Let’s break it down

For our small business friends – are you as overwhelmed as we are when it comes to knowing which COVID-19 emergency assistance loans and grant opportunities for small businesses are worth your time and effort? And, how can you easily keep track of what you’ve applied for and what costs each application can help cover?

Then it occurred to us. Why not apply the tools and strategic decision-making process we have used for years in grant writing and grant management to the range of emergency financial assistance programs for small businesses? Nonprofits have done this for years. Let’s learn from them and apply some of the rules from their playbook.

Before we go any further, a disclaimer, the following only offers suggestions and lessons from our experience in grant-writing and grant management. We strongly encourage you to work closely with your accountant and program or operations managers to make wise decisions that apply specifically to your unique situation. They are experts in their own right and can save you a lot of time and grief right out of the gate. Once you have your A-team assembled, consider some of the following:

First things first – Is your business eligible?

Most, if not all, financial assistance opportunities have eligibility criteria. Examples could be the number of employees, your annual gross revenue, being a woman, veteran, or minority-owned business, where your business is located, etc. Carefully read and re-read the eligibility criteria to make sure your business is eligible before going any further.

What is the deadline? What information and documents do you need to have at your fingertips?

Can you realistically pull together the information and documents you need to complete the application in time? From the PPP program, we have learned that it is a good idea to get your application in as soon as you possibly can. However, it’s just as important to do it right and not make mistakes, as even a minor mistake can disqualify you for some programs. If possible, download and carefully review the application before getting started. Assemble all necessary information and documents to avoid rushing to find them once you’ve started the application.

Is it worth your time and effort?

Trust me, this is a lesson usually learned the hard way. Before rushing into working on your application, pause and consider how much time it will take you to complete and submit the request and if you have the resources to track and manage the funds appropriately. The last thing you want to do is waste your time or put your business in the position of paying back funds spent on ineligible expenses. It’s very common to focus on getting the funds and not take into consideration the accounting and documentation costs that will certainly come with any loan or grant assistance exclusively. Does the amount of funds you are likely to receive outweigh both the front-end and the back-end time needed to manage the funds? It’s okay to walk away from a loan or grant if it does not make sense for your business.

Are the expenses already covered by another program?

This is a biggie! You cannot double-dip. Typical expenses covered include payroll, operating expenses (rent, utilities, etc.), marketing, upgrading technology, and training. Create a spreadsheet to identify which expenses and timeframe you plan to cover with each assistance program. In the nonprofit world, this is referred to as cost accounting. Work with your accountant to develop a master plan/budget.

Designate a writer and a reviewer

Even if you are a one-person business, it’s essential to find a trusted person to review your application before hitting the send button. Is all the information entered correctly? Is any narrative written in clear and concise language? Have you answered all the questions? Hint – many questions are complex and ask multiple questions in the same sentence. Be sure you have adequately responded to each question. Double-check that you have attached all necessary documentation. Online applications typically send an auto-reply that your request has been received. If you do not receive a confirmation email, double-check that you hit the send button. I know it seems silly, but believe me, it happens to the best of us. 😊

Pat yourself on the back!

Whew! Congratulations, you did it. Now you can pour a beverage of your choice and wait to see the results of your hard work.

We hope you found this helpful. While this is not a comprehensive list of suggestions, it does hit what we hope are the significant points to consider. What have we missed? We are learning alongside you and would love to hear what other recommendations you would have for your fellow small business owners.

Take care, be healthy and safe,