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GRANT PROGRAMS 

It's a difficult time for businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. However, governments at the local, state and federal level, as well as private companies may give out grants. Researching and applying for these grants requires time and effort but if you are successful in getting a grant, everything is worthwhile. 

 

Here is a breakdown of small business grants to get you started.

 

Caveats:
 

  1. Almost all grants are for existing businesses – if you haven’t started your company, it’s almost impossible to win a grant. Look for a loan instead.

  2. Grants are given to “interesting” businesses – a standard coffee shop is going to have a hard time winning a grant. Most are awarded to businesses that are innovative or that contribute to a social cause.

  3. Grants aren’t immediate – most grants only accept applications once a year, and the winner isn’t announced until later. Grants are not a short-term funding solution.

Dos and Don’ts of Winning Business Grants

Let’s start with some basic dos and don’ts of trying to win grants.

Do:

  • Make a schedule – several grants are only open to applications once a year. Give yourself enough time to put together an application well before the due date.

  • Write a business plan first – most grants will ask for one. More importantly, you should know exactly how the grant money will help your enterprise. Here’s our guide to writing a simple business plan.

  • See what companies have been funded in the past – this can help you determine which grants you have a better chance of winning. If they’ve funded similar types of businesses, that’s a good sign.

  • Get help from community business organizations – I went through many types of organizations that provide assistance to small business owners. This includes helping you find grants and presenting your company in the best light.

  • Consider professional help – if you come across a grant that requires a well-written cover letter or essay, consider hiring a professional grant writer if you can afford it. It’s usually only worth it for big grants.

Don’t:

  • Wait until the last minute – several grants require you to become a member of an organization, or get a certification or license. You may not have time to meet the eligibility conditions if you wait too long.

  • Use a template for all grant applications – each application should be tailored to each specific grant. Otherwise, you’ll include a lot of irrelevant information and skip important answers that were needed.

  • Apply for every grant – there are several grants that your business will have virtually zero chance of winning. It’s better to spend more time on the most relevant ones than to spread yourself too thin and have lower-quality applications on multiple grants.

Government Sources for Small Business Grants

There is a wide variety of government grants from both the federal and local governments.

  • Grants.gov: The first place all small businesses should go is to look for a federal grant. It’s a database of thousands of grants with powerful filters that will help you quickly narrow down the results to those you have a good chance of winning.

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Grants: The SBA mainly helps small businesses find conventional means of funding, such as loans. But they also have a few grant programs targeted specifically at companies involved with research or exporting.
     

Here are the primary government-sponsored grants:

  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR): SBIR is a longstanding funding program for research-based businesses with commercialization potential. They award grants through 12 main federal agencies:

    • Department of Agriculture

    • National Institute of Standards and Technology

    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    • Department of Defense

    • Department of Education

    • Department of Energy

    • Department of Health and Human Services

    • Department of Homeland Security

    • Department of Transportation

    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    • National Science Foundation
       

  • Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR): The STTR program is similar to the SBIR program. It also focuses on businesses involved with a research program, but is only available to those based at a formal research institution. It’s also more restrictive by industry, as only five federal agencies award STTR grants currently:

    • Department of Defense

    • Department of Energy

    • Department of Health and Human Services

    • NASA

    • National Science Foundation.
       

  • State Trade Expansion Program (STEP): This program awards grants to small businesses involved in exporting. Not that much information about this grant is available online,  so you’ll need to contact the SBA’s Office of International Trade to see your grant eligibility.
     

  • SAM.gov (formerly the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance): This is another great federal database with a modern re-design. While there is some overlap with Grants.gov, you’ll find a few unique pointers that make it worth your while to check out. You can use the advanced search filters to see only grant recipients, or you can see other funding sources like loans.

 

Some USDA grants are focused on small rural businesses, but not all of them are. Check the eligibility requirements for each program you’re interested in to see if you qualify.

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Grants: This is where the NIST lists its grants. They are intended for small businesses across science or technology fields. You can either find the currently active grants here, or through Grants.gov.

  • Department of Education Grants: The Department of Education maintains an active list of several grants they offer to small businesses in the field of education. The award ceiling for a lot of grants is up to millions of dollars, so if you run an education-based company, you should actively monitor these grants.

  • EPA Grants: The EPA offers dozens of grants to small businesses that are trying to improve the environment, particularly in innovative ways. There are grants targeted towards air quality, environmental quality, water quality, pollution prevention, and more.

