Money is tight. Getting access to capital isn’t like it used to be. Even our government is starting to realize they can’t just print more (I said starting, they still have some budgeting lessons they still need to earn). The Gold Rush days of COVID funding that was available to nearly anyone who could figure out how to apply for it, are dwindling.
The nuggets of capital and funding that we find now won’t be the size of our palms but, just like that precious metal, there is still some to be found. Our members just need some help in finding where to look for it.
15 Ways to Facilitate Access to Capital for Members
The cost of money has become more expensive, but chambers are once again in an ideal position to help member businesses get access to capital.
Here are several suggestions you can use in assisting your members:
1. Education and Workshops
Organize seminars, workshops, or webinars to educate small businesses about different funding options, eligibility criteria, and application processes. Some of the things you might want to include (or find experts to talk about) are:
- Creating Awareness:
As anyone applying for financial aid knows, funding is not all the same. That is true of business funding as well. Educate members on the diverse funding options available for businesses. Highlight traditional financing avenues like bank loans, lines of credit, and government grants, as well as alternative options like crowdfunding, angel investors, venture capital, and peer-to-peer lending.
By hosting educational sessions, chambers can help their members understand the pros and cons of each funding source and it’s a great opportunity to bring in expert members in the field.
- Eligibility Criteria:
Different funding sources have different eligibility criteria, and navigating through them can be challenging for business owners. Invite financial experts, lenders, and representatives from funding organizations to conduct workshops where they explain the specific requirements and qualifications for each funding option. Clarify factors such as creditworthiness, business plans, financial statements, collateral, and industry-specific criteria, allowing participants to gauge their chances of qualifying for different funding opportunities.
Pull together some of the assistance in your community that can help provide resources so you’re not creating them from scratch. Consider SCORE or check with the library. Often they have business planning guidance and experts who help for free.
- Application Processes:
Understanding the application processes for various funding options is crucial for businesses seeking capital. Organize workshops, webinars, and/or videos to walk participants through the application procedures, including the necessary documentation, forms, and timelines.
Provide step-by-step guidance on filling out applications, preparing financial projections, and creating compelling business pitches. These sessions can demystify the application processes and equip entrepreneurs with the knowledge and confidence needed to pursue funding opportunities.
- Expert Guidance:
Invite financial advisors, accountants, or successful entrepreneurs who have secured funding to share their experiences and insights. Guest speakers can provide valuable guidance on how to present business ideas, build relationships with lenders or investors, and increase the likelihood of securing funding. By facilitating interactions between experts and business owners, you can create a supportive network that fosters learning and collaboration.
2. Resource Directories
Maintain a directory or online resource portal that lists available funding sources, including grants, loans, crowdfunding platforms, and local investors. You can highlight these funding avenues in your newsletter or in a weekly email allowing people to opt-in to receive the information. By doing this, you know what percentage of your members is interested in funding and who you might be able to help when you learn of new opportunities.
3. Networking & Pitch Events
Arrange networking & pitch events where businesses can connect with potential investors, lenders, or grant providers. Choose your format in alignment with your goals. Are you looking to match a limited amount of business? Do you want to create a challenge or competition similar to Shark Tank? Are you helping to align funding in an area that’s important to your economic base? Answering these questions will help you decide on the ideal format, and most effective way to help your target businesses.
4. Mentorship Programs
Establish mentorship programs that connect experienced business leaders with businesses seeking capital, providing guidance and advice throughout the funding process. This can help you be a part of the process without having to sacrifice a lot of your own time to do it. This can also be an excellent benefit to incentivize people to join the chamber.
5. Grant Assistance
Offer guidance on grant applications, reviewing proposals, and ensuring businesses meet the requirements. Host grant-writing workshops or webinars focused on grant-writing techniques, helping businesses enhance their chances of successfully securing grants.
There is a lot of money available through grants. Many people just don’t know how to access it. Check with your Community Trust Foundation too to explore what funding they may have available.
The Sarasota Chamber has its own: Opportunities for All.
6. Advocacy and Lobbying
Continue to advocate for favorable financing conditions, increased access to capital, or incentives for businesses at the local, regional, or national levels of government. This may include advocating for things like reduced interest rates on loans, streamlined loan application processes, or tax incentives for businesses that secure financing for growth and expansion. By highlighting the positive impact of such measures on economic development and job creation, chambers can influence policy decisions that benefit businesses.
7. Access to Expert Advice
Connect small businesses with financial advisors, consultants, or professionals who can help them develop financial strategies or navigate complex funding processes. Work to improve your CHamber Directory to include resources for funding or funding/financial advice.
8. Partnership with Economic Development Agencies
Collaborate with economic development agencies to leverage their resources, knowledge, and networks to support businesses in securing funding. Make sure your members know when the EDAs host funding events as well. Share their event calendar.
9. Crowdfunding Campaigns
Assist businesses in planning and executing crowdfunding campaigns, providing guidance on platform selection (some platforms are better than others for certain industries or ideas), messaging, and marketing strategies.
10. Facilitating Partnerships
Facilitate partnerships between businesses and potential investors or strategic partners who can provide funding or resources. Find out what type of funding your businesses are looking for and do a little matchmaking. Partnerships will be much more lucrative if you help them take a targeted approach and not just a “let’s try everything and see what works.” That type of “spray” approach can get tiring because of its ineffectiveness and lack of strategy.
11. Online Resources and Toolkits
Develop comprehensive online resources or toolkits that compile information on different funding sources, sample applications, and success stories. This type of resource is valuable and can make your website a top traffic recipient for anyone looking to start, or fund, a business.
12. Collaboration with Educational Institutions
Partner with local colleges, universities, or business schools to provide training programs on financial management and accessing capital, as well as entrepreneurialism, and grant writing.
You may also be able to put together a program to provide guidance and feedback on business plans, ensuring they are well-prepared to approach potential investors or lenders. Before you attempt this though do some research on what already exists in your community. No reason to reinvent the wheel or compete when you can collaborate.
13. Building Relationships with Investors
Develop relationships with local angel investors, venture capitalists, or private equity firms and facilitate introductions to businesses seeking capital. Find out what the capitalists like to invest in and talk to them about economic development and how you might be able to assist one another.
14. Case Studies and Success Stories
Highlight successful examples of businesses that have found access to capital, secured funding, discovered best practices and inspiring others. Bonus points if your chamber had a role in helping them. Remember, when you’re telling their story, they are the hero, you are the wise assistant who helped them make their (funding) dreams come true.
15. One-on-one Consultations
Offer individual consultations to businesses to understand their specific capital needs and provide personalized recommendations and guidance. By providing these resources, connections, and support, you can significantly enhance your members’ ability to find and access various sources of capital. Before offering these consults, decide what your goals are. Is this a way to get to know the member and their needs better or will you create a matchmaking situation pairing them up with a potential investor? Be clear about your preferred level of involvement so your members know what to expect.