How to Use Supporting Documents to Score Big Grant Money

November 10, 2023
min read

Imagine what your startup could do with an extra ten or hundred thousand dollars completely free of charge. You could supercharge your growth, hire more talent, develop innovative new products and services, and make a huge impact on the world.

But chasing venture capital is exhausting. Loans need to be paid back. And who wants to give away equity?


What if I told you there's a massive pool of free grant money out there for startups and nonprofits doing good in the world? But there's a catch.

You're probably missing the unsung secret weapon that savvy startups use to unlock this massive funding.


This overlooked gem can be the difference between watching your brilliant idea die versus millions of dollars landing into your lap. I'm talking about the humble supporting document.


On the surface they seem boring. Optional. An afterthought. So most startups ignore them, take them for granted, or completely screw them up. Don't let this innocent mistake kill your startup's chances of tapping into this goldmine.


In this guide, I'm pulling back the curtain on how to use supporting documents to secure life-changing grant funding other startups only dream of.


Here's what we'll cover:

  1. What supporting documents are, and why they're crucial
  2. The most potent supporting docs for startups
  3. Why Supporting Documents Work So Well
  4. Common mistakes that ruin your chances
  5. Nailing your supporting documents: How to get them right and excite reviewers
  6. Real-world examples of supporting docs unlocking millions


Let's dive in:


A. What Are Supporting Documents And Why Do They Matter So Much?

Here's the deal. Supporting documents aren't just "nice-to-haves."

They're the unsung heroes that can make or break your next grant application.

While your core proposal gives the high-level view, supporting documents provide the full picture.

They give context, details, proof points, and compelling stories that bring your startup and project to life.

Think of them like the icing on a cake. A cake tastes okay on its own, but the thick, sweet icing makes it over-the-top delicious.

Supporting documents take your grant proposal from bland to brilliant.


But here's the kicker:

Most grant applications platforms list supporting docs as "optional." So startups ignore them and focus only on the main proposal.

This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when grant hunting. Don't leave this free money on the table.

Even if they seem optional, you need supporting documents to seal the deal. They substantiate your claims and validate your startup's mission, capabilities, and commitment.

Without them, reviewers are left with an incomplete picture. If you want to unlock serious funding, treat supporting documents as absolutely mandatory for every grant proposal.


B. The Most Potent Supporting Documents For Startups

Okay, so you're convinced supporting docs are critical. But which ones really move the needle for startups trying to win grants?


Here are the unsung heroes to focus on:


1. Budget - This isn't just a table of numbers. The budget tells the story of how every dollar of grant funding would be spent if awarded to your startup. Show exactly how you'll allocate funds across different components of your project for maximum impact.

2. Business Plan - Your business plan is a comprehensive roadmap covering everything from market analysis, to operations, to revenue generation. This is your secret weapon to demonstrate a clear path to success and what gives your startup an edge over others.

3. Letters of Endorsement - Validation from big names goes a long way. Key letters of support from partners, officials, community leaders, or influencers builds instant credibility and shows reviewers you have the right relationships to execute your project.

4. Resumes and CVs - Prove your startup has the human capital to crush it. Showcase your team's skills, experience, qualifications, passion, and why they make your startup uniquely positioned to drive change.

5. Organizational Profile - Use this as an opportunity to brag a little (but tastefully). Showcase your startup's origins, mission, track record, past successes, lessons learned, values, and anything else that paints you in the best light possible.

6. Testimonials - Let your community and intended beneficiaries make the case for you through compelling personal stories and statements. This human element can make a powerful emotional impact on reviewers.


Those are your prime supporting doc targets. Use them to provide broader context, weave in stories, demonstrate your capacity and networks, and ultimately prove to reviewers you can execute if funded.


C. Why Do These Supporting Documents Work So Well?

Now you know which supporting docs to focus on. But why are they so incredibly effective at showcasing your startup to reviewers?


There's a method to the magic. Here are the key reasons:


1. PROVIDE DEEPER CONTEXT: Supporting docs let you go beyond the surface, share details, and tell stories a restricted word count proposal can't. Reviewers gain a fuller picture.

2. VALIDATE CAPABILITIES: Documents like your business plan, resumes, and organizational profile prove you have the expertise, experience, resources and wherewithal to successfully drive change.

