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Updated: April 1, 2024 Ask ACE

Ask ACE: What do funders want?

Q: What do funders want?

ACE Advises: Bankers, grantors and investors want to see a comprehensive business plan demonstrating that their investment will generate a return. A persuasive plan demonstrates execution capability and market understanding. It answers these key questions:

Execution capability: who, how and when

Funders look for a capable and experienced management team. Your team should have the expertise and experience to execute the plan. If it does not have it, gather experienced advisors to provide guidance and valuable networks.

Tell investors how you will use their money, whether for product development, marketing, or scaling operations, assuring them of their investment’s positive impact on growth.

Demonstrate growth potential through reachable revenue forecasts, conservative expense estimates and cash flow projections for three to five years, backed by market research and industry benchmarks.

Funders want to know when they will realize a return. A reasonable plan enhances the venture’s attractiveness, through realistic repayment schedules and timely returns.

Market potential: what, where and to whom

Outline your business idea, target market, competition analysis, revenue model and growth strategy. Show evidence of a sizable and growing market with customer demographics, trends and potential barriers to entry. Anticipate difficulties and address them proactively.

Ongoing advice from experienced mentors can help. A good mentor understands the level of detail needed to demonstrate each element of the plan to a potential funding source. Riskier ventures and startups are more likely to turn to personal savings, angel or venture capital investors, economic development, or government grants.

Traditional bank financing may be available for later-stage businesses with collateral or a solid track record. They have resources and networks that help you gather needed information, enhancing your chances of securing funding to meet your business goals.

ACE member Michael G. Stair is a partner with Practical Decisions, a Maine-based business advisory and consulting firm. For over 35 years, he has provided management advisory and leadership coaching services to small and medium sized companies in Maine and across the U.S., and has taken multiple businesses through acquisition, growth and exit. You can contact Stair at

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