The Do's and Don'ts of Finding and Applying for Small Business Grants

Business.com / Finances / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Read on to learn how to find small business grants, as well as how to apply for a grant.

Small business grants are an excellent way to obtain financing for your growing company, but they don’t come without challenges.

If you’re unfamiliar with the field of grant funding and proposals, you might be wondering how to find and obtain grant funding for your small business.

With a little work and perseverance, you can find and get a grant that fits your business needs. Read on to learn how to find small business grants, as well as how to apply for a grant.

Related Article: To Borrow or Beg: Small Business Funding in 2015

How to Find Small Business Grants

Finding small business grants always demands time and energy, but it’s easier if you know where to look. Here’s an overview of common funding sources.

Federal Grants

Despite advertising to the contrary, there actually aren’t many federal grant options specifically serving for-profit small businesses. And, because the grants are funded through tax dollars, the opportunities that do exist have a lot of qualification requirements, regulation, and reporting rules, so be prepared for a lot of oversight if you apply for federal funding.

These are the two main federal funding programs available to most for-profit small businesses:

  1. SBIR: The Small Business Innovation Research program awards money to small businesses working in research and development (R&D).
  2. STTR: The Small Business Technology Transfer pairs small businesses with research institutions for mutual benefit and innovation.

Don’t be disheartened by the lack of available grants from the U.S. government most federal dollars trickle down to state and community programs to bolster local lending and funding efforts.

State Grants

State funding programs are often more prevalent than federal programs, though that might not be the case in all states. A lot of state money designated for economic development goes toward loans and lending, so competition for what grants are available will likely be high. Additionally, because state grants are funded by taxes or federal distributions, their requirements are often just as strict as those associated with federal initiatives.

You’ll have an easier time finding state grants if your small business is tied to a critical industry with high potential for positive economic growth and community impact. Some states also set aside funding for companies run by minority or female leaders. If your business qualifies, these grants can be a good source of financial aid, so it’s worth finding out what grant options are available in your state.

City and Community Grants

If your business is set up in a city or town that has been through an extended period of economic stasis or downturn such as what might occur in a rural area or recently bankrupted municipality then your business may have access to some city-based funding.

As with most state grants, city and community grants generally aim to improve local economies, so you’ll be more successful if you work in an industry with high growth potential. You may find available grants at the city website, but you’ll have better luck with your local Small Business Development Center.

Related Article:What Are the Best Options for Financing a Franchise?

Corporate Grants

For a small-business owner, corporate grants may be the most attainable and thus the most helpful grant opportunities available. Even though the grant amounts are usually smaller than government-backed grants, these awards are more frequent and accessible. Further, even small, $1,000 grants can really add up.

The following five corporate grant opportunities are worth looking into:

  1. The Grant for Greatness from ATTExperts.com asks business owners to pitch an innovative business idea in a video in two minutes or less. Selected businesses receive a $1,000 grant.
  2. The Small Business Local Buzz award from Intuit is another to look for in 2017. It helps provide tools and marketing exposure to businesses that best convey how “buzz” would benefit them.
  3. The Everywhere Initiative from Visa wants applicants to share how Visa APIs improve product offerings and customer experiences. Winners gain up to $50,000 in funding.
  4. The Canvas program from Marriott is a specific grant for chefs and restaurateurs. If selected, you get to prove your concept inside a Marriott hotel and receive professional advice and seed money.
  5. The Opportunity Knocks grant from FedEx has closed for 2016, but it’s worth watching for next year. Be prepared to share your business story and to seek out supporters storytelling and audience participation are essential to winning one of FedEx’s cash prizes.

For more grant offerings, gateways like Idea Café and GrantWatch can help point you toward similar opportunities.

How to Successfully Apply for a Small Business Grant

The secrets to crafting a winning grant proposal are many; however, you can start and succeed with the grant application process using the five tips below.

  1. Do read grant requirements carefully. Grants usually have clear, unique requirements, so make sure your business fits.
  2. Don't get creative with the grant’s application instructions. If you are asked to provide financial information or to create a two-minute video, follow the directions exactly.
  3. Do provide specific details about your plans for the grant money, where appropriate. The more detail you present in your proposal, the better your application will fare.
  4. Don't bother with companies and individuals offering to find grants for a fee. Some of the businesses seem genuine, but they frequently are not.
  5. Do have a third party review your application. You don’t want to be asked to resubmit a proposal or worse, be denied for the grant you applied to because of a simple mistake.

Related Article: Fearless Funding: Why Money is No Longer an Obstacle for Starting Your Own Business

Small business grants are a smart, effective way to grow your business. Finding them requires time and effort, but you can make the work manageable. Once you identify potential funding sources, work through the applications thoroughly and carefully with patience and diligence, you’ll find funding to help improve both your business and the community it serves.

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