As a small business owner, you likely are always looking for money to grow your business, and when something like a global pandemic hits, that need only increases.
Whether you’re looking for grants to help you weather the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath or are just looking for a small business grant to take your company to the next level, you’ll find many options here.
A grant is financial assistance that is given to a person, business, nonprofit, or corporation from federal, state, county, or local governments, or private businesses or corporations. There are a number of companies, nonprofits, and government agencies providing essentially free money to small business owners in the form of a small business grant. And the best part? Grants do not require repayment of any kind.
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Grants can be formed to target businesses based on a variety of factors, including minority-owned businesses, specific for-profit businesses as well as non-profit organizations, veteran-owned businesses, grants for women, and more.
You don’t have to make your pitch on “Shark Tank,” refinance your home, or take out small business loans to take the next step in your entrepreneurial journey — business grants may help you get there, if you know where to look and how to apply.
And right now, with so many small businesses struggling through the pandemic, these grants can provide much-needed financial support that could be the difference between thriving or closing your doors.
We’ve pulled together numerous resources for business owners searching for small business grant opportunities. The majority of these have broad grant application requirements, meaning many businesses qualify.
Keep in mind that this can be a double-edged sword for applicants, though — you can apply for a lot more business grants if the qualifications are broad, but that means more competition for the grant. Often, you can find more success by finding niche grants for your industry, or based on your ownership structure and makeup.
In that spirit, we’ve provided some how-to advice all business owners can use to get your grant entries and/or grant proposals together, along with lists of small business grant programs, split into some of the most-searched-for categories.
There are several types of grants, and you may only be eligible for certain ones.
First, there are grants offered by the government. This includes entities like the U.S. Small Business Administration and more niche departments such as the National Institute of Health, which will have industry-specific requirements for applicants.
Then there are grants offered by private companies. These may be more general and open to a wider base.
Some grants target specific groups, like women or minority entrepreneurs or veterans.
Currently, we also have grants aimed to help those negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
There are grants available to alleviate some of the pain that the coronavirus pandemic has caused small businesses. Keep in mind that many of these programs close, and some open additional rounds of funding, so check with each to see the latest.
The Federal government recognizes the negative impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on tens of thousands of small businesses across the country. Currently, there are two main financial assistance programs offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that may provide financial help…and that may not need to be paid back.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan, is technically a loan that must be paid back, but it also offers both a Targeted and Supplemental Targeted Advance, which are funds that don’t have to be paid back. Whether you accept an EIDL loan or not, you can still apply to see if you qualify for up to $15,000 in grant funds if your business:
While the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ended on May 31, 2021, if you took out this loan, you may still qualify for loan forgiveness, which is pretty much the same as getting a grant. To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must prove that:
The Shuttered Venue Operator Grant program (SVOG) has closed, but the SBA says that it will open the program for supplemental SVOGs for 50% of the original award amount, capped at a total of $10 million.
Those eligible businesses include:
Another noteworthy COVID-19 relief grant comes from The Barstool Fund (sponsored by Barstool Sports). The fund has an ongoing crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for eligible businesses that apply. There is no set grant amount, but a recent business received $9,000.
Crowdfunding company GoFundMe has partnered with partners to provide a COVID-19 relief fund for small businesses. Your business may receive a matching grant when you raise $500 through your own GoFundMe campaign, as long as you can verify that your business has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus. Funds must be used to pay business expenses or care for employees.
Fiserv has partnered with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity and Clover to offer grants of $10,000 to eligible black- and minority-owned small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting recession.
To be eligible, your business must:
If your business is in New York and you’ve suffered because of the pandemic, you may qualify for this grant program. Grant amounts are based on annual gross receipts from 2019 and start at $5,000 and can be as much as 10% of gross receipts, up to $50,000.
The following may not be specific to COVID-19, but any money (especially that doesn’t have to be repaid) will be welcome during these difficult times.
Each year since 2013, FedEx has offered $25,000 grants to businesses. The application is only open for a one-month period, so ready your applications for the next open date. You’ll need to capture your business’s story via video.
NASE Growth Grants are offered to NASE members looking to take their business to the next level. NASE grants are worth up to $4,000 and can be used for all types of activities, like purchasing new equipment, hiring help, and creating promotional material.
The StreetShares Veteran Small Business Award is open to veterans, active-duty members, or the spouse of a military veteran or active duty member. Applicants can receive up to $15,000 and will be judged based on their business idea, their expected use of funds, product-market fit, team, and the influence the business will have on the veteran or military community.
Each quarter, Nav offers a $10,000 small business grant to help them solve a business problem or take their business to the next level.
The Caleb Brown Venture Capital and Consulting Project hosts a $1,000 grant aimed at promoting and nurturing young urban entrepreneurs with vision who plan to rebuild local blocks, neighborhoods, and communities “by providing training and jobs to the next generation.” The grant is open to startups and young businesses in urban areas. This contest is run every month—submit your application by the 15th to enter.