3. EMOTIONAL PROOF: Testimonials and visuals allow you to make an emotional case through compelling stories from real people your work will impact.

4. BUILD CREDIBILITY: Endorsements from reputable names and groups, and evidence of past success establishes credibility fast.

5. SHOWCASE COMMITMENT: Taking time to create tailored, high-quality supporting docs shows reviewers you're truly committed to your mission and the proposed project.


Those reasons are why including thoughtful supporting documents can mean the difference between a reviewer thinking "this seems interesting" versus "I'm thoroughly convinced this startup will achieve real impact if we fund them."

You need supporters in the second camp to win big grants. Supporting docs get them there.


D. Common Mistakes That Ruin Your Chances

We've covered why supporting documents matter so much. Now let's talk about pitfalls to avoid so you don't torpedo your own chances through easily preventable errors.


MISTAKE #1 - LEAVING THEM OUT: If you omit supporting documents because, hey, they're "optional," you're making a huge blunder. You miss the opportunity to provide important details, stories, and persuasion tailored to each grant. Don't surrender your competitive edge! 

MISTAKE #2 - USING GENERIC DOCUMENTS: Sending the same stale, generic supporting docs without customizing them to each grant is another killer. Generic shows lack of effort and relevance. Tailor them to showcase how you specifically meet the grant requirements.

MISTAKE #3 - OUTDATED INFORMATION: Got old endorsement letters lying around? 20-year-old resumes? Ancient organizational profiles? Refresh them! Reviewers want to see up-to-date info that accurately reflects your startup now. Take time to update regularly.

MISTAKE #4 - STRETCHING THE TRUTH: Never exaggerate, falsify claims, or manipulate info in your supporting docs. You'll lose all credibility if caught. Honesty and authenticity are essential.


See how easy it is to leave easy grant money on the table? Avoid these missteps at all costs.



E. Nailing Your Supporting Documents (And Unlocking That Grant)

We've covered what not to do. Now let's talk about how to get your supporting documents right and set your startup up for grant success.


Here are my top tips:

PRIORITY #1 - Treat them as essential, not optional extras. Allocate proper time and resources to craft tailored, compelling supporting documents for every grant application.

PRIORITY #2 - Customize them to showcase your specific startup's fitness to meet the grant requirements and objectives. Generic shows laziness.

PRIORITY #3 - Keep them updated regularly. Stale, outdated information raises red flags for reviewers. Take time to keep them current.

PRIORITY #4 - Focus on quality over quantity. A few incredibly well crafted, relevant documents is better than a big stack of mediocre ones.

PRIORITY #5 - Get expert help if needed. Consider hiring grant writers to work their magic if you're struggling to create knockout supporting docs in-house. Shameless plug: hire Grant Master.

Do those five things consistently, and you'll submit supporting documents that get reviewers buzzing with excitement, not yawning with boredom.


F. Real-World Examples Of Supporting Docs Unlocking Millions

Don't just take my word for it. Here are two quick examples of startups that secured life-changing grants thanks to rock-solid supporting documents:


EXAMPLE 1: A nonprofit dedicated to internet safety was seeking a $20,000 grant for a school awareness project. Their supporting documents included reports from past outreaches and surveys showing that their intervention works. This compelling emotional appeal helped them beat out competitors.

 EXAMPLE 2: A startup with an innovative fintech platform sought a $400,000 grant to scale up. Their supporting docs included glowing endorsement letters from customers, adding tremendous legitimacy. This credibility helped them win despite being a younger company.

See the power of strategic supporting documents? When done right, they can catapult you from also-ran to winner.


The Takeaway - Make Supporting Docs Your Secret Weapon

We've covered a lot of ground here. Let's recap the key takeaways:

  • Supporting docs provide the full picture to substantiate your grant proposal. Treat them as mandatory.
  • Focus on budget, business plan, endorsements, resumes, organizational profile, and testimonials.
  • Avoid leaving them out or phoning it in with stale, generic documents.
  • Customize them to each grant to prove your fitness and commitment.
  • Get expert help if you need it to create knockout supporting docs (wink, wink, Grant Master)

With supporting documents as your secret weapon, your startup can tap into the motherlode of grant funding available and make a real positive impact.


This is your blueprint. Now go unlock the funding you need to change the world!

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