Q. “I’ve heard there’s government money available for businesses. How can I determine if contracts or grants are a good fit for my company? How do I get started?”
A. There are many factors to consider before you pursue government business or grants, and I suggest you first do the following:
- Develop a good understanding of the difference between grants and contracts
- Assess the competitive standing of your products and / or services
- Establish or have infrastructure in place (in-house or outsourced) to manage government or foundation funding responsibilities and requirements
- Take the time to explore how government grants and contracts fit into your overall company market growth and positioning strategy
Products / Services – A to Z Opportunties
Funding can be obtained for companies engaged in providing a huge variety of products and services. Federal and state governments routinely contract with providers of everything from A to Z including but not limited to:
- Building maintenance
- Security services
- Research & development
- Management services
- And more…..
A quick glance at www.fbo.gov will demonstrate the breadth of products and services needed by government-owned laboratories, office buildings, prisons, national and state parks, housing, and other agencies.
Government agencies publish requests for proposals (RFPs), Requests for Bids (RFB), and other funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). Interested companies submit proposals, bids and applications in accordance with the instructions, and the one that appears to have—along with a good track record—the best price, highest value and product / service quality is selected to enter into a contract.
Contracts are legal agreements between a government entity and a company that lay out all the specific requirements, such as number of items to be supplied, deadlines, quality assurance, and so forth. It is your obligation to meet these requirements, or risk losing the contract.
Prepare to Compete
Winning government contracts means you need to know your customer and understand the competitive bidding process. You also need to demonstrate that you know who your competitors are, and are ready to show how your product or service is better. Also, you must be registered on the various government-wide and agency-specific vendor registries. If you haven’t seen it yet, I also suggest you read my previous post on this topic, Are Your Ready to Compete?
For well-established companies, the General Services Administration (GSA) offers opportunities but you must go through a lengthy approval process to receive a GSA designation. Once approved, however, there are many more opportunities for competing for lucrative supply contracts. For more information about GSA qualifying for small business, check out https://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/108067.
Infrastructure for Grant or Contract Management
Agencies that award grants and contracts need to feel sure that your organization is well-prepared to manage the responsibilities for reporting project milestones, documenting uses of grant funds, or adherence to and fulfillment of contracts. You’ll want to address this up front in your proposal. I or another grant writer can help you with the language.
What if I’m not well established?
There are a number of funding pathways available for entrepreneurs and startups developing new technologies or advanced technology products. These are the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. To learn more about these, visit https://www.sbir.gov. These programs are often labeled as grants, since they are generally not related to purchases of products or services. Instead, they provide initial funding to help a young company complete necessary research and development of advanced technology. Check out my previous post in this grant-writer series, Convince Agencies You’re Worth Funding.
Company Growth and Positioning Strategy
Government grants and contracts may be just the thing for your company. On the other hand, these funding sources may result in restriction and conditions that aren’t a good fit. It’s important that you or your management team and advisors — I include grant writers among these — explore the pros and cons carefully.