Are you a jewelry artist? If so, submit your portfolio and business plan to Halstead for its annual jewelry grant award of $7,500. In addition to funds, Halstead aims to help jewelry artists develop their business, fine-tune their plans, and hit their goals.
The Federal government, too, offers grants to support small businesses.
The federal research SBIR grant program is for entrepreneurs focused on innovations in technology that have the potential for commercialization. You can check its funding opportunities here. Focus areas from the past include clean and safe water, homeland security, land revitalization, green construction, advancement of health care, and more.
The STTR program aims to expand funding for innovative research and development leveraging existing technology. What makes this program unique from the SBIR program is that small businesses get the opportunity to formally collaborate with research institutions throughout the program. Each agency sets its own guidelines — check here for open STTR grants.
The DoD offers grants to small businesses through the STTR program and a number of other initiatives, like the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative. The Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office, and the U.S. Army Research Institute are all looking for research and development of technology that will help them reach their goals.
The DOE offers grants through the SBIR and STTR programs for innovative research and development leveraging technology developed by a university or a DOE National Lab. Check here for its current grant openings.
NIH is a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It offers business grants to small businesses developing and researching biomedical technology. It is currently funding opportunities related to COVID-19 research.
The DOJ allocates grant funding to projects that support law enforcement, public safety activities, programs to improve the criminal justice system, and more. Here’s an overview of the agencies within the DOJ that provide grants.
The DOI offers small business grants through several departments, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Find other DOI grant opportunities on Grants.gov.
The Department of Agriculture offers both loans and grants to support businesses in rural areas to create quality jobs. It funds community projects such as the development of housing, community facilities, and other services.
The NIFA is a federal agency within the USDA with a focus on leadership and funding programs. It offers grants throughout the year, which come with support and guidance. Be mindful that many of its grants are offered to nonprofits or larger businesses.
While grants offered by private companies and grants for startups are available to a broader range of business owners, there are also grants specifically for women-owned businesses. You can find resources and information at women’s business centers, but here are two business grants for women to start with.
The Amber Grant is a $10,000 cash grant awarded to qualifying female entrepreneurs each month. At the end of the year, monthly grant recipients will have the opportunity to win an additional $25,000 grant.
The Boston Women’s Fund provides seed money, program support, and operational funding for women-led grassroots community efforts. Find its grant programs here.
A quick Google search will pull up millions of results for business grants. So many possibilities are out there that it can seem impossible to narrow down the prospects. But there are a few resources that can not only help you find the right grants for your business, but even assist in the application process, and help you identify grant opportunities that can’t be missed.
Free money from the government — who wouldn’t want a piece of that? Grants.gov is the federal government agency’s landing page for all federal government grants across agencies. It’s a great resource for finding grant opportunities, but small businesses may be disappointed to find that many of the grants are closed to them.
The site includes grants for school systems, local governments, individuals, and nonprofits as well, so you have to sift through to find ones that are the right fit for you. Also, the federal grants available to small businesses have specific requirements when it comes to business size. (You can read more about how the federal government determines which businesses qualify as “small” businesses in this article.)
If it seems like receiving a business grant, specifically a government-funded one, is tricky, that’s because it can be. Here are some general guidelines and requirements that the federal government uses to determine business grant eligibility requirements:
GrantWatch is another database of grants of every kind, though it’s a subscription-based service you will need to pay for. The site has a wide variety of grants offered by federal, state, and local governments, as well as foundations and corporations. The site is constantly being updated, and grants that have closed are archived.
You can filter the more than 25,000 grants by category to narrow down the ones targeting small businesses like yours.
Once you’ve exhausted your searches for grants from federal agencies, the next stop on your list should be local and state business grants. You may be able to hit paydirt and find some of these on your own, but there’s a free, local resource that may help.
Small Business Development Centers are a business owner’s best friend. Local, regional, state, and national offices mentor small business owners and help them understand business financing options, craft marketing strategies, and connect to other local business owners (and much more — these guys do it all).
One thing they can help with is navigating the grant process. Very few people have as much visibility as SBDC advisors do on the local business grant scene. It’s the one appointment you can’t afford not to make when searching for small business grants.
SCORE is a nonprofit organization backed by the Small Business Administration that promotes free tools and mentorship for American small business owners. Like SBDCs, SCORE is a free resource for entrepreneurs looking for help or expertise and they have many local experts that you can connect with. A SCORE mentor may help you identify local grant opportunities, or review your pitch to help you make it as compelling as possible.
Among the many, many things local libraries provide for free or at a low cost to business owners is help finding grants. Just ask your librarian. These men and women are trained researchers with access to hundreds of databases.