There are many benefits of operating a sustainable business, one of which is the ability to receive outside contributions and grants. While a sustainable business – as with any commercial operation – is naturally committed to supporting itself through profit raised from its products and services, it also often shares ideologies more suitable of a non-profit or an NGO.
A sustainable enterprise has a cause distinct from revenue and supports an ideal in addition to the product behind which it stands. Such values often gain favor among government agencies, advocacy organizations, and environmental groups – entities all of which are willing to give out grants to companies that support their cause.
How can you get one of these grants for your sustainable business? Often times it is simply a matter of luck. For example, your business may lie in a narrow field, a new grant might be established in that area, and the business will then receive the grant’s funding after applying and outlasting the meager competition. But most grants are not this easy to secure. Most grants are competitive. Most grants do not perfectly apply to your company’s interests and needs (or, if they do, there are probably many other businesses that qualify). And most grants a good deal of time and effort to apply. What is the sustainable business manager to do?
There is no easy answer to this question, but here are some tips for improving your chances of getting funding:
-Look local. A wealth of internet resources can help businesses find grants that fit well with their narrow niche. But there’s another subcategory that often gets overlooked: grants that found enterprises in a local area. Sometimes these grants are provided by municipal governments, other times they are offered by private initiatives. Either way, a local grant is often far easier to apply for and to get. You can start by cracking open the Yellow Pages (or go online to www.yp.com) and seeing if there’s a sustainable endowment or initiative in your region.
-Have a vision. Grant providers don’t want to simply see that a business is strong and growing. Instead, they want to also be treated to a vision of the future – a vision, specifically, of how that grant money will be spent. While this question is often asked on grant applications, businesses all too often provide generic answers. The stronger the vision and the greater the degree of specificity, the higher the likelihood of winning the grant.
-Get support. As with much in life, getting a grant often requires a business manager to play politics, especially if the funding is federally-provided. On that note, just as you would do when applying to college or graduate school, impressive letters of recommendation can often be used to bolster your case. Explain your needs and your vision to a powerful business acquaintance. Send a request to the office of your congressperson or senator. You can even find ordinary citizens who are willing to write passionately about your cause.
-Don’t give up. Competition maybe fierce and funding may be hard to get, but there are still numerous grants out there for which your sustainable business may qualify. Perhaps the best advice, then, is to keep applying, keep trying, and keep hoping for the best. If you get sick of the applications, you can always head over to Craigslist or a similar site and find someone that can cheaply do the grant writing for you. Someday all your hard work, hopefully, will pay off.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind when looking to improve your chances of landing a grant. Although the process of getting funding can be an incredibly arduous one, the end result is usually worthwhile. Keep that in mind the next time you’re faced with a lengthy application that you have no motivation to complete. Good luck.
Grants Image via Shutterstock
This is a Guest Post by Samantha Peters, who frequently writes for entrepreneurial and tech blogs to share her perspectives on topics of social interest and importance to eco-conscious business people.