An injection of a few thousand dollars into your small business could be the difference between eking out a living and growing your company to the next level.
Taking out a small-business loan or line of credit might not be the best option if you want to avoid debt — or can’t qualify for the credit. Bringing on an investor could give you debt-free capital, but you’d have to forfeit a portion of your business. And a small business in need of just a little cash might not be worth an investor’s attention.
A small-business grant could be the cash cow you need. You don’t have to repay these funds or hand over ownership of your company. You can usually find them through nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting small businesses, nonprofits, and the arts.
Where to Find Small-Business Grants
Organizations of all kinds offer small-business grants. The simplest way to find small-business grants is to search for “grants + [characteristics of your business].”
Also browse these resources that list small-business grants:
- Grants.gov. Search for government grants, most of which support nonprofit organizations, government entities, or educational institutions.
- U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This government agency works with community organizations to provide funding, typically for nonprofits and research institutions.
- U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Find local EDA resources, which could include grant opportunities.
- Small-Business Resources. Sites like Fundera and Nav help small businesses find financing, primarily credit and loans, and sometimes list small-business grant opportunities.
- Chamber of Commerce. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a rich resource for information and community for small-business owners and could direct you to grant opportunities.
When searching for grants, keep in mind that most grants serve a dedicated purpose, such as supporting a target community, industry, or mission. This reduces your options to only grants that fit your type of business, but it also narrows the competition you face with any grant application.
Some small-business grants target underserved communities such as women, people of color, or rural areas. Many serve only nonprofit organizations or projects, and these tend to focus on your impact on social issues like environmentalism, women’s health, or poverty.
Grants for the arts could also help your business if you’re primarily a writer, performer, or visual artist. These tend to support individuals, rather than companies, and they apply to a single project, rather than your whole business. So you have to get creative to find arts grants that fit your small business.
Tips to Apply for a Small-Business Grant
Whether for a few hundred dollars or tens of thousands, put your best foot forward when applying for a small-business grant. Grant-making organizations want to know their money will benefit their chosen cause or community, and your grant proposal is the way to show them your business can fulfill that goal.
Entrepreneurs who’ve received grants to support their businesses offer the following advice.
1. Hire an Experienced Grant Writer
Writing a grant proposal is a specialized skill, so don’t count on just anyone in your business to handle it. A large grant could make a professional grant writer worth your money.
William Taylor, a career development manager at VelvetJobs, credits hiring an expert with receiving multiple grants at his previous company, Rank Easily. “This helped us stand out from the crowd by coming up with a well-prepared business plan that clearly demonstrated how the grant would benefit our business and satisfy the goals of the grant,” he says.
You could find experienced grant writers through contractor job boards and niche communities:
- Professional Associations. Browse member lists or post a job with professional associations for writers, such as the American Grant Writers’ Association.
- Writing Communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. Many Facebook groups for writers welcome job posts, so seek groups relevant to your needs and industry, such as The Grant Writers Forum and LinkedIn Grant Writers.
- FlexJobs. This subscription-based job board helps you find high-quality candidates looking for remote and freelance work. You can post up to five jobs for free.
- Freelance Brokers. Sites such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour connect employers with freelancers for any role. Freelancers on the platform tend to be less experienced, but you can review their previous work and check ratings from others who’ve hired them before committing.
- Small Business Administration. Find an SBA center in your area to get small-business assistance, including free resources that could help you write a grant proposal.
Be specific in your listing about the work and the skills you require. It helps filter the candidates who contact you, so you don’t have to sift through too many unqualified writers.
To find a strong grant writer, look for:
- Grant Writing Experience. Beyond general writing skill and experience, ask for candidates who’ve specifically written grant proposals — with a bonus for those with a record of securing funding.
- Understanding of Your Industry. Writers should understand the business you’re in, whether it’s commercial, nonprofit, or the arts. Experience writing grant proposals within your industry means they’ll understand what grant organizations look for.
- Familiarity With Available Grants. If you plan to apply for several grants, a grant writer who knows what’s available and can help you research requirements and deadlines is an asset.
- Strong Writing Skills. Ask for a portfolio, and review content they’ve written before. Clear, concise, and clean (grammatically correct, typo-free) writing is a must-have.
- Business or Nonprofit Experience. If a writer doesn’t have grant writing experience or education, their experience working in a business or organization like yours could help them craft a solid business plan and convey your message in a grant proposal. New writers generally charge less, so you could benefit from hiring someone with less grant writing but other related experience.
- Ability to Meet Deadlines. Check that your grant writer has the bandwidth to dedicate to your business and get drafts and revisions in on time so that you don’t miss grant deadlines.
2. Write a Business Plan
Suchot Sunday, owner at The Curious Frugal and a serial entrepreneur, won a grant for a small organic bakery business. She recommends including a business plan with your grant application because it “will lend a weight to your application that others with only the application will not have.”
Your business plan should include the following for either the whole business or a specific project, depending on what the grant is for.
- Business Concept. What does your business do? What products or services does it provide? What value do you offer your target audience or community?
- Marketing Plan. Define your audience and marketing strategies. Also describe your competition and how you differ.
- Financials. Include the nitty-gritty to show grant organizations how you’ll use the money and demonstrate you can manage it responsibly. This should include things like revenue, sales, profit, loss, and profit margins.
A solid business plan shows the granting organization your business will put its money to good use, explains Lynn Jordan, who received a grant from the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health for her company Joyful Boogie and once worked for a philanthropic foundation.
“The grant officer builds their own reputation in the fi
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