Small Business Grants for 2020 – How to Apply & Win?
By Sarah Davis
| Updated on May 19, 2020
Short in time and looking for COVID-19 grants? Quick Jump
What is a Small Business Grant Anyway?
A small business grant is a form of financial remuneration awarded once the applicant meets the criteria of the grant. The difference between a loan and a grant is that a grant does not have to be repaid, while a loan does. There are grants available for every possible field that you can think of. Typically, they are granted to people in disadvantaged areas or from specific groups – veterans, women, Hispanics, African Americans, etc.
Many grants are also industry-specific. If your business is involved in assisting a minority group in some way, or in helping the environment, then there are certainly going to be grants available. Keep in mind that there are local, state, and federal grants. Many grant programs are available for those doing business in rural areas.
It takes a long time to submit a relevant grant application. Do your research beforehand and make sure that you are applying to the right program. Federal grants are listed at Grants.Gov, and you can even track these grants on IOS and Android applications. However, there is no Federal grant for the simple growth of a business unless you are a minority group or hoping to solve a very specific problem.
How to Find a Grant for a Small Business
For Federal grants, the place to look is Grants.Gov. It is the chief repository of Federal grants. To apply for federal grants, you typically need to have something special to offer in comparison to state or local grants. You’ll also need to register through this online portal and submit the application form.
The SBA offers a number of State & Federal grant programs, and this is also an excellent place to look for eligible grants. Veterans, minority groups, and women-owned businesses should look on the SBA grant list page to see the available options. You can also find the eligibility criteria through the same site. Other places to spot State and Federal grants include:
How to Apply for (and Win) a Business Grant?
#1 – Find the Grant(s)
Many grants will have similar application procedures. Search Local, State, and Federal grant databases of all grants that you are applicable for. Once this is done, compile a spreadsheet of relevant grants. It’s best to apply for a number of grants at the same time to increase your chances of success. But each grant should be well-researched and given the utmost attention. Make your proposal as strong as possible for each.
#2 – Read the Criteria
A significant amount of grant applications are a complete waste, as the applicants do not meet the minimum eligibility criteria. Before you go ahead and apply for a grant, ensure that you read over (twice, preferably) all the conditions upon which the financial compensation is to be awarded.
#3 – Choose Your Grants
Where possible, review how many people applied to each grant last year, and how many prize winners there were. If there were 20,000 applicants for a single prize fund of $5,000, it may not be worth it unless you have a particularly strong application. Try to gauge your chances of success and narrow down to the grants that are really worth applying for. It’s definitely a good idea to investigate what kind of businesses have won in the past and see if yours is a match.
#4 – Request Forms and Information
For state grants, you will need to contact the relevant agency and ask to be sent the application forms. For local and commercial grants, the information is readily available and the forms can be downloaded from the website.
If you happen to be applying for a Federal grant, you will first need to register as a member on their website. You will be given a username and password, submitting the information through the Federal online portal.
#5 – Have a Clearly Defined Business Plan
A business plan is something that all businesses (large or small) should engage in. The plan does not have to be long or comprehensive. But it has to be precise, concise, and coherent. It should outline who you are, what you care about, what the problem is, and how your company intends to solve the problem. You can submit this plan along with your application in many instances.
#6 – Write the Grant Proposal
To a large extent, the business plan should sum up your business and can constitution much of the grant proposal. The business plan defines what your business really does. But it will need to be tailored to each grant you are applying to.
Grant proposal writing is a niche area, and you can hire a skilled grant writer if you are going after larger grants. The proposal should detail why your business is best suited to the grant, how it intends to assist, what the numbers and statistics are, the skills of the people running the company, and best policies to tackle unforeseen events.
#7 – Fill Out Additional Forms
While this is not mandatory, all information that you can supply to the reviewers will increase your chances of success. If there are any question marks over your business, then it leaves room for doubt. Increased transparency is always preferred.
#8 – Review
Missing information will reduce your chances of success. Read over the application to ensure that all data is correct. Once you have submitted the application, all you have to do is wait for the results. You will typically be notified by email. For Federal grants, you will be given a tracking number to monitor your application.
#9 – Reapply
If you did not qualify for a particular grant in a specific year, then don’t get too frustrated or doubtful about the process. You are against many applicants. Apply to the same grants next year, and mention in your proposal that you got declined last year, but have done much good in the interim period despite the odds. Grant writing is a skill – the more you do it, the better you get. You could be leaving money on the table if you avoid this industry completely.
Best Small Business Grants for 2020 (by Categories)
If you’re looking for a shortcut on grant applications, we’ve listed the best grants per category to shorten down on the research time needed. But keep in mind that the more popular a grant is, the more applications it will tend to receive – and the better your application will need to be.
