How to find funding opportunities for worthwhile projects and business growth. By Heather Vaile
If you’re thinking about ways to grow your veterinary business this year or you want to make a positive contribution to a deserving animal research or charity project, the biggest question on your mind is probably not so much ‘what can I do?’ but ‘how will I pay for it?’
After all, vision without funding is just hallucination, right?
Vets working for universities, government entities, and research companies typically secure funding for their research projects through prestigious national organisations such as the Australian Research Council. Some have even received development or new equipment funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council.
These types of funding bodies do not accept applications from individuals, and in most cases, the applications of researchers must be submitted through a university grants office or other ‘approved administering institution’. This helps to control the quality and quantity of applications received, ensures accountability and transparency in terms of how, when, where, and by whom the funds are used, and increases the likelihood that all reporting responsibilities will be met.
Practitioners employed by large organisations are also well-placed to go down the partnership path and may choose to collaborate with government or industry bodies such as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia or the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Others will actively cultivate links with charitable trusts and foundations such as the Australian Companion Animal Health Foundation.
However, vets working in private practices tend to have far less exposure to and success in seeking grant funding, because most are working as (or for) independent small business owners and are thus ineligible to apply; or they have little or no experience in writing grant applications. Researching what current and future funding options are available can also be a very time-consuming activity, and this can deter busy general practitioners from even starting the process.
But the harsh reality is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
So whether you dream about doing more to help abandoned pets to find loving new homes, or you want to use your professional skills to support animals in remote or disadvantaged locations or you just need a helping hand to expand your veterinary business—as Joan Baez put it, “action is the antidote to despair”.
An excellent place to start learning about grant funding opportunities in Australia is by visiting the Philanthropy Australia website. It contains a wealth of information for people seeking funding for all sorts of causes and projects, and includes helpful advice on how to get started, what to do if you are seeking funding for your small business, useful links, a list of relevant databases, access (for members only) to an online directory for charity, community and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations called The Directory of Funders, and information about travel scholarships.
Bear in mind that, for legal and tax reasons, Australian philanthropic trusts and foundations only provide grants to charitable organisations and are not in a position to fund individuals or small businesses, however worthy their cause or project.
An excellent place to start learning about grant funding opportunities in Australia is the Philanthropy Australia website.
Acting CEO of Philanthropy Australia, Chris Wootton says: “We’d recommend that vets who are interested in supporting a particular cause or looking for ways to access funding for some new research or other initiative, explore opportunities to partner with a charity already working in that area.”
You can find a list of animal welfare charities working in Australia on the Australian Charity Guide website.
For vets already working for a charity, community project or NFP, the Grant Guru Community website provides a free listing of national grant and funding opportunities by sector and location.
If your project is not associated with a registered charity, community group or NFP, don’t rule out popular crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter. GoFundMe has some brilliant examples of pet and animal fundraising campaigns that are really worth checking out.
You may also like to check out the Funding Centre website. Although it bills itself as ‘Australia’s Centre for Excellence’ for NFPs and schools, it also has an online resource called BusiGrants specifically aimed at helping businesses keep ‘up to date with all of the funding opportunities available from all sources to help grow and sustain your business’. Membership costs range from $300–$400 per year and for this you get unlimited access to their grants database, customised grant email alerts, a regular newsletter and access for up to 10 users per organisation.
If your goal is all about building or expanding your veterinary practice, take a look at the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Innovation, Industry and Science website and specifically, the business.gov.au/assistance page. Government organisations will never charge you for information about grants and there are many types of funding committed to helping Australian businesses grow, collaborate and innovate.
For example, the Commonwealth Government’s Restart wage subsidy provides small businesses with a subsidy of up to $10,000 (including GST) to employ a mature Australian job-seeker, aged 50 years or older, for a period of 12 months or more.
In NSW, a small business rebate of up to $500 is available to small business owners who ‘buy and install eligible safety items to address a safety problem in their workplace’.
You might even want to consider the Inspiring Australia—Science Engagement Programme. This is a fairly recent initiative involving $4m of Commonwealth money earmarked from 2016-2020 (i.e. $500,000 per year), to support exciting events and activities held during National Science Week. Individuals or groups organising science projects designed to ‘promote and encourage interest in science, engineering, technology and innovation, and communicate their relevance in everyday life,’ can bid for funding grants for projects between $2,000 and $20,000. Visit www.business.gov.au/nswkg to find out more.
Finally, it is vital to understand that grant funding is a very competitive and fickle business. Government grants are particularly susceptible to ‘budget repair’ measures and changes in policy priorities.
Writing applications requires practice, engagement and attention to detail. Do your research thoroughly, make sure you understand the funding conditions, address the guidelines succinctly, emphasise how your project meets the priorities of the funding organisation, produce evidence where necessary, present your submission well and don’t leave it till the last minute!