By: Micki Vandeloo, President, Lakeview Consulting
In the last article, we talked about federal grants and the role they could play in your success as a manufacturing company. We also talked about the strings attached to federal grants. In this article, we will talk about some best practices for securing federal and state manufacturing grant money. These tried-and-true techniques will help you access grants (and sometimes sizeable ones) while avoiding some of the pitfalls noted in the last article.
Find a Partner to Apply for a Manufacturing Grant or Participate in Grant Funded Activities
Many federal grants (as well as an increasing number of state grants) require a partnership between the applicant and an educational institution, trade association and/or a nonprofit. If you can find a qualifying partner, your company or the partner can apply for the grant as the primary funding recipient (typically the one conducting the majority of the activities proposed in the grant applies as the primary recipient) and the other partner(s) are sub-recipients who will receive the money allocated to them in the proposal budget if funding is awarded.
Many manufacturers struggle with finding and engaging partners for this purpose. It is for that reason that at Lakeview Consulting we offer Partnership Identification and Development Coaching for our clients. This service provides research into eligible partners for funding opportunities and assistance with engaging those partners, including documenting the partnership using a Memorandum of Understanding or Letter of Support, facilitating partnership meetings, and designing a partnership to meet a funder’s requirements and create awesome outcomes when the project is complete.
Utilize Teaming Partner Lists
If you provide services to a sector eligible for a federal grant, but aren’t eligible to apply directly, you can submit your company’s information on a Teaming Partner List. This list is used by applicants to identify partners for funding applications. It is simple to submit information on a Teaming Partner List. If you wish to learn how to do so, contact me, and our team will be happy to help walk you through the process!
Properly Design Your Project Using Proven Tools
To submit a winning funding application for either a state or federal grant, you must have a clearly stated and detailed plan for how you will spend the money. Tools like Logic Models can help you identify what you plan to do; who is going to do those activities (which is where partners may come in); how much money will be needed to do those activities; and the outcomes (what will change as a result of the proposed effort) you expect to achieve. Those outcomes must match the outcomes the funder desires to assure you have the best chance of receiving a grant.
Rely on the Expertise of an Experienced Manufacturing Grant Writer
A qualified, experienced manufacturing grant writer (such as the ones employed by Lakeview Consulting), will provide an honest and informed evaluation of a grant opportunity and its “fit” with your planned growth projects. They can provide a detailed assessment of how your project would score if you applied for the funding (and the gaps you need to address to increase your score and chance of funding) and can provide explanation of funder terminology that impacts the project “fit”.
It should be noted that, in the interest of leaving no stone unturned and not assuming a funding opportunity won’t be a fit, an experienced grant researcher will often identify opportunities that need to be discussed with the client to provide this evaluation of “fit”. It is best to have this discussion prior to applying to avoid wasted time and effort on both the client’s and grant consultant’s part applying for something that has a very small chance of being funded.
Talk to the Funder Before Applying
This is probably the most under-utilized but best practice for ensuring your project can be funded by a particular grant. The vast majority of funding opportunities list a point of contact for questions about the funding opportunity. It is highly recommended that, especially for larger grant opportunities, you schedule a call with the funder before developing an application to make sure your proposed project is a fit with what the funder wants to fund. It is imperative that you are ready for this discussion by developing your detailed project plan as noted above. Some funders will want you to share your project details with them prior to scheduling a discussion.
If there is no contact identified, check the opportunity website to see if there have been any webinars to explain the program or if there are any scheduled. Webinars are great tools to find out the details about a funding program and get questions answered.
I hope these tips are helpful to you as you search for grants to support your work or prepare to apply for those opportunities. We at Lakeview Consulting stand ready to help if you are interested in finding and pursuing grant opportunities!