Convince Agencies You’re Worth Funding
A frequent problem for entrepreneurs and young companies is they have not been in business long enough to build a track record of success. And that track record is a key variable funding agencies look at when comparing projects and programs to fund.
So here’s the conundrum: You have a great technology or program or project that needs outside funding to get it off the ground, but you don’t have a list of past successes that shows you are a good risk. What can you do?
Three Strategies to Consider
Strategy no. 1—Assemble a team of individuals who have the credentials you lack in important areas. These can be a mix of people including former professors who are well respected in their professional networks, successful businesspeople who have built great products and companies, and scientists or engineers who have the technical expertise and experience you need.
These individuals can work as your advisory committee, mentors and even as a Board. The presence of these highly experienced, well-qualified people does two things: A) it reinforces that you are a good investment bet and B) signals the funding agency that you understand where your organization is comparatively weak.
Strategy no. 2—Ask highly respected and experienced leaders to endorse your proposed program or project by submitting a support letter with your proposal or by contacting the funding agency directly on your behalf. If well-known individuals are willing to vouch for you, your organization and your proposed project, this can go far toward alleviating agency concerns about risking an investment in a new, unknown and untried organization.
Strategy no. 3—Engage in one-to-one discussions and meetings with funding agency personnel if possible. Funding agencies, like banks, are more willing to invest funding in an organization when they have a positive relationship with the management team. Many large successful companies today achieved their first grant or contact funding after devoting time and effort to travel to the funding agency headquarters to meet with representatives and/or to travel to exhibitions, trade shows or other events where the funding agency’s representatives will be in attendance.
On a final note, be sure that your proposal contains a strong set of milestones and benchmarks. Milestones and benchmarks are established at regular time intervals, and they allow for both the funder and you to assess progress to date on the program or project. These points are safety valves for the funding agency. If it looks like there are additional challenges to achieving your proposed goals and objectives, options for continuing, pivoting or suspending the project or program can be weighed.
Your job is to demonstrate to the funding agency that, despite being the new kid on the block, you know where your organization needs to be strengthened. Further, you have assembled a strong advisory team that can provide needed strength until you are able to hire your own managers and staff, and you are willing to work as a partner with the funding agency to maximize the potential for success.