By: Micki Vandeloo, President, Lakeview Consulting
We love to partner with our manufacturing and trade association clients to create a grant strategy. We truly believe that, just as organizations should have a strategic plan, they should also have a grant strategy.
We find, however, that companies tend to set rather unrealistic expectations for grant success and timing. I have come up with five tips to help your organization set a realistic and effective grant strategy.
Tip 1: List all your known upcoming projects
The first tip to setting up a realistic grant strategy is to list all your upcoming projects. This list can come from your Capital Expenditure (CapEx) Budget, or from your strategic plan activities section. List the projects, their start and end dates, the budget for each one, and the activities to be included in each project (training, capital or facility investment, research and development, exporting, recycling equipment investment, energy efficient investments, etc). Once you have this list, you have a great start to a grant strategy.
Tip 2: Find all grants you qualify for and prioritize by deadline/project
You can’t establish a grant strategy until you know which grants you can apply for. My suggestion is that you find all the grants you are eligible to apply for from local, state and federal sources. The Manufacturing Grant Database is a great tool to help you identify grants from state and federal sources as it is updated on a monthly basis, and allows you to sort grants by the state(s) your projects will take place in and the activities you listed when putting together your project list. You can then match the possible sources of funding to your projects. Be sure to prioritize the opportunities you wish to pursue based on deadline or project timing as you can’t work on all applications at one time.
Tip 3: Budget a healthy balance of grant awards versus other revenue
Any project can be funded by a grant, but you can almost never expect a grant to pay for 100% of a project cost. Grant funders expect companies to contribute a match to the grant funds, typically 25 to 50% of the total project cost in cash or a combination of cash and other match sources. So, when you are setting your grant strategy, remember to account for a portion of the costs of your projects in cash commensurate with the percentage funders are willing to pay from their grant funds. Also, remember that you won’t get every grant you apply for, so set your expectations for grant revenue accordingly.
Tip 4: Consider the time needed to get a grant
When you are establishing a grant strategy, assume the first grant award will not occur for 2-3 months following the establishment of your strategy. It takes time to compile a grant application and, once submitted, grant funders take a few weeks to a month typically to review the application and make an award determination (longer if it is a federal grant). Typically, project costs are reimbursed from grants (funding is provided after you prove you have completed a part or all of the proposed activities), it may take 6-12 months to actually see grant funds from the establishment of your strategy, depending on the timing of the project and the reporting requirements and processing time from the grant funding organization.
Tip 5: Update the grant strategy on a monthly basis
The manufacturing grant landscape, meaning the type and number of grants available to manufacturers from state and federal sources, is constantly changing as political priorities and state budgets change. As an example, a grant you have identified as a potential source of funding for one or more projects may not be offered when the state’s fiscal year changes due to changing political priorities. New funding opportunities are coming out all the time as well, and you are always working on new projects, so you want to stay on top of all those changes and ensure your strategy is current. I recommend a monthly check of both funding opportunities and new internal projects.
The good news is, you don’t have to do all this work yourself! We at Lakeview Consulting often partner with manufacturers and trade associations to identify potential funding opportunities based on projects, establish a grant strategy, refresh research on a monthly basis, and meet with our clients monthly to stay on top of new projects and discuss progress on the strategy. Whether you do it internally, or utilize our services, be sure to utilize the tips above to develop an effective grant strategy and be realistic with your expectations!