Personal grants and "free money"-too good to be true?

Personal grants and “free money”-too good to be true?

Personal Grants In looking back on some older posts we noticed a post from 2013 surrounding personal grants. To view that post in full, visit https://www.ebhoward.com/home-owner-grants/. When we first started out many clients had heard about the myth of "free money" and would ask how to obtain it. We had to gently explain that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It is true that low-interest loans, construction support activities, and some grants do exist for low-income families purchasing homes or attending college. However, there are no open solicitation grants for individuals. As our businesses grew ...
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Goals and Objectives: The Difference Between the Two and Why it Matters

Goals and Objectives: The Difference Between the Two and Why it Matters

When preparing a proposal, it is very important to understand the difference between goals and objectives. Many small business owners mistakenly use these terms interchangeably to mean the same thing, which can muddy the clarity of the overall proposal and leave reviewers with a less defined understanding of the proposed activities and why they are important. Goals Goals are a big-picture idea of the overall point of the project. While there may be individual activities and milestones the team seeks to meet while accomplishing the goal, these smaller milestones are not to be confused with the goal itself. For example, ...
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Success Fees and Why They are Not Worth It

Success Fees and Why They are Not Worth It

This is a topic we have been posting about since 2014 (https://www.ebhoward.com/contingency-fees/). Every now and again, we get a client who asks us if they can "just pay us out of the grant award" or if they can pay a small percent upfront and the remainder upon award. As much as we want to help every client, we have to respectfully decline as that would be a success fee, and success fees go against the E.B. Howard Consulting's code of ethics, as well as that of the Grant Professional Association (GPA), and numerous other organizations. Success fees are a type ...
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Personal debt grants-too good to be true?

Personal debt grants-too good to be true?

We have been reviewing some of our older posts from back when E.B. Howard Consulting first started. It is fun to see how we have grown and what topics were on our client's minds in 2013. One, in particular, was an old post about personal debt grants (to view that post in full, visit https://www.ebhoward.com/are-there-grants-to-pay-off-personal-debt/). We used to get a lot of questions about grants for personal debt but as time passed the subject came up less frequently. Seven years later, it seems the emergence of COVID-19 has brought this question to the forefront of our client's minds once again ...
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Pre-Award Costs with the Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Pre-Award Costs with the Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Generally speaking, especially in terms of SBIR regulations, pre-award costs within grants are unallowable. While there are several instances where these costs can be allowable, they are only ever allowable with explicit written permission from the program officials, and it is quite rare. What is the Official Rule? Prior approval for pre-award costs made up to, and including, 90 days before the award start date is waived by NOAA. In contrast, grant recipients must seek prior approval for reimbursement for pre-award costs over 90 days before the award start date. All costs incurred before NOAA gives the award are considered ...
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PI Responsibilities Before, During, and After Award.

PI Responsibilities Before, During, and After Award.

As a Primary Investigator (PI) on a grant project, you will largely be responsible for the successful outcome of the overall project. This includes but is not limited to overseeing project activities, ensuring activities occur as outlined in the management plan, analyzing data, and more. In addition to the PI responsibilities present during the investigation, there are several tasks a PI must complete before an award is finalized and after the project ends. Before the Award Before the award is finalized, the grantor may request additional information. This could include a request from the National Institute of Health for Just ...
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Reading the solicitation and why it is important

Reading the solicitation and why it is important

We have all been there. That moment of utter regret when you realize you were in too much of a hurry to read the fine print and now have a mess on your hands. Given the hectic schedule and essential constant multitasking required for running a small business, it is not surprising that this is an avoidable error many entrepreneurs make when applying for funding through grants. Solicitations are often lengthy and have the tendency to make even the proudest logophile reach for the dictionary to gain a full understanding of the content. In spite of this, it is so ...
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Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead

Any well-practiced accountant can tell you the importance of maintaining accurate business records. This is especially important if your business ever needs to undergo an audit or use records to demonstrate need. This was recently the case for businesses applying to the paycheck protection program during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses receiving federal funding need to retain deeply detailed records of all study activities and data for several reasons. Data can enable a research team to improve upon research practices in subsequent projects and track and measure their success. Keeping accurate data is also critical for commercialization plans and even ...
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Significant Unmet Needs and How to Recognize Them

Significant Unmet Needs and How to Recognize Them

A major component of business and product development is identifying a significant unmet need and creating a solution to meet that need. But how to determine a need exists presents a major problem to many small businesses. Describing what unmet need your product meets is a critical component of applying for many research and development focused federal grant opportunities such as Small Business Innovation Research grants. The Customer It is nearly impossible to determine where significant unmet needs lie without learning about your customer base. That being said, customer discovery is a good first place to start in your journey ...
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Necessary Registrations for Competing in SBIR Grants

Necessary Registrations for Competing in SBIR Grants

Many small businesses underestimate what goes into preparing a proposal for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. It often comes as a surprise to companies that there are several required registrations that all must be completed before a company is eligible to submit a proposal with any federal agency for SBIR. Here is a list of the necessary registrations for SBIR proposal submission. EIN The employer Identification Number or EIN is a way to identify business entities for tax purposes. This is one of the easiest and fastest registrations to complete, taking under 5 minutes total to fill out the ...
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NSF SBIR 2021 Solicitation

