Government Grants for Small Business: Finding Them and Getting Them

Starting or expanding any kind of small business is difficult, but it can be especially difficult if you don’t have enough capital. Raising capital for start-up or expansion is often your biggest challenge. If a loan is not possible for you right now, and if you haven’t been able to line up any investors, don’t give up hope. There may be a chance that you qualify for government grants for small business from the U.S. federal government.

Small businesses have historically played a significant role in the U.S. economy. That’s why the government has an interest in facilitating the growth of small business with government grants for small business. Even though small business is central to our economic health, the bureaucrats in Washington are not necessarily just waiting to give out government grants for small business. The government normally uses grant money to encourage business development in certain fields or specific locations, or to level the playing field for everyone. But there are quite a few bona fide government grants for small business and they can be substantial.

Government grants for small business are available to new business start-ups and existing businesses. As you might suspect, you’re probably not the only small businessman looking for help in the form of government grants for small business. Be prepared for competition if you qualify and apply for a small business grant. Attention to detail in the application process can often make the difference between winning and losing government grants for small business.

Depending on the amount of money involved, application procedures and forms for government grants for small business can be long and complex. The trick is to break the application into manageable pieces. If you don’t already have an existing team of business partners to help you, consider outsourcing some of the application work to a consultant or freelance writer. When it comes to government grants for small business, application deadlines are firm and turning your application in late is not an option.

You can do some basic research on the availability of government grants for small business at the Small Business Administration’s website. The SBA is mandated with helping small businesses succeed, but they normally don’t give grants directly. Government grants for small business are usually provided by other agencies, depending on what the grant is meant to accomplish.

If you’re interested in starting a small business or expanding your existing business, then you should start finding out all you can about government grants for small business. You may want to opt for an online directory service to help you figure out which government grants for small business you might qualify for. The structure of government can be mystifying sometimes, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on a grant you’re qualified for just because you couldn’t find it. You’ll soon learn that the secret to your small business success is to concentrate on doing what you do best, and outsource the rest.

Auction Listings Are Vital to the Success of Fundraising Auctions

Fundraising Auction Tip: You should always provide potential bidders with a printed Auction Listing of both your Live and Silent Auction items at any Fundraising Auction. A printed Auction Listing is vital for several reasons:

An Auction Listing informs bidders of the order of sale, and what is coming up next. If you keep your bidders guessing, they will simply not bid.

If bidders are not 100% certain of what they are bidding on, they will not bid. A printed Auction Listing should answer any and all questions about what is being sold in order to encourage bidders to bid as much as possible.

Bidders often need time to plan their bidding strategies, especially on multiple and/or larger value items. A printed Auction Listing helps them to do that.

Couples often need time to consult with each other about what they are willing to spend on something. A printed Auction Listing helps them to do that.

Potential bidders need to know the specifics, the benefits, and the restrictions on any item they are going to bid on, especially on travel and/or other higher value items. A printed Auction Listing should answer all of their questions, in writing.

After bidders see that they have lost an item to another bidder, a printed Auction Listing makes it easier for them to re-strategize on what else they can bid on.
Printed Auction Listings generally come in 3 forms:

Printed in the Event Program or Auction Catalog.

Printed on loose sheets of paper and hand-inserted into the Event Program or Auction Catalog.

Printed on loose sheets of paper and hand-delivered to all attendees, or left on each dinner table in the room.
Auction Listings cost practically nothing to produce and they can make the difference between the success and failure of a Live and Silent Auction. You should never conduct a Fundraising Auction without one.

A Case Study

Let me share a real-life experience with you. Once I was hired to conduct a Fundraising Auction for a nationally renowned organization. The event was held in a major hotel, in one of the country’s largest cities, with several hundred “black tie” participants attending. It was an extremely professional event, with the music, singing, lighting, speeches, and awards all perfectly timed and choreographed. Everything was done to perfection… exception the Fundraising Auction.

