Monday, June 1, 2015

What you need to know about business grant competitions

While all grants are competitive, some truly are competitions.

For instance take the Chase Bank/LinkedIn program, Mission Main Street. One of the comparatively few funding competitions dedicated to existing small business owners, this now four year old program has a voting component that requires applicants to receive at least 250 votes to remain in consideration for the award.

Although that requirement is largely dependent on how many of your friends, relatives, and social media followers you can get to vote for you, you really need to read ALL the rules before applying.

For instance, this particular opportunity requires applicant firms to have been an existing business for at least two years prior to the contest opening date.

Even more important than reading every word of the fine print is understanding why business entities offer these funds in the first place. This truly a case of knowing the needs of your audience.

While corporate boards may have members interested in philanthropy as a general concept, their business motives are not purely altruistic.

This type of RFP is about marketing.

Banks typically have a love-hate relationship with businesses and communities. Nobody admits to liking the banking industry, but everyone understands that it is a necessity.

That means that the more people that banks and corporations can persuade to view their industry in a positive light, the more likely they are to remember that bank or company later.

The Chase opportunity requires that you get 250 unique votes  on your proposal by June 19 on the bank's voting page to move on to the final award round.

Just for kicks, I searched on competitors from Texas, just because it’s a big state. Only two out of 25 had more than the required 250 votes. Nevertheless, everyone who visited the voting page now knows that Chase offers small business a chance at a pretty good chunk of money.

That's a pretty good subliminal message.

Another consideration is that banks need successful businesses to become depositors, and hopefully bring their employees and customers along. What better way to introduce prospective customers to the bank than through a contest?

In short, when replying to the essay questions, it isn't going to hurt if you indicate that you already have a good customer base or several employees of your own and show that you want and are able to increase those numbers.

Whether you are a for-proft or a nonprofit, it is important to understand what your grantor needs to accomplish by awarding funds to your organization. 

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