Not all grants are created equally & how to know which ones are for you!!
There's no denying that the number one thing that I spend time on these days is helping to educate as many people as possible about how to access as much funding & investment support as they are entitled to for their business to grow and expand.
There is a fairly even split between those that approach me with grants that they want to apply for and those that are not sure what is 'out there' and are looking for help to identify and prepare to apply for them.
Today I want to share about the main differences and categories of grants & rebates that are available from the State & Federal governments.
The main focus of goverment programs are to support and boost businesses, services and products that are;
Supporting a 'marginalised group - such as women in business & rural areas
Expanding businesses into different states or overseas markets
Increase employment opportunities - especially for youth, those with disabilities or in regional areas
As such, if your project, product or service ticks one or more of these boxes, the likelihood of being successful in proceeding through funding rounds will increase. That being said, there is no guarantee that funding will be approved at any level for any project - but the more prepared you arem, the better your chance will be.
There are 3 main differences with how grants & rebates are issued;
Non-Competitive grant programs
Eligibility based rebates
Most grants are overwhelmingly competitive in nature. This is VERY evident in the debacle with the release of the Queensland Small Business grants in May 2022 where the system was unable to cope with the number of applications & the grants were awarded to those who applied up to the point that funding was exhausted.
The best examples of Competitive funding would be the following programs;
Most of these are now calling for an "Expression of Interest" in the first instance, rather than expecting a full application. This means that businesses put forward their absolute best case in a succinct form for the assessors to review & decide which of the potential projects will best achieve the purpose of the funding. These businesses are then 'short listed' and invited to submit a full application. This saves the business a significant amount of time and money in preparing detailed applications and it saves the assessors a lot of time of reading applications that are 'underprepared'.
There is still a lot of work to be completed for any EOI, but this is work that should be completed anyway for a project of substance that is looking to access $100k+ of government funding.
When you are invited to actually submit a full application for these grants, there is a LOT of work involved, requiring the following to be provided (as an absolute minimum);
Cashflows & Projections
Go To Market Strategy, including market research & marketing plan
Team members - external advisers & internal expertise
Previous & current year financial statements
Intellectual Property protection and appropriate corporate structuring
Pitch Deck or even a Pitch Video by the directors
It is also important that the applications adequately address the specific selection criteria & the 'purpose' of the funding. This is where most applications 'fall short' and where I spend a significant amount of my time 'adjusting' the written responses of business owners to be more 'aligned with the requirement of the funding criteria'. It is important to tell your 'story', but it is also imperative to specifically answer the questions asked (and usually with a VERY limited amount of words or characters - it is surprising how quickly you can use 300 characters).
If ANY of the answers are not what the assessors are looking for, the entire application can be rejected, even if all of the other work completed on supporting documentation is amazing. The assessors will usually look at supporting documentation to prove that you have done the 'foundation work' prior to applying for the grant, but it will NOT be read unless the short response questions are completed appropriately.
There are a number of programs that are NOT competitive, but there is still a rigourous Expression of Interest & application process. A widely known example of non-competitive funding is the Accelerating Commercialisation program, which can offer up to $1M of matched funding.
For this program, once you prepare & lodge an EOI, there is a case officer assigned to assist you to work through the process of being approved. The conditions of this program are very strict & involve the following;
Have a product ready to go to market BUT not actually have received revenue yet
Have received some investment & able to receive further BUT not received it yet
Have a guarantee of a market & customers & go to market strategy BUT no actual contract of sale
Have a full business plan & cost projections & an investment & marketing strategy
There are other programs, such as QRIDA that provide funding and loans for a range of rural businesses.
Non competitive funding is similar to applying for a loan. There isn't necessarily a set amount of applicants, but there is still a limited amount of funding available and applicants need to show how the funding for a particular project will be applicable to the purpose of the department that is offering the funding.
Eligibility Based Rebates
It may seem that eligibility based rebates and non-competitive are the same, but they are slightly different.
Many government departments will offer rebates & discounts off certain fees and obligations for some businesses with certain conditions.
One of the most well known, yet complicated & less understood, programs is the Research & Development Tax Incentive, that is facilitated by AusIndustry & paid out by the Australian Tax Office in a company tax return.
The Export Market Development Grant program used to be eligibility based, in that you would receive a rebate of 50% of money spent on eligible activities, but it has now converted to a competitive program.
Overwhemingly, when I speak with assessors about their biggest concerns or frustrations or why applications were not approved, it is because;
applications were 'under-prepared'
the product or service or business wasn't at the minimum required level for the funding
the application didn't adequately address the requirements of the funding in the answers
there was too much 'perceived risk' of providing a particular business with substantial funding - inexperienced team, unrealistic financial projections, etc
I have developed a range of tools to assist through this process & help business owners be as informed as possible during this process. Go to my Funding & Grants website & I will send you even more information and tips on maximising your success.
You can also reach out directly to discuss what opportunities & options you may be able to access & for assistance with making sure you have everything you need prepared BEFORE you start down the path of applying for the numerous sources of funding that your business may be eligible for - troyschoenfisch.com/meet.