant applications and funding bids
As you can see from the information above, the writing of a funding application can take a very long time and requires all kinds of information and considerations. Whether you’ve never written one before or require expert guidance and support to greatly increase your chances for the next one, the business advisors at TreyBridge Accountants offer professional and cost-effective support.
Over the years we’ve helped multiple sole traders, company directors, partnerships and not-for-profit organisations to write successful funding bids. Whether you’re applying for a grant of just a few hundred pounds or have your eye on one that goes into six figures, get in touch to find out how we can take the headache out of the bid writing and funding application process.
We can also help you to make grant applications a regular and central component of your business growth strategy, which opens up multiple windows of opportunity. For example, the funds could go towards building your brand, expanding your workforce, reinforcing your company values, reducing your carbon footprint, enhancing your digital presence, providing Continuous Personal Development routes for your staff, engaging with your local community, ramping up your charitable activity, and of course fuelling your lead generation engine and sales pipeline.
What types of business grants are available?
There are so many different grants out there, which are offered by everything from local authorities and independent Local Enterprise Partnerships to banks, funding organisations, business accelerators and of course the Government. The nature of these business grants also varies enormously and they will usually focus on a particular area of operations. Here are a few categories of business grants that are available from numerous sources:
Arts, Culture & Heritage grants
Business Development grants
Children and Young People grants
Community Development grants
Cost of Living Crisis grants
Education and Training grants
Energy, Environment and Transport grants
Health, Justice and Welfare grants
Innovation, Research and Development grants
Land Buildings and Equipment grants
Neighbourhood Renewal and Regeneration grants
Rural Development grants
Schools and Colleges grants
Sports and Leisure grants
Technology and IT grants
The key is to work out which grants to apply for and do so in a precise manner, as taking a scattergun approach will only result in a lot of wasted time. If it all seems a bit too confusing or overwhelming, the business advisors at TreyBridge Accountants are here to determine which grants to apply for and support you in writing a strong application.
Business finance and support from the Government
The Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy usually has 100+ funding schemes available. These range from industry-specific grants to funding that’s allocated to businesses of a certain size or based in a particular geographical location. Take a look at these funding schemes to get a feel for what’s available, and make sure to use the tick-box column of categories to fine-tune the results and make them more relevant (e.g. you can specify the type of support, business stage, industry, number of employees, and/or region).
Are there any strings attached?
A funding body will never send you hundreds or thousands of pounds without making a few stipulations. Don’t worry though, as these requirements are usually very easy to follow, such as:
You may need to attend some workshops or training sessions beforehand.
There could be a time limit, such as an R&D project needing to be carried out and completed within 12 months.
The funds may only be available if you match them with the same amount, which could be a case of using your own capital or applying for match funding from another funding body.
In the majority of cases, the funder will ask for one or more reports that show how the money has been used and difference it has made. This may also need to take the form of a presentation, depending on the preferences of the funder. Either way, how you report back will be stated during the application process so that you can incorporate it into your schedule.
The team at TreyBridge is ready to help
We’re not just accountants, as we’re also tax consultants and business advisors who have extensive experience in guiding the grant application process. Rather than giving it a go yourself and potentially missing out on gaining access to significant funding, we will talk you through what’s required, identify the best grants to apply for, help you to write the application, and offer ongoing support whenever you need it. This greatly increases your chances of being awarded grant funding, which could see your business achieve its targets sooner and make room for setting ambitious new goals.
Don’t be afraid if you’ve never applied for a grant before and it’s also no problem if you don’t know what’s available, as that’s all part of the service we offer. We’ll sit down with a cuppa or meet with you via video conferencing software to talk you through your options and decide on the best course of action. Before you know it, you could be confidently applying for grant funding on a regular basis, enabling you to sustainably grow your business and reach key milestones in a much shorter time period.
Ask us about grant application support
Interested in applying for business grants and other funding? We’re ready to offer expert advice and recommendations, as well as help you write the application so that it stands out from the crowd. To get started, call our Northern office on 01482 235 575, our London office on 0207 885 0605 or fill in the contact form below.
Tagged as: Accountancy Tips & Advice
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