Growing U.S. manufacturing companies engaging in facility or capital investment, recycling, exporting, market expansion due to trade imbalances or training can qualify for grants and should pursue them to increase return on investment, expand markets (and sales), and help the company prosper for the next generation of American workers.
While the funds are available, there are a few steps to take prior to either searching for or finding grants. The steps listed below will help U.S.-based manufacturers be officially “grant ready.”
Develop A Strategic Plan
A strategic plan is the compass for the organization. It defines the mission, vision and activities needed to take the company from where it is now to where it wants to be. Any projects, including those for which the company will seek grant funding, must tie into the organization’s strategic plan, and, most specifically, the mission.
Many grant applications will ask for the company’s mission and other items from the strategic plan. If a manufacturer does not have a strategic plan, it is best to develop one before beginning the funding search.
Assemble a Strong Team
A strong cross functional team is highly recommended for solid project design, but it is also important to use such a group to help identify grants for a project and to help apply for grants. Cross functional teams provide a variety of perspectives to inform the research and writing projects. At a minimum, representatives from operations, finance and management functions are solid team members, and, if partners are employed (other manufacturers, nonprofits, etc.), a representative should be on the team as well.
Create or Update Important Business Documents
Grant applications require business forms such as organization charts and key staff resumes as part of the submission. The following information should be kept in a binder or file so that the information may be frequently updated and ready for grant applications:
- Most recent audited financial statements
- List of Board of Directors members with term expirations and titles
- Organizational chart
- Key project team members’ resumes
- DUNS number
- EIN number
- Business plan
Define Your Project Plans
With a strong strategic plan in place, most manufacturers will be able to identify potential projects directly from the action items section. To ensure that no stone is left unturned, manufacturers should keep a prioritized list of planned projects, which includes the project plan, list of activities to be done during the project, who will do them, how much it will cost to do them, and the outcome associated with the project (what will change when the project is complete). As noted in the previous article in this series, the outcomes are what funders will fund and the list of outcomes is valuable to help guide the search for potential funding sources.
To ensure that efforts to find and obtain funding are done in the most efficient and consistent way, it is important to have grant expertise on-staff or available on an ongoing basis. If the funding needs are consistent, a manufacturer may choose to employ a part-time or full-time grant expert person to perform ongoing grant research and writing. If not, there is the possibility of employing a freelance grant consultant on a per-project or retainer basis. When hiring a consultant or an internal grant expert, manufacturers should check references and ask the potential employee/consultant for a history of grants submitted and their success rate. This helps ensure that the consultant hired will provide the best chance of identifying and securing grant funding.
Develop a Communication Plan
A communication plan is vital to the grant research and application process. This includes determining the structure and frequency of grant status meetings, as well as the ways information on potential grants, applications, and awards will be shared within the grant team and throughout the organization. Conducting regular grant team status meetings is critical to the success of the grant research and application processes. Proper communication will save time and prevent misunderstandings and errors.