  • Economic Development Administration (EDA): The EDA provides grants to small companies aiming to improve the infrastructure of communities. The only issue is that there’s no easy directory of grants to monitor. You’ll have to check this page often for new announcements. You can see if your enterprise is relevant by checking out previous opportunities on this page.
     

Corporate Business Grants

American Express - Backing Small Businesses Grant Program

To back underrepresented small business owners as they navigate the pandemic and plan for long-term success and resilience, American Express partnered with Main Street America on a $1.65M grant program called Backing Small Businesses*. Launched in 2021, this program builds on American Express’ ongoing Backing Small initiative to provide economically vulnerable small businesses with financial support and other resources to address their critical needs and challenges. More than 300 grants of $5,000 each were awarded in four cycles over 12 months to small businesses located in older or historic commercial districts across the country, with priority given to businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and preference given to businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, Veterans, women and people of color. Read about the latest grant recipients here.

The application period for the Backing Small Businesses grant program is now through April 7, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. CT.

Apply https://nationalmainstreetcenter.submittable.com/submit/cf839347-903e-4ed8-a2eb-8a111086b095/backing-small-businesses-grant-program-2023

One of the best sources of small business grants is corporations looking to give back to the community. You may face  less competition because the grants aren’t listed on popular sites like Grants.gov.

  • FedEx’s Small Business Grant: In 2022, this business grant program received 18,000 applications, with 10 winners total. That gives you a winning chance of 1 in 780, or 0.13%.
     

You can discount a big chunk of the applications because there are always irrelevant or non-serious ones, but the numbers give you a realistic look at how hard it can be to win grants unless you’re doing something really special. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get grants, but be realistic.
 

The three grand prize winners of this competition got $50,000 and $4,000 in FedEx print services each, while six first place winners got $20,000 and $1,500 in FedEx print services.
 

To enter, you’ll need to deliver your elevator pitch, including how your business makes a difference to your community or the environment. And, of course, you’ll need to demonstrate that there’s an actual need for the award money.

  • Lending Tree: Lending Tree primarily offers different types of loans, but also periodically runs small business grant contests. They judge companies based on how passionate the founders are, and if growing their business will affect the community in a positive way.

  • National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE): If you are self-employed, you may be eligible for the $4,000 grant that NASE awards monthly. There are not too many requirements to meet other than being a NASE member.

  • Idea Cafe’s Small Business Grants: Idea Cafe is a news and resource site for small business entrepreneurs. They offer $1,000 to recipients, and it’s one of the few grants that you don’t even need to have your business established to enter. Winners are decided by votes from the community.

  • Walmart Foundation Grants: Walmart provides grants specifically for nonprofits. The grants are not a fixed amount but fall into two ranges.

The Community Grant Program is for local nonprofits and is between $250 and $5,000.

The National Giving Program is for national nonprofits and awards grants for $250,000 and above.
 

The grants are given to nonprofits that focus on opportunities, sustainability, or communities. Basically, any social-oriented enterprise.
 

  • Wells Fargo Community Giving Grants: These grants offered by Wells Fargo are specifically for educational institutions and nonprofits. Businesses can apply year-round, and there is no fixed amount for the award. Wells Fargo gives away millions in grants every year.
     

Business Grants for Women

On top of all the grants we’ve looked at so far, there are several grants and resources specifically for small women-owned businesses.
 

I encourage you to visit your local Women’s Business Centers if possible – there are over 100 across the United States. They will be able to point you towards additional grant options or help you find alternative funding methods.
 

  • The Amber Grants: Each month, one small business owned by a woman wins a $10,000 Amber Grant. You will need to get votes to win, so it helps to have a strong social network. At the end of the year, the 12 recipients have a chance to win the annual $25,000.

  • The InnovateHer Challenge: This is a grant for women entrepreneurs that is funded by the SBA every year. There are 3 winners, with first place receiving $40,000, second winning $20,000, and third being granted $10,000. It’s a fairly prestigious grant that comes with a lot of publicity for the recipients’ businesses as well.

To become eligible, you first need to win a local InnovateHer challenge to qualify for the national competition.

Any type of business is eligible to compete, but those geared towards women and their social problems typically do best.
 

  • Cartier Women’s Initiative Award: These grants are prestigious awards that can make a huge difference for any small business. There are 21 finalists (three from each of the main seven regions of the world), who all get personalized coaching, training, networking opportunities, and media visibility. That alone is worth a lot of money.

Additionally, all 21 finalists are given a grant. The top 7 get a grant of $100,000, plus personalized business mentoring. The other 14 still get a $30,000 grant.
 

