We’ve talked before about the benefits of having a business plan for every business, but the truth is, most companies don’t put one together until they want to apply for funding, whether from a bank or investor. Sometimes, even if you don’t need a full business plan when applying for a loan, you will be asked for a funding request. You can also follow the guidelines below to prepare a stand-alone proposal to present to a potential lender with your application.
If the purpose of your business plan is NOT to get funding, feel free to skip this section.
As we’ve said before about writing a business plan, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. You can certainly prepare different versions of your funding request depending on whether you’re applying for a loan or approaching an investor. The terms of each would be different, and you might be looking for different amounts of money or types of funding, especially if you’re approaching several potential partners.
Be clear about whom you’re directing the request to, and think about the questions they might have and what they would want to see. Make sure you’ve done your homework regarding the costs involved with your plans. This is where the financial section of your plan will work hand in hand with this one. Be consistent with your numbers, and ask for enough to cover your needs fully so you don’t fall short and remain unable to complete your goals. At the same time, don’t ask for more than you need.
What to Include in Your Funding Request
1. A summary of the business.
If the request is part of your business plan, you will have already put together all the information found in a business summary. If you’re creating a funding request as a stand-alone document, explain what the company is, where you’re located, what you sell or what services you offer, and who your customers are. Mention whether you’re incorporated, and if so, what type of corporation it is, along with who the owners and key staff members are. Briefly list your business successes and accomplishment thus far.
2. How much money you’re requesting.
How much cash are you looking for now, and if you anticipate this being the first part of an ongoing growth plan, how much more money do you plan to request over time? What would the specific timeline look like? The Small Business Administration suggests thinking as far as five years down the road when putting your funding request together. Also spell out what type of funding you’re looking for, whether a loan or investment, and the terms you’re asking for. (As we suggested above, you can put together different versions of the request for different types of funding.)
3. What you will use the money for.
Do you need some extra funds for working capital to buy more inventory? Are you paying off a high-interest loan? Buying a building, new equipment, or another company? Expanding your advertising campaign, or hiring more staff? Whatever it is, explain how much each aspect will cost.
4. Financial information.
This will be the heart of the financial information section of your business plan , but you need to include it here if you’re putting together a stand-alone funding request.
You’ll need historical data on the company (if it’s an established business), like income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements for the last three to five years. If the funding request is for a loan that requires collateral, document what you have to offer. If you’ve invested your own money in the company or there are other investors, state that along with how much.
Offer realistic projections for the future, and explain how this new funding would help you reach those goals. Prepare yearly forecasts for income, balance sheets, cash flow and capital expenditure budgets for the next five years. Be even more specific for the first year, with projections for each month or quarter.
You also need to cover how you plan to pay off the debt, or what kind of return on investment you can offer a potential investor. Potential funders will pay particular attention to this, wanting to maximize their gains and minimize their risk as much as possible. If the plan is targeted to investors, what would their exit plan be? Can they cash out in a specific number of years? Do you plan to go public and offer stock?
Finally, address anything that might affect your ability to repay, whether positively or negatively, such as being acquired, buying out another business, relocating, etc.
Getting money to fund your business may very well be the point of creating your entire business plan, so take the time to carefully prepare your funding request, making sure to include all the information a decision-maker will need.