NSF SBIR 2021 Solicitation

Yesterday, NSF released its much-awaited 2021 SBIR Solicitation to an eager audience. While much of the solicitation is the same as 2020 (e.g., Budget Amount @ 256K), there are other significant changes you should be aware of before you start preparation. See the new solicitation here. First, you still have to submit a Project Pitch. NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Phase I proposers are REQUIRED to submit a three-page "Project Pitch" that outlines the project objectives, technological innovation, and associated technical risks. A small business must receive an official invitation via the Project Pitch process ...
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Subject Matter Experts: What You Know Vs. What You Don't Know

Subject Matter Experts: What You Know Vs. What You Don’t Know

Everyone has a unique skill set and knowledge base, but no one is an expert at everything. Sometimes when developing a product or growing a business, we feel like we have to do everything ourselves, but that is simply not so. It is ok to ask for help, and part of assembling a strong team means selecting various experts to create a diversified knowledge and experience resource base to have at your company's disposal. The majority of small businesses rely on various subject matter experts in some way throughout their research and development journey. A great place to use this ...
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Your Customer Base: Why Is It Important and How Well Do You Know It?

Your Customer Base: Why Is It Important and How Well Do You Know It?

Knowing your customer base is an important step in commercializing a new service or product. Without researching your target audience and customer profiles, it can be difficult to determine what market strategies will work best. Learning your target customer is an ongoing and ever-evolving process. As the market changes, so too do customers' needs and buying preferences. Do You Know Your Customer Base? It is surprising how many businesses and business owners lack critical knowledge about their customer base. Many incorrectly assume there is no need to research their target market until a post-revenue phase. This is simply not true ...
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Lean Canvas: Create a Solid Business Plan in 1 Page

Lean Canvas: Create a Solid Business Plan in 1 Page

What makes a solid business plan? That really depends on what your goal is. While some endeavors, such as seeking a business loan, may still benefit from the lengthy verbose business plans of the past, today's investors would often rather see a to-the-point summary of what companies have to offer. This is where the Lean Canvas style of business planning comes in. With this style of plan, you can say everything that needs to be said using only one page of space. The Lean Canvas is also a great barometer of where you are as a business. If you are ...
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Pre-Award Costs

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Pre-Award Costs

If you are thinking of applying for NASA SBIR, you would be wise to familiarize yourself with the allowable costs and the limitations on pre-award costs set forth by the agency as well as in your individual solicitation. There are limitations to what costs are allowable, and pre-award costs have limits as well. Generally speaking, pre-award costs are not honored. NASA makes it quite clear they are under no obligation to repay a business for costs incurred before the grant award. On the rare opportunities they choose to, these costs must be from a very specific list and incurred no ...
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National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)- Pre-award Costs

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)- Pre-award Costs

Each of the 11 federal agencies has restrictions in place regarding what is allowable vs. an unallowable cost. While many agencies provide slight leeway, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is fairly straightforward in what it considers allowable, and pre-award costs are not on the list. Proposed funding levels must be consistent with the project scope, and only allowable costs that fall within the spending limitations specified in Section 1.03.01 of this NOFO should be included in the budget.https://www.nist.gov/system/files/documents/2019/06/19/2019_phase_2_nofo_1.pdf So what is in section 1.03.01? Personnel, Fringe, Travel, Equipment, Supplies, contracts/Subawards, and Other Direct Costs. That's it. This ...
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Are You SBIR Ready?

Are You SBIR Ready?

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) opportunities presented by 11 federal agencies are one of the largest non-equity based grant awards a small business can apply for. What is even better is that these opportunities are available annually, biannually, or in the case of the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a rolling basis. There is no question SBIR is a great opportunity, but what businesses should be considering before they apply is whether or not their business is SBIR ready. Some small businesses get so excited about these opportunities they apply before they are truly ready. Unfortunately, the reviewers can see ...
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pre-Award Costs

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pre-Award Costs

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of a grant proposal is a properly itemized and reasonable budget that adheres strictly to the budget guidelines established by both the agency and the individual solicitation. It is for this reason that it is absolutely imperative to thoroughly research the allowable and unallowable costs associated with your prospective grant. In this post, we will be exploring the guidelines specific to the EPA. Thinking of Pursuing an EPA Grant? The EPA is one of 11 federal agencies that award equity-free grants to small businesses. Their SBIR grants are offered on a rolling basis ...
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Paying for proposal preparation by incentive, contingency, or success fees

Paying for proposal preparation by incentive, contingency, or success fees

This is a topic that we first wrote about in 2013 HERE and again in 2014 (https://www.ebhoward.com/contingency-fees/) that continues to resurface. Often we are asked if we can accept award funds to pay for proposal preparation service or if can we be paid a commission should the grant be awarded. The answer is a resounding "no." We DO NOT work on a contingency basis. Unlike most of our competitors, we do not take an incentive, contingency, or success fees. We uphold the ethics of the Grant Professional Association (GPA) and the American Evaluation Association (AEA), follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles ...
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Funding Rates and How to Craft a Competitive Proposal

Funding Rates and How to Craft a Competitive Proposal

How many proposals get funded per agency or organization? Well, that depends on the agency or organization. Typically, foundation grants are smaller both in value and quantity, as private foundations often have a smaller purse to dispense funds than the federal government. The federal government's grants tend to be larger and more numerous, but the odds of winning one are still much smaller than small businesses would care for. In fact, the average success rate for SBIR overall is only 13%. Below see the table for the success rate of each of the 11 agencies offering Small Business Innovation Research ...
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