“You gotta be in it to win it.” Or so the saying goes.
So no wonder so many entrepreneurs and small business owners jumped in to get a chance to win one of twelve $250,000 grants given by a couple of nationally known companies.
I doubt you missed getting asked to vote for your favorite entrepreneur because most people I know were inundated with requests. (I got 73 requests on multiple platforms!) But just in case you were lucky enough to miss this, let me explain…
‘Mission: Small Business” is part of a competition to award 12 small businesses with grants of $250,000 to help their local communities. Sounds great right?
Nope. Not at all…
It’s once again the promise of what looks like easy money and turns out to be a big waste of time.
First, you have to write an essay answering some very detailed questions about your business, including its background, challenges and goals
Second, you have to solicit votes. 250 of them to be exact. That means that the people entering have to solicit the votes through their networks and lists.
I don’t know about you, but I saw a lot of begging and ‘help me help others’ kind of asks. These requests for votes got so redundant, so annoying, that I publicly posted on Facebook:
Within 8 minutes of posting, I got three more requests for voting! All saying they would use that money to help others.
And apparently, I wasn’t the only one annoyed by these requests. Seth Godin also posted about why this amounts to little more than spam, and spamming is one practice guaranteed to harm, not help, your business reputation and your online relationships.
Once you meet the minimum vote requirement, you then are considered – along with thousands of others – for one of the grants based on criteria that have nothing to do with getting votes.
Now I won’t even go into the fact that using the ploy ‘to help others’ in order to get votes is the kind of spin that gives PR people a bad name. Nor will I also say that the only people really benefiting from this are the company sponsors. (Whoops! I just did.)
My real beef about this is what an utter waste of time this process is for a business owner. You have to write an essay and work to get votes. And I can almost promise you, YOU WILL NOT GET THE MONEY, because no matter how well you did in the first two parts of this competition, it all comes down to a handful of judges, with who knows what hidden agendas, choosing between thousands of very similar applicants.
I had personal experience of this last year with a non-profit whose board I served on. They decided, against my strong advice, to apply for a Pepsi Grant. They used their relationships with the city mayor and the local media to promote the grant application, asking everyone to go online and vote for them. They were so confident they would win, they even put the grant in their budget for the next year! Surprise: they came nowhere near to winning. And they damaged a lot of their relationships, including with me and several other board members who quit because of their stupidity. Yet they justified their application by saying “it won’t cost us anything”!
There’s an old joke that “the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math.” You may think that these business grants are different from the lottery because they don’t cost you any money to enter. But they cost you a lot of time to enter and those lost hours are worth hundreds of times more than the cost of a lottery ticket. So please, before you start writing essays and hassling all your online contacts for their votes, do the math and then move on to doing something that will really boost your business.