By Teri Kirk
Ask any entrepreneur or executive about government funding and they will admit that the process of finding and accessing the right incentives can be complex and time-consuming.
Here are some of the top obstacles encountered by entrepreneurs and how you can avoid them.
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BE THE BIG FISH IN A LITTLE POND
Many companies tend to apply to the same four or five well-known funding programs, creating intense competition for those funds, rather than improving their chances through some of the lesser-known funds.
Conduct a thorough search for funding programs open to your industry sector and region. Then supplement your results by identifying funds that cater to your project objectives (staffing, R&D, etc.). Free tools like The Funding Portal Search Widget enable you to instantly find the optimal sources of funding for your company, with each funding source matched and ranked on the basis of your key criteria.
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DO SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Entrepreneurs get really excited about their strengths and assume – wrongly—that funders will overlook minor irregularities in their applications, but funders are required to adhere to their guidelines and adopt a rules based approach. Funders report that about 80% of applications are rejected for non-compliance.
Carefully examine your application against the fund’s eligibility criteria and required document checklist. Never assume that “almost” meeting a criterion will get you through the qualification process.
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WRITE FOR YOUR AUDIENCE
Entrepreneurs and applicants in general use too much industry jargon or advanced technical expertise. Yikes! Write for a government funding agency—not your colleagues down the hall.
Once you are done writing your initial draft, read it over carefully checking for any technical language or acronyms that you may have left unexplained. Ask yourself whether someone from outside your industry would understand your project after reading the application.
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WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT YOU GET
Applicants assume that information provided in the funder’s application form or website is comprehensive and up-to-date. In fact, programs are often changed to reflect shifting public policy or economic priorities that are not reflected on the site.
Conduct as much research as possible on the fund to which you want to apply – check prior news releases and consult your business community to get first-hand advice. You can also take an extra step by researching the fund’s disbursement history to learn who previously received financing under the fund. This will give you a realistic idea of how much funding you may be able to secure.
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MULTIPLY AND GO FORTH
Entrepreneurs are a confident lot and often think that the job is done by applying to a single fund.
Companies that are successful at securing government funding incorporate it into their financing strategy, often re-purposing their application for multiple projects and over many years. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket by overlooking potential funds. And don’t forget to stay on top of new funding opportunities by subscribing to government and industry publications.