Checklist for Using Grant Funds Effectively
Grants can be an important resource in developing a new agricultural business. A grant can provide seed money for exploring a business opportunity, supply working capital for a business plan or provide assistance in other ways.
Below are keys to the effective use of grants, according to industry professionals at the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC). Use these keys as a checklist for successful usage of grants.
- Grants are not “free money,” according to Don Hofstrand, business development specialist at AgMRC. “Groups may believe that grant money can be used for any purpose they want. In other words, it is like receiving “free” money. However, grant money can only be used for the purpose outlined in the RFP (request for proposals) by the granting organization.”
- Receiving a grant is not an “end in itself.” Receiving a grant is just a step in the business development process. The end goal is to create a successful business venture. According to Hofstrand, the task is not complete upon receipt of a grant. It is usually just the beginning.
- Do you need a grant? Grant funds are usually used to finance the investigation of a business concept, provide working capital for ramping-up a business or other purpose. Grant funds can be used to supplement existing funds, which may include funds provided by the farmer group itself. They should not be considered as a replacement for your own funds. “If you are serious about this project, you need to invest some of your own funds,” Hofstrand said.
- Are you ready for a grant? You should have a specific purpose and specific achievable goals for the use of grant funds. If you don’t, you are not ready for a grant. For example, if you are exploring a business idea or concept, do you have specific aspects of the concept you want to explore? If you are using the funds to finance a feasibility study, has the business concept sufficiently been defined to receive the maximum benefit from the study? If you are using the funds to provide working capital for a start-up business, are all elements in place, including financing for the other aspects of the business or business start-up? In other words, where are you in the business development process?
For additional suggestions about locating, applying for and guidelines on grant funds, visit www.agmrc.org.