Business Grants for Veterans

Many veterans go into entrepreneurship after their service. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of loans that are specifically for veterans, there are very few grants.
 

Your best bet is to visit a Veterans Business Outreach Center, where they can point you to any local grant for which you may be eligible. Each center also offers training, as well as access to other small business resources for veterans.

  • The Second Service Foundation: The Second Service Foundation is the only reliable online source for veteran grants. They offer grants and loans for small businesses run by veterans or their spouses.

Grants are awarded each month to businesses based on how much social impact they have and how strong their business idea is.
 

Business Grants for Minorities

There are many business loans available for minorities, but just as for veterans, there are few grants.

  • Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): The MBDA offers very restricted grants to all types of American minorities. The grants are only given to those interested in running one of MBDA’s Minority Business Centers, and only in specific locations where they want to expand. You’ll need to offer consulting services and help them secure financing and investments, and you’ll need to show that you have experience doing this – so very few people are eligible.
     

In addition to those grants, MBDA also occasionally runs other grant competitions. You’ll have to monitor their news to find these opportunities in the future, but there are no set schedules or eligibility guidelines for them.
 

  • First Nations Development Institute grants: Monitor this page and subscribe to their email list to find new grant options for small businesses owned by Native Americans. From 1993 through mid-year 2022, this organization has given over 2,702 grants for a total of $54.7 million. There are no restrictions on the types of companies eligible for the grants, as long as the owner is Native American.
     

Miscellaneous Grants

There are some grants you may be eligible for that don’t belong to any of the categories above.

  • Dairy Business Builder : Next cycle opens February 2023.

This grant program, formerly known as the small grant program, is targeted at small-to-medium size farmers or processors. Projects should be aimed at diversifying on-farm activity, creating value-added products, enhancing dairy by-products or export programs. Awards of up to $100,000 in reimbursable grants will be made.

Upcoming Application Timeline:

Application materials available February 20, 2023

Webinar hosted the week of February 20, 2023

Applications due April 13, 2023 by 5PM CT

Applicants notified by May 19, 2023

Link: https://www.cdr.wisc.edu/dbia-grant-program-1 
 

  • 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund: These grants are specifically for higher education institutions. While your small business can’t apply for them directly, you could partner with an institution if you offer services for students. You get funding, and they get the value of your products or services.
     

Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Program
 

  • The Illinois Arts Council Agency (IACA) is pleased to announce the opening of the fiscal year 2024 (FY24) Artist Fellowship Program. The application is open in the Illinois Arts Council’s online Salesforce system and has a deadline of 11:59 PM central time on November 3, 2023. Awards will be announced in the spring of 2024.
     

  • The Artist Fellowship Program's intent is to enrich and strengthen the state by supporting accomplished Illinois artists who are the foundation of Illinois' creative environment. The program recognizes exceptional artists who are at a career stage beyond emerging and have created a substantial body of work throughout their career. The program does not support an artist’s specific project, but rather provides monetary awards to support an artist’s continued artistic growth and exploration.
     

  • The IACA will provide a limited number of $15,000 awards across the following discipline categories:

    • Crafts

    • Digital Arts

    • Ethnic & Folk Arts

    • New Art Forms (non-performative)

    • Photography

    • Sculpture

    • Visual Arts (includes the 2D sub-categories of painting, mixed-media, printmaking, and other non-digital based visual arts)
       

  • A limited number of $1,500 Finalist Awards will also be given.
    The IACA encourages artists working in these disciplines and who are residents of Illinois to apply. Fellowship applications will be submitted in IACA’s online platform: Salesforce
     

  • Previous IACA individual applicants should log into Salesforce using their already established account name and password. New applicants should create a new user account. If you have trouble logging in, please email iac.info@illinois.gov. More information on the Salesforce system, including a user manual, can be found on the IACA website.
     

  • Application Assistance

    • A live online webinar is scheduled for Friday, September 22, 2023, at 1:00 PM central time. Pre-registration is required: Registration Link. The webinar will be recorded and available for viewing.

    • Also, IACA staff are available via three drop-in video meetings to answer any questions about the Artist Fellowship program. You do not need to pre-register, simply click the link at the time of the meeting to join the drop-in session via WebEx:

    • AFA Drop-in session #1: Friday, September 29, 2023, 1:00 PM Central Time. Meeting Link AFA Drop-in session #2: Wednesday, October 11, 2023, 1:00 PM Central Time. Meeting Link AFA Drop-in session #3: Wednesday, October 25, 2023, 3:00 PM Central Time. Meeting Link

    • Program Directors and the FY24 Fellowship disciplines they oversee are listed below.

