Is it worthwhile applying for grants?
Before rushing into a grant application you really need to ask yourself the question ‘will it be worth my time and effort?’
If you are desperate for cash you might be willing to spend any amount of time on your application but most business owners will be wanting to trade off risk and reward, and be clear how much effort will be required for a given outcome which is never guaranteed despite a potentially complex and lengthy application process.
This is where good preparation comes in because a business owner should only be going to the trouble of applying for a grant if they are confident that they fit all the criteria in terms of sector, size and location etc., and they can make a good case for the grant. ‘Hit and hope’ is not an application strategy we recommend!
Understanding what the eventual outcome could look like is important since there is obviously a big difference between a 10% grant and a 90% grant. However the grant percentage is only one relevant factor since you also need to understand the maximum and minimum grant sizes of each programme, and if they are a fit with your project. Another relevant issue is project size, so it is the combination of these three parameters that decides what you might actually receive. For instance, a 10% grant on a £100k project would be more beneficial than a 50% grant on a maximum project size of £12k so as always the devil is in the detail.
Location can also be a big determinant since LEPs often try to encourage business growth in economically disadvantaged areas. By way of an example, a recent project for a manufacturing business involved a programme with a minimum project size of £50k for capital equipment, and the business was nominally eligible for a grant that was equivalent to 10% of the total project spend. However, because they were situated in an economically disadvantaged area they were deemed to be eligible for an additional 10%. Once the project spend was calculated they were therefore offered a grant of £16k based on a project size of £83k which equated to 20% of the project spend.
Applying for grants – the application process
Once we understand what grant is potentially available, we then need to understand how the application process works, and in general grant providers tend to follow a sequential process which involves:
- Initial registration / expression of interest
- Detailed application and / or site visit / meeting
- Formal grant offer
- Project spend by the applicant
- Submission of the claim form and associated documentation including invoices
- Payment of grant
From this sequence of events, you can already see that most applications are heavy on process and if you get it wrong it will bite you on the bum. We’ve seen it a number of times and there is nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of time on an application only to fall at the last hurdle because your paper trail is not in order. It is absolutely vital to read through all the guidelines, understand what is required from you and then follow those instructions to the letter.
It is also important to understand that the entire process will usually take months rather than weeks from start to finish so if you need grant funding urgently then think again. Avoid the temptation to complete your project spend before receiving your grant offer because that will almost certainly invalidate your claim. You also need to be aware that grant funding is usually paid on a retrospective basis so you will need to arrange 100% of the funding for your project and then claim it back afterwards.
To the uninitiated, grant application forms can seem very complex and intimidating and applicants will find them littered with terms like GVA, state aid, and de minimis, and requiring projections of future turnover, staff numbers and profitability etc. If you do not understand something then either email or call up the grant provider and ask. Their staff members are usually helpful and knowledgeable and you are unlikely to be asking a question that they have not heard before. However, in most cases, they are not there to complete the application for you so the onus is still on you to understand what is required, gather the information, and make a good case.
As in all aspects of business life, applying for grants is a skill and can be a challenge to get right. Seek out expert help to reduce your own stress levels and improve the chances of success.
Straight talking advice on applying for grants – that would be Yorkshire Powerhouse
Have you any questions?
Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you, do you have any further questions or can we help introduce you to an expert – please let us know:
Having an understanding of what grant providers are looking for is critical to the process but almost all grants seek business growth in one form or another