Although I had signed an agreement to serve as their Auctioneer nearly one year in advance of the event, no one bothered to contact me for any advice or help. Approximately one week prior to the Auction date, I contacted the group to see if they had replaced me with another Auctioneer. But they said that I was still their man.

Upon arriving at the event I asked for a copy of the Auction Listing. I was told that there were none. I’m not sure whether they felt that the Auction Listing wasn’t necessary, or whether someone forgot to have them printed. This was never made clear. When I asked what I was to use at the podium, I was told to copy the list of Live Auction items from a committee member’s computer. It took me about 30 minutes to copy three pages of hand-written notes in order to prepare for my role as their Auctioneer.

I knew that they had created a PowerPoint program showing the various Live Auction items. When I asked whether the PowerPoint slide order corresponded to the order of sale I had copied from the committee member’s computer, I was met with a blank stare. The committee member left to check the slide order, and returned to let me know that the slide order did not correspond my notes, and he provided me with the correct slide order… hand-written on a paper napkin. This forced me to re-arrange my three pages of hand-written notes before taking the podium.

There was a Live Auction Table with descriptions of the Live Auction items that were to be sold, but the table was not clearly marked, and it received significantly less attention than the Silent Auction Tables, which were clearly identified. Since the Live Auction Table was located adjacent to the “Raffle Table”, it appeared that most people thought it was part of the raffle and therefore paid very little attention to it.

According to the event program (which did not include an Auction Listing), I knew approximately when I was to begin the Live Auction. At the designated time the Master of Ceremonies announced the start of the Live Auction to the several hundred people in attendance, and introduced me as Auctioneer. As I approached the podium I realized that photographs of award winners were still being taken… directly in front of the podium where I was to stand… which required me to stand aside for several minutes until the photographers were done. Can we say “awkward moment”?

As the photographers cleared, I approached the podium and began my Live Auction introduction. Approximately one minute into my introduction, the “Raffle Committee” approached the podium and stopped my Live Auction Introduction in order to pull the 8 or 9 Raffle Winners. These drawings lasted about 5 minutes. Upon it’s conclusion I was allowed to resume the start of the Live Auction.

When standing at the podium two intense and extremely bright spotlights were pointed directly at the podium. The lights were so bright that I literally could not see the center 1/3 of the room. I could see the tables on the right, and on the left, but was totally blinded when looking straight ahead. It took perhaps five minutes before the spotlights were turned off.

While at the podium and describing Lot #1, I had to ask someone to start the Lot #1 PowerPoint Slide… because apparently no one was assigned that job.

So with only the Auctioneer’s verbal description, and a PowerPoint slide, it appeared that few people in the room had any idea about what we were selling… or when we were selling it… until it was announced by the Auctioneer. As a result, bidding was extremely light and the final results fell several thousands of dollars short of where they should have been
The learning experience is this:

The Live Auction is where you place your better items, and where the real money should be made at any Fundraising Auction. Let bidders know as far in advance as possible what you will be selling, and the order of sale, so they can get excited about the Auction, and plan their bidding strategy accordingly.

Auction Listings are absolutely vital to the success of both Live & Silent Auctions. In my opinion, revenues at this Auction fell thousands of dollars short of where they should have been, because no Auction Listing was provided to the guests.

If bidders are not perfectly clear on what is being sold, including both the item’s specifics, benefits, and restrictions, they will not bid.

When you have a committee of volunteers, especially volunteers having full time jobs and/or very busy schedules, the services of a professional Fundraising Auctioneer can help to keep the committee on track.

And once you retain the services of a professional Fundraising Auctioneer… use the services that you are paying for.

Five Tips for Selling at Live Auctions

Ah, the old-fashioned country auction! The idea of a country auction conjures up certain images for people. The image of a fast-talking auctioneer offering up an antique table or chair is a popular example.

People who are buying household goods or collectibles are looking to get their items at the lowest price possible. However, the people who are selling their items at auction are hoping for the highest price!

