Any of these sound familiar?
You’ve had a monster year. Sales are through the roof, and you need to buy more inventory to satisfy new customer demands.
Your business has been steadily growing over the last five years, but you don’t have space to fit everyone in your tiny offices anymore.
A not-so-great business decision has left you scrambling to cover your daily business expenses, and you’re struggling.
If so, you’re like thousands of small business owners all over the country who need access to funds -- to expand, keep up with growth, and make sure the lights stay on.
One place to look for more capital is through grants. What makes grant funding attractive to small business owners is you don’t have to pay it back. Who doesn’t like free money?
Here’s where you can start looking for small business grants.
6 best places to search for grant funding for your small business:
- Small Business Administration
- Federal government
- State governments
- Local governments
- Corporate small business grants
- Demographic-based grants
What to consider when applying for a grant
Free funding is an attractive reason why so many small business owners turn to grants as an option. However, it’s also important to know that qualifying for and getting those funds isn’t always easy.
Grant applications often require plenty of homework and preparation before starting, and missing even the smallest details could send you to the back of the line to resubmit -- or worse, disqualify your application entirely.
As you research the grant opportunities out there and begin applying, there are a few things to remember as you go through the process.
Know what you need
Before you consider the grant opportunities available to you, check your books. Whether it’s through the SBA or a private organization, funders will want the details on exactly how you plan to use the money.
Go through your financial documents, including your balance sheet and financial statements, to help determine your business projections. That way, you’ll have a much clearer view of exactly how much you’ll need.
Understand the qualifications requirements
Virtually every grant you’ll encounter will have a list (and sometimes the list is quite long) of qualifications you’ll need to meet to apply. Don’t take these for granted. To save yourself time and aggravation, read through all of these first that way, you can easily knock them off your list.
On the flip side, if you’re a small business owner from an underrepresented group that usually doesn’t get many funding opportunities -- women, people of color, and veterans -- there are additional nonprofit, private, and government grants to explore.
Gather your documents
Once you’ve got a handle on the grants you want to apply for, the next thing to do is get all the needed documentation ready. This pile of paperwork usually includes your financial documents, articles of incorporation, credit score, bank documents, and your business plan, which lays out the products or services you offer to customers.
These documents will be the meat of what you use to write your grant proposal, so having them ready to go saves you a lot of time trying compared to trying to track them down later.
Create your grant proposal
With everything gathered and reviewed, it’s time to start the grant writing process. Craft your document and tie in the capital needed for your business operations, plus how you expect to spend the money and track the results.
Something else to consider as you prepare your grant proposal: Make sure you’re paying particular attention to the organization’s stated needs and goals. It’s usually the reason why they are giving out the money. The more you can align your proposal with their goals, the better your chance of standing out from the crowd.
6 best places to find a grant for your organization
The good news is you can find grants almost anywhere. From your local and state government to big corporations, opportunities abound. The key is to know where to look.
Here are a few places you can get started looking for grants.
1. Small Business Administration
The first place many small business owners look for grant opportunities is government agencies. While the Small Business Administration (SBA) is most known for its loan programs, it also offers a few grants.
Here are a few examples of SBA grants:
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program:SBIR grants are coordinated through SBA to help small businesses get the funding needed to conduct research and development (R&D).
- Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program: The STTR program was modeled after the SBIR. However, the main difference between the two is small business owners getting the funds must work with research institutions on their R&D projects.
2. Federal government
The federal government also gives funding for grants each year and has a website that connects small business owners with funding opportunities.
- Grants.gov:Grants.gov is the primary location for small business owners to search for grants on offer from all over the government.
- Economic Development Administration: The EDA is part of the Department of Commerce. It also offers funding opportunities that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.
While you’re looking for federal government grants, look at individual agencies too. Some, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), offer grant opportunities.
3. State governments
The federal government isn’t the only place you can look for grants. Every state also has programs for small business owners.
- State websites: You can search directly for grant opportunities on your state’s small business website. You’ll usually find grant and loan listings there.
- State Business Incentives Database:This site lists over 2,000 programs you can search by state.
4. Local governments
If you live in a big city like Boston or Chicago there are many grant opportunities, but even smaller areas often have funds available for local businesses. Check your local city, county, or municipality for potential grant opportunities.
For example, Florida’s Miami-Dade County has a Mom and Pop Small Business Grant available to small business owners for purchasing equipment, supplies, inventory, and other business development activities.
5. Corporate small business grants
Be sure to pay attention to the rules for these grants. Some are contests with very specific qualification requirements.
6. Demographic-based grants
There are also a lot of potential grant opportunities that have been created for small business owners who are often underrepresented. For example, minority business grants and small business grants for veterans and women-owned companies are options to explore.
If you qualify for one of these grants, there are a few places to look, including:
- SBA Local Development Centers: Across the country, the SBA runs small business development and training programs through local offices. These are often targeted toward helping women, veterans, and minority business owners, offering advice on finding grants.
- Veterans organizations: If you’re a veteran or run a veteran-owned business, you may be able to qualify for special grants or other programs. One example is Warrior Rising, which offers small grants to vet-owned startups.
- Minority Business Development Agency: The MBDA is an offshoot of the Department of Commerce and offers grants through multiple programs for minority-owned businesses.
Something else to remember is that you can always search within some of the bigger sites like Grants.gov for specialty grants for women, people of color, and veterans.
Add grants to your list of funding options
While going to a traditional lender is often a more conventional way of getting small business funding, they aren’t the only options available to you. With a little research, you might find that a grant could be the best option to fit your business’s needs.
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