Providing capital is one of the most pressing and frustrating challenges any small business owner has to face. Finding investors can be challenging, and qualifying for loans is not always viable while you are still setting your feet in the market. This kind of uncertainty can undermine your belief in your business and the preservation of the foundations of your operations – no matter how bold and actionable your ideas may be.
But if you believe you have the vision, mission, integrity, intelligence, and work ethic to influence change through your company, you may want to explore the possibility of pursuing Small Business Grants – capital payments from organizations looking to empower smaller businesses that have what it takes to help achieve certain goals. Big picture.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at what small business grants are, learn how to apply for them, take a look at some tips on how to effectively navigate the application process, and see some resources to support your pursuit of this type of funding.
What are small business grants?
A small business grant is essentially a mission-driven investment made to a small business — by a government, corporation, or non-profit entity — that demonstrates the vision and ability to achieve certain goals set by the granting organization. Unlike loans, small business grants do not need to be repaid.
Small business grants can come from a variety of sources—the federal and state governments, some private companies, and many nonprofit organizations provide this type of funding to small businesses.
This eclectic mix of potential funders makes for an equally eclectic mix of application processes. There is also no end-to-end resource where you can easily access information about each small business grant – but there are some resources that can help in the process.
Grants.gov provides a renewable and searchable database of grants listed by government agencies. GrantWatch.com offers a similar service that also includes some grants listed by private organizations as well.
How to Apply for Small Business Grants
When I touched on, there is no standard one-size-fits-all template for what a small business grant application looks like. Each scholarship is unique and, in most cases, will have an application process that reflects this. However, some elements tend to appear in the majority of small business grant applications. These include:
- Number of Employees
- Pitch your elevator
- How do you intend to use the grant money
- Your social media information
- How long have you been at work
- A photo of you
- revenue figures
- Detailed business plan
Make these details – among other things – compliant if you want to reliably complete robust small business grant applications. Now, let’s look at some of the steps you can take to increase your chances of getting this type of financing.
How to get grants for small business
1. Determine if it is worth your time and effort.
Pursuing small business grants is often a labor-intensive and time-consuming process with uncertain ends. There is no guarantee that the work you do will pay off. If you’re interested in applying for small business grants, you need to know that you have the time and resources to devote to the process — even if your efforts aren’t going anywhere.
The scholarship application process isn’t always intuitive, so you’ll likely do extensive research before and throughout it. Also, thorough and thoughtful filling of applications can be difficult and tedious in and of itself, so be prepared to dedicate a significant amount of time to do it.
If you are not willing or able to take on these burdens – and you think that some additional capital is much more than that “It’s nice to have” from U.S “need to” Seeking out small business grants may not be in your best interest.
2. Conducting comprehensive and focused research.
Grants come in all shapes and sizes – so you won’t be eligible for all of them. Some are industry specific. Some are mission driven. Others may depend on the revenue your business generates or any other factor that shapes your company’s operations or identity.
Your search should be thorough, but you don’t want to stray too far from the net. As I mentioned, the scholarship application process can be time consuming and labor intensive – and if you wind up applying at random, you will be wasting valuable energy that you could have put into growing your business on your own.
Find grants that you can practically win — those that match the specific characteristics of your business — and get there. If you apply for every small project grant without careful thought or intent, you will be wasting your time and that of the grant judges.
3. Research the scholarships you are applying for, and understand what they want from you.
Once you have a picture of the scholarships you want to apply for, secure it, and know what the bodies behind them are looking for. In most cases, the small business grant organization is looking to support companies whose efforts are aligned with their core values, goals, or mission.
So if you are applying for a small business grant, make sure you fit in with its ideological and logistical specifications. Again, the Grants.gov search engine can help you determine which engines you are well equipped to compete for.
4. Develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and well-constructed business plan.
A key component of nearly every successful scholarship application is a detailed, impressive, and carefully designed business plan. Organizations that give grants to small businesses want to know that the companies that give them will use the grant money effectively.
Small Business Giving Is Rooted In Two Kinds Of Trust – Trust In ideology and trust in survival. Your company may put together an application that demonstrates how to better embody the values and mission behind the grant than anyone else on earth – but if you can’t demonstrate that you have the business intelligence, logistical ability, and leadership skills to further these values, you won’t win this funding.
Make sure your business plan clearly communicates how your business will benefit from the grant, how you will benefit from the funding that comes with it, and how these efforts will advance the goals the donor hopes to achieve.
5. Don’t focus too much on one scholarship.
While you never want to spread a very wide net when applying for small business grants, you should also avoid picking one grant and getting overwhelmed everyone of your time and energy on it. Small business grants are very competitive, so if you want to increase your chances of getting one, you need to strike a balance between the right quantity and high quality.
Try to find multiple grants for which you have a legitimate experience, and tailor your applications to each of them individually – however, you may see a fair amount of overlap in terms of what the organizations behind these grants want from you. So certain items may move from one application to another.
Again, you want to avoid overworking yourself, but if you only explore one option, you’re not playing the odds effectively – and it can cause you to be exhausted, of some precious time and resources, and disappointed in the process.
6. Consider bringing in outside help.
If you don’t think you have the time, energy, resources, skills, or knowledge to make a compelling case for your small business grant applications, you may want to consider offering some outside help.
Accountants or other types of consultants can be valuable resources when grouping your applications together. They can ensure that you cover all the bases you need while providing specific insight into how you can stand out and meet the bodies behind the scholarships you are applying for.
Outsourcing some (or all) of your grant writing efforts can also save you significant time and energy, and if you can win grants as a result of their help, their services will essentially pay for it.
Small Business Grant Resources
1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program calls itself the “Seed Fund of America.” With support from the US Small Business Administration, SBIR connects start-ups with agencies looking to help fund innovative research and development in specific areas.
For example, a government agency might list a grant for “telecommunication chip optical receivers” to connect with companies working on this type of technology.
2. US Economic Development Administration (EDA)
The US Economic Development Administration (EDA) provides federally funded grant opportunities to companies across nearly every industry. The organization provides access to a rolling list of government programs that small business owners can apply to for land grant funds.
3. $100,000 to start SUD
The $100,000 SUD Startup Scholarship Program is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The program will offer 10 separate awards worth $10,000 to biotech companies researching substance use disorders.
IFund Women offers a series of grants for eligible women-owned businesses totaling approximately $8 million to distribute. The program grants come and go on a rolling basis, but it does offer a comprehensive application that women entrepreneurs can fill out to enter competitions for relevant grants when they open.
5. SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant
The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant takes applications on a rolling basis, and awards individual grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to eligible companies.
The winner must identify themselves as a black woman or non-dual black entrepreneur, have a legally registered business, plan to obtain large-scale invested funding, and have a scalable, high-impact solution or idea with the ambition to be the next billion dollar business.
For more information on other funding resources for black business owners, check out this article.
6. Targeted Scholarships for Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
The US Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) conducts several grant competitions for minority-owned small businesses on a rolling basis throughout the year.
It provides the information needed for business owners to select grants, understand grant announcements, access pre-application materials, and understand evaluation processes.
Small business grants provide a viable (but hard-earned) opportunity for companies to maintain their operations and impact mission-driven social change. If you believe your business has the vision and feasibility — along with the time and resources needed — to obtain this funding, you may want to explore applying for these grants.