      • Teresa Davis (Digital Arts)

      • Susan Dickson (Crafts, Ethnic & Folk Arts, and New Art Forms)

      • Jackie Banks-Mahlum (Photography and Sculpture)

      • Danielle Heal (Visual Arts)

  • For more information and assistance visit: https://arts.illinois.gov/AFA-Program

  • To register for the IL SBDC at the Starved Rock Country Aliance on September 2023: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/38277
     

United States Black Chamber Restaurant Grant Program

  • Over 100+ Black-owned restaurants and culinary-based businesses will receive grant amounts between $2,500-10,000. Business must be launched prior to July 1, 2021. Application dates vary by city. Open applications for all locations through Mar 1.

  • https://usblackchambers.org/grubhub/

Founders First Pride Grant

https://foundersfirstcdc.org/pride-grant/

What is being offered
$25,000 in Small Business Grants
The $25,000 fund will make investments to 25 LGBTQIA+ led businesses in the United States.

  • Explore Options for Site Redevelopment or Acquisition

  • Based on stage of growth and need, explore options for developing and acquiring a brick-and-mortar property to expand your business.

How It Works
Complete full application which includes information about your business and a short 1-3 minute pitch video.
All completed applications will be reviewed and 50 grant semi-finalists will be selected for our final judging round.
All semi-finalists will have the opportunity to complete asynchronous fund ready assessment.
All finalists are announced during a live press event.

 

Eligibility Requirements

  • Identify as a LGBTQIA+ owned business

  • Minimum of 1 year in business

  • 2 or more full-time employees

  • Have an active U.S. based business

National Grant for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

https://foundersfirstcdc.org/stephen-tadlock/
A total of $25,000 awarded to 25 Veteran-owned businesses
in honor of Stephen L. Tadlock, U.S. Navy Veteran.
Inspired by Founders First CEO, Kim Folsom’s brother, U.S. Navy veteran Stephen L. Tadlock, the $25,000 fund will make investments of $1000 each to 25 veterans who are running employer-based small businesses across the country.

 

Be a force for change by helping us spread the word about our mission, help fund a grant, or participate as a partner. Please send partnership inquires to: stephenltadlockfund@foundersfirstcdc.org.

How it Works
Grant money can be used in whatever way Founders need to use it - like seeking professional assistance with preparing documents to qualify for funding
Complete full application which includes information about your business and a short pitch video. All completed applications will be reviewed and 50 grant semi-finalists will be selected for our final judging round. All 25 grant finalists are announced during a live press event

Eligibility Requirements

  • Must be a U.S. military veteran

  • Must be a CEO, President, or Business Owner

  • Must have an active U.S. based business

  • Business annual revenue does not exceed $5M

  • Must have between 2 to 50 employees

Boss Impact Fund’s Invest in Progress Grant Program

  • Over the next three years, Sage and BOSS are knocking down barriers for Black women entrepreneurs. The BOSS Impact Fund supports Black women-led businesses to build scalable, growth-aggressive companies.
    The BOSS Network is partnering with Sage, the global market leader for technology that provides small and medium businesses with the visibility, flexibility and efficiency to manage finances, operations and people, for the inaugural grant of The BOSS Impact Fund. With a $1.5 million Sage “Invest in Progress” Grant Program over the next three years, Sage and BOSS are knocking down barriers for Black women entrepreneurs. The BOSS Impact Fund supports Black women-led businesses to build scalable, growth-aggressive companies.

  • https://www.bossimpactfund.com/landing_page2/

Barclays Small Business Big Wins Contest

  • Share your small business story and how you are making your dreams a reality for a chance to be selected in the Barclays Small Business Big Wins Contest. Winning stories will receive one of 60 cash prizes starting at $2,000, with a Grand Prize of $60,000.

  • https://www.barclayssmallbizbigwins.com/

 

The Barstool Fund

 

 

 

GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund

 

 

 

Made for More Small Business Contest

 

 

 

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest



 

National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants (NASE)

 

 

 

Nav’s “Legitify Your Small Business” Grant

 

 

 

Halstead Jewelry Grant Award

 

 

 

Eileen Fisher Grant Program

 

 

 

The Amber Grant Program

 

Building 
BANKRATE: Building A Business as a Latino Entrepreneur 

 


 

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