Do I need a grant consultant?

Applying for grants can be a confusing, complex and detailed process and many business owners often wonder if they are better off engaging a grant consultant or expert to help them apply for the grant. However, getting help from a professional is often costly and it's essential to assess if it's worth your while to do so.

Firstly, consider the time and effort you would otherwise take to apply for the grant. Most applications take a couple of weeks to gather relevant materials, and then about an hour to actually fill in the grant application (given you have all your information at hand).

If you're going this alone, it's a good idea to have one employee focusing full-time on a competitive grant application and then getting someone else to proofread the application before it's sent. However, this may use valuable resources, particularly if you're a micro-business that needs every single employee to work.

If you use a grant consultant, this process is likely to be sped up, as he/she will be able to tell you exactly what documents you need and where to find them, although you will probably still need to collate these documents yourself. If you can spare the funds to hire a grant consultant (particularly if it's cheaper than having one employee work on the application), then this may be the way to go for you.

Another aspect to consider is bookkeeping advice. As a typical grant does not cover the complete costs of a project, you will need to come up with your own funding sources. You will also need to declare all your income, and expenditure that is related to the project. All this information needs to be accurate and honest.

Getting a grant consultant in may be useful in this respect, as he will either know how to compile a budget or contract someone who knows how (check if this is built into the cost). Alternatively, you may decide to go with your own accountant if he/she is cheaper and is aware of the grant process.

Lastly, consider your success rate. Do you think you have a shot at winning the grant without professional help? Is the grant directly relevant to your business? For instance, applying for a manufacturing grant when you are a services business may not be the wisest thing - hence, a consultant may not be particularly useful in this regard.

However, if you are a manufacturing firm applying for the Investing in Manufacturing Technology Grant, for instance, your success rate may be enhanced by getting external help.

Most consultants can assist with demonstrating whether your project will deliver significant benefits to the government, business or community; and how the grant aligns to your firm's objectives. If the grant you're thinking of applying for clearly doesn't suit your business, a good consultant may also be able to suggest alternatives.

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