Research and development is a critical part of establishing a sustainable business. Knowing how to obtain funding to support this segment of your venture will help you improve your business model and better position your products and services. The key to increasing funding opportunities is to register your venture as a nonprofit. This makes your business eligible for specific grants that can be applied toward evaluating viability in a specific market. Once out of the research and development stage, you can create a commercial entity to support products and services to sell. If you follow this approach, consider the following organizations that offer grants and subsidies:
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) supports private-sector entrepreneurs in in sub-Saharan countries. The organization specifically targets ventures in the agricultural and agribusiness sectors as well as those focused on climate change and renewable energy. Candidates must contribute to the growth of rural African economies to be considered.
AECF can award a single entity a grant up to $1.5 million; however, a grant or repayable grant totaling $750,000 is more typical. Candidates must submit an application and a detailed business plan to be considered. If selected by the investment committee to receive an award, the recipient must take part in an induction workshop and undergo a contracting and disbursement process to ensure he or she comprehends the stipulations of accepting a grant.
Following disbursement, grantees need to report their business progress at least semi-annually. Additionally, they must keep in contact with an AECF-designated project manager throughout the life of a grant.
The Ford Foundation
Distributing approximately half a billion dollars in grants annually, the Ford Foundation lives by the statement, “all people deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential, contribute to society, and have their voices heard.” The foundation supports the public good by supporting organizations worldwide that positively influence the advancement of human knowledge and creativity, and the promotion of accountable governance. Additionally, it advocates ventures that tackle poverty, social injustice, and education. The grant process is very competitive. Out of the approximately 40,000 applicants the foundation receives each year, it typically approves only 1,400 for funding.
The foundation also works with a program team to discover organizations with bold ideas and scalable solutions, and offer them financial backing and business services. Funding is only available to approved individuals, whose companies comply with US laws enforced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Further, the foundation takes into consideration anti-terrorism financing rules as it assesses candidates. If chosen, a grantee should expect to keep in close contact with his or her program officer and attend meetings that require written reports outlining progress.
Google Ad Grants
Through its online advertising tool division and the Google for Nonprofits program, Google offers $10,000 grants in in-kind AdWords each month to help nonprofits build awareness of their mission. Recipients of the credit can plan ads to appear alongside Google search results, thus making more people aware of their cause.
To ensure the ads benefit the user, the company gives the grantees access to conversion tracking and Google Analytics. Since its launch, the program has positively impacted more than 20,000 nonprofits in more than 50 countries, including South Africa, Kenya, and Botswana.
To qualify for the grant, organizations must meet the requirements listed in the Google for Nonprofits Eligibility Guidelines. Candidates must also abide by Google’s rules regarding nondiscrimination and donation practices. Once awarded funds, grantees must avoid utilizing the service for commercial advertising, unless all of the proceeds it earns from the products and services sold support its cause.
The Global Greengrants Fund
Catering to grassroots activists, the Global Greengrants Fund aims to promote environmental and social justice around the world. The fund distributes small grants in order to make a difference in more locations. Areas of support include climate change, fresh water, biodiversity conservation, women’s rights, agriculture, and forest and land rights.
Its flagship program is Green Grantmaking, which supports thousands of projects spread across 163 countries with grants averaging $4,800. Referred to as Greengrants, the funds support initiatives that pay equal attention to the care of people and the environments in which they live.
The Global Greengrants Fund doesn’t accept unsolicited applications. Parties eligible to receive a Greengrant must be recommended by a Grant Advisor. However, the fund realizes that many groups will not have access to an Advisor, so it lists alternative funding opportunities on its website, http://www.greengrants.org. Suggested organizations include The Guardian International Development Achievement Award, the Yale World Fellows program, and The Equator Prize, among others.