Grant are funds given to an individual or entity (such as a not for profit organization or company) for a specific purpose linked to public benefit.
Grants are distributed by charitable organizations, governments, and companies who do not expect to be repaid for the funding.
Grants Are Not
Grants are not loans, nor are they equity, or any other type of capital whose providers make a claim on you or your company. Grant providers do not expect to get repaid. This type of funding is called “non-dilutive” because you do not give up any ownership to a grant giver.
Grants Vs. Early Angel Investment
Grants are designed to generate societal benefits, whereas not all Angel equity investors are looking for their capital to generate a social benefit. The line between early stage impact equity investment and grant funding, however, has become blurry because an early stage company may receive government and charitable grants along side of equity investment. Foundations and Donor Advised Funds have more flexibility to both give grants and invest in for profit organizations who address the core societal benefit they are seeking to catalyze.
Example Grant Givers
Bill and Melinda Gates | Rockefeller Fund | UNDP | National Institutes of Health | Department of Defense
Are grants the right capital for your business at this stage?
Key Performance Indicators
CAPITAL GIVER PERSPECTIVE
Key Performance Indicators
When it Works Well
Grants Help Society
Why do governments and foundations and individuals give grants? To satisfy needs that are not easily solved through market-based mechanisms. The. best grants programs achieve this goal of satisfying a greater need that helps society.
Co-Created with Community
For grants targeting equity or social justice, communities are engaged in co-producing the goal, purpose, and process for transitioning to a better future.
For Company: Aligned to Mission
Grants can help direct an early stage company to invest in a promising opportunity that advances their mission.
Challenges to Managing Grants
Time Consuming Reporting Process
When grant administration comes with complex processes and time commitments, they may outweigh the benefits of receiving the grant.
If the grant funds a process or area of inquiry that directs the company to pursue a different tactic, market or goal, the administration of the grant may dilute management focus.
Misallocating of Funding
A big challenge for grant makers to companies is knowing which types of projects, technologies, sectors, and founders to fund. Grant makers do not always choose these topics well, nor do they always choose the best recipients. When companies are caught in this cycle they may get caught in multi-year milestone reporting and project execution and lose sight of more productive uses of human and financial capital.
Ignores Community Need
Grant programs can fail if the community the grant intends to support are not considered nor consulted in the creation process, and the solution designed is not accepted by the community or fails to address the primary concerns.
For example, climate change adaptation solutions might address the concerns of the shoreline or real estate developers but ignore the need to preserve manufacturing or higher paying jobs in an industrial maritime zone. Companies should not see a grant as a sign that societal benefit has been determined at the community level.
Trends in Grant Giving
Convening and Collaboration
Grants makers recognize the need to collaborate and sharing learning with other grant makers and commercial actors in the private sector. Recognizing that long-term systemic change will not come from any one solution or sector, these stakeholders are experimenting with new methods of collaboration
Demand for Accountability
A continuing trend in grant making is the use of monitoring, evaluation, ad learning methods to determine effectiveness of grant administration processes.
Grants within Blended Finance
New finance instruments are emerging to address complex system challenges such as blended finance instruments. These instruments combine debt, equity, alternatives or hybrid financial structures AND grants to fund a community or sector.
Before You Consider Grants
- Does your application for a grant highlight the impact and benefits to the recipient, giver and the community being served?
- Does your organization have the ability to assign a dedicated team to fulfill the milestones of the grant?
- Are the milestones of the grant aligned with your primary path?
- Explore government and foundation sources for grants
- In the US try Grants.gov and OpenGrants.io
Discover Alternative Capital
Revenue-Based Finance is one way to grow your company, and you can choose other capital types as an alternative or pair and combine at different stages of your business. Consider these alternative capital sources or explore our Capital Library.