Unless a person is in the business of buying and selling antiques or other items, not a lot of thought goes into how goods are prepared for sale via the auction process. However, if you are one of the growing number of people using auction venues to sell your collectibles or other inventory, there are a few things to learn first about how to sell at auction before you bring a truckload of stuff over to the next event.

Tip 1: Make sure the things you want to sell are a good “fit” for the auction house you’ll be using.

Never bring a load to an auction house without actually having been to one of the previous auctions. It’s important to get a feel for the type of goods that the house sells. For example, at one very rural country auction it was common for the owners to sell live chickens, pots and pans, car parts, and farm equipment.

After close investigation, this would not be the right venue for selling your daughter’s “Hello Kitty” collection. On the other hand, the spare John Deere parts that you bought at last week’s yard sale might be just the right thing for the buying crowd at this auction.

Tip 2: Be sure you clearly understand the terms and policies of the auction house.

Visit with the auctioneer ahead of time. Call to find out what the best days and times are to visit. One of the worst possible times to drop in for an informational visit with an auctioneer is the day of the auction. Call ahead and ask. While you’re at it, find out what are the best days and times to drop your stuff off.

Once you have a little time with the auctioneer, you’ll be able to find out what type of commission he or she takes from consigners (which is you), and what type of paperwork might be needed. Some auction houses send out Form 1099 tax forms at the end of the year. An auctioneer may need to see your identification and have you fill out a W-9. Be prepared.

Find out what happens to your items if they don’t sell. For example, some auctioneers may have a minimum starting bid. If, for some reason, one of your items does not sell, it may be grouped with another one of your pieces. Know the auctioneer’s strategy beforehand so that you aren’t surprised on pay day.

Tip 3: Make sure the auctioneer knows what you’re selling.

It might be perfectly obvious to you that the signed print you are consigning is a rare and valuable piece of art. However, the auctioneer may not know this particular artist. Make a note of anything particularly special about your items, and leave the note with the piece. Be sure to tell the auctioneer about it as well. He or she might determine that this is something to highlight on the company website or in the newspaper listing.

Tip 4: Present your items neatly.

No one likes to have to dig through a box full of grimy and greasy car parts to see what treasures might be in there. Separate the parts and lay them out on a flat, or use more than one box to de-clutter the lot.

There is no need to buy fancy display boxes. It’s easy enough to go to the local convenience store or supermarket and ask if you can have the emptied boxes or flats that they are discarding.

While it’s good to present clean items, take care not to ruin the value of anything by over cleaning. For example, if you find some old cast iron cookware, clean the obvious dirt and grime, but don’t scrub it to its original finish. For many people, this ruins the value of the item. So, clean and tidy and organized is the key here.

Tip 5: Don’t complain to the auctioneer if your stuff doesn’t sell for as much as you’d like.

The phrase to remember here is, “You win some; you lose some.” That’s just the way it is. There are some days where an auction house is loaded with people who all seem to want what you’re selling. There will be other days where the crowd is sparse, and the bidding is simply not competitive.

Remember that it’s in the auctioneer’s best interest to sell your things for the highest possible hammer price. But sometimes, it’s just not going to be a stellar sale. The auctioneer is only human, and is also disappointed if a sale doesn’t go as well as planned.

If you notice that every time you bring a bunch of goods to sell that you’re not realizing as much as you think you honestly should, try another auction venue and compare apples to apples. That is, bring the same types of items to the new auctioneer and compare the results.

Unless the auctioneer is particularly disagreeable or inconsiderate to you or buyers, there is no reason to confront him or her about a sale. If you find you just don’t care for an auctioneer’s style or methods, find another one. Believe me, there are plenty of them out there!

The primary thing to remember as you learn how to sell at auction is that the business is unpredictable at best. You will have good days, some not-so-good days, some great days. The more you sell, the more experience you will gain, and the more enjoyable the business will be.