Tips for Writing a Winning Amber Grant Application
April 1st 2019
Free money for startup businesses is extremely scarce. So it’s important to invest time in putting your best foot forward in every grant application you submit, including WomensNet’s Amber Grant program.
That doesn’t mean preparing a business plan-length tome but, rather, hitting hard on why your business or product is viable and worthy of funding.
At least that’s what the advisory board of WomensNet, which awards monthly Amber Grants of $2,000 to aspiring or existing women-owned businesses, recommended when asked what the best applications contain.
Here are other suggestions they shared about applications that resulted in grant money:
1. Address questions on the application directly and fully
Our Amber Grant application has several writing prompts designed to get a complete picture of the entrepreneur and her business concept. Sure, there is probably plenty of information on the company’s website and social media profiles, but that won’t always provide a cohesive story. Put all the information needed to understand your business right in your application.
Specific questions include:
– What’s the story behind your business? This is your chance to answer the “why” and the “how” behind your business. Why is it important to you? How did you come up with the idea? What has been your experience thus far in starting it?
–What motivates you? Facts and figures about the business could go here as background, but answers to this question should also address who the entrepreneur is as a person. What’s important to you and why? What’s your connection to this business idea?
–What are the opportunities and challenges? Amber Grants are awarded in the hope of helping a business grow or expand, or meet the needs of an untapped market. It’s useful in this section to detail how large your market is and how much demand you’ve uncovered. But also be upfront about any obstacles you’ve encountered or anticipate. Don’t try and pretend there will be no challenges – that will reduce your credibility.
–Tell us what you would do with the money if awarded a grant. Break out how you’d spend the $2,000 and the annual $25,000 grant. Price out different items you would invest in, such as new equipment, Facebook ads, or materials. Whenever possible, show how resourceful you can be in making that money stretch as far as possible.
2. Do your research
Apply for a grant the same way you would apply for a job. Take a few minutes to read about past grant recipients, learn more about the organization sponsoring the grant, and adhere to the specific requirements outlined (an FAQ page is typically a good place to start).
Use winning applications from other grant programs as your model.
3. Err on the side of a lengthier application
Telling the story of how you came up with your business idea, why you think the time is now to start it, how large your market is, and what the response has been thus far should take more than 200-300 words. If that’s all you can come up with, wait to submit an application until you have more to say about your business.
That said, don’t drone on about irrelevant facts in order to make the length of your application more substantial. If you can explain your idea, who you are, and what you’ll use the money for in 800 or 1,000 words, stop there. Conversely, if you need closer to 2,000 words to make your case, use them. Beyond that length, however, it’s likely you’re going overboard with specificity or repeating yourself.
The average Amber Grant application is roughly 600 words, though the average length of Amber Grant recipients – the applications that won – over the last six months is nearly 850 words.
4. Do’s and Don’ts
Do write your application in a program like Pages or Microsoft Word so that you have a saved copy. Keeping a copy helps you recall what you reported and also provides a starting point for other applications you might write.
Do share links to your brand or company’s website whenever possible. If you don’t have one, share links to social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, or other sites where information about your story is available.
Don’t assume that the grant committee members are experts in your industry. It’s likely they’re not. So avoid jargon or buzzwords that only you will understand; you’ll likely end up confusing the individuals responsible for reading your application.
Don’t try to sound “corporate” in your application. Yes, Amber Grants are given to business owners, but that doesn’t mean you have to pepper your application with big words or business lingo. Past winners have demonstrated their business savvy without the use of corporate speak.
Don’t stress about reporting sales figures. Is the information useful if you’re comfortable sharing? Yes. Will you be at a disadvantage if you don’t include them? No. Grant readers are not Shark Tank moguls looking to buy into your business, so don’t feel you have to disclose that information.
Ultimately, whether you win a grant or not will likely come down to how well your business syncs up with what the selection committee is seeking. That is, it’s not a comment on how viable your business is or how inventive your idea, so don’t take it that way.
Many applicants find that taking the time to complete a grant application is a useful exercise, because it forces them to become clear about what they’re trying to sell, who they’re trying to sell it to, and why their solution is better than what is currently on the market. So even if you don’t win an Amber Grant this month, you’ll likely gain clarity about your business simply by applying.