Best General Small Business Grants1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant Global ChallengeThe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation global grant challenge is mainly awarded to non-profit organizations created under 501(C)(3) of the IRS tax code. However, this grant is only available to non-profit organizations. The main stipulation is that your business is orientated towards solving health issues. There are a large number of grants available depending on what problem needs to be resolved. The grant prizes vary, but some of the problems include mental health issues in Africa, hormonal health, economic opportunity, child welfare in impoverished communities, etc.
2. National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) Growth GrantsNASE growth grants are mainly for businesses that are already established and want to take it to the next level. The maximum amount for each grant is $4,000. The upside of this grant is that you have a lot of freedom in terms of what you use the grant for – wages, payroll, marketing, expansion, etc. Applications are reviewed quarterly. This is a quarterly grant. However, you have to be a NASE member to qualify, which is not free.
3. Idea Cafe GrantThe popular Idea Cafe grant gives $1,000 in finance to the most innovative business ideas. This is the ideal grant for businesses that are still in the very early days with little to show for their efforts. Previous winners will include art galleries, bakeries, custom cycling companies, etc. It is currently closed for applications.
4. Global Innovation Exchange Funding DatabaseThe Global Innovation Exchange Funding Database a worldwide funding database with a modern interface. It’s an easy way to find contests and grants that you might not see on other major platforms and is worth keeping an eye on for general small business grants.
Best Small Business Grants for Women5. Amber GrantThe Amber Grant is arguably the most well known of all grants available to women. This program launched in 1998 following the death of Amber, who passed away before her dreams of financial success could materialize. $2000 is awarded to every successful applicant each month. An extra $25,000 is awarded at the end of the year to one of the monthly winners. Businesses owned by women can apply to this each month, though there is a $15 application fee.
6. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award21 women are awarded the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award each and every year, regardless of nationality. There is large financial remuneration available for this – $3,000 for 14 of the women and $100,000 for the 7 top winners. On top of the financial remuneration, all 21 of the women will have access to an INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Executive Education Programme scholarship. 12 months of tutoring and support are other benefits with this program.
7. The Eileen Fisher GrantAlongside the Amber Grant, the Eileen Fisher Grant is among the most popular program for women in business. Each year, 10 businesses are awarded $10,000. However, these women-owned businesses are invariably involved in social and environmental change. So you will need to keep this in mind when applying. You must further be established for longer than 3 years to qualify.
8. GirlBossFoundation Grant2 Women are awarded this GirlBoss Foundation grant each year. The financial compensation is $15,000 for the winners. This is more of a ‘creative arts’ grant. Women in the field of art, interior design, cosmetics, music, etc, can qualify with the GirlBossFoundation. This grant is more focused on artistic creation as opposed to planning and financial diligence. Other benefits include exposure to the GirlsBossFoundation media channels.
9. The InnovateHer ChallengeThe InnovateHer Challange is a grant that is funded by the SBA for women entrepreneurs that run 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 very reputable grant to win.
10. Tory Burch Fellows ProgramThis is a $5,000 Tony Burch grant for women involved in business enterprises. It also offers the support that women need to advance their initiatives. In addition to the cash prize, grant winners will get a 12-month fellowship and a visit to the Tony Birch office to meet influential people and other networking opportunities.
11. American Association of University Women Career Development GrantWomen who are currently pursuing a university degree can apply to the AAUW for a career development program. This will help to fund major shifts in life. This university is focused on female empowerment through a number of initiatives.
12. The Halstead GrantThis is another very well known grant for women in business. The Halstead Grant offers financial remuneration ($7,500) for small businesses involved in the jewelry industry. $1,000 in Halstead merchandise is also provided.
13. Open Meadows FoundationOpen Meadows Foundation grants are biannual awards of $2,000. The grant is awarded to smaller organizations with an operating budget of under $75,000 per year. Grants are specifically for women-led projects that benefit women and girls. The foundation looks for projects that are designed and implemented by women and girls and focuses on building a community. Those with limited financial access have the best odds of taking home the prize.
14. 37 AngelsA group of women investors came together to create 37 Angels. They recognize that just 13 percent of angel investors are women, and work to bring that to 50 percent. 37 Angels grants come with an accelerator program to bring your entire business to the next level. While the capital inflow comes in the form of an investment and not a grant, it could be just what your business needs to grow and succeed. ’37 Angels’ is more of a networking opportunity as opposed to an investment program.
15. Belle CapitalBelle Capital offers investments in early-stage, women-led companies. Like, 37 Angels, they want a return on their investment (technically this is a venture capital investment and not a grant.)The Belle Capital fund is targeted to invest in 10 to 15 high growth companies. This is no handout. Investment criteria are strict, as they look for small businesses that are aiming to reach $20 Million in revenue.
16. Grants for WomenGrants For Women is the perfect outlet to find small scale grants that crop up, as well as scholarship opportunities. You could be the first to find new grants that have less competition. This is not specifically a grant competition, but a database for all available grants for women-owned business owners.
Best Small Business Grants for Minorities17. Minority Business Development AgencyThe Minority Business Development Agency (‘MBDA’) is one of the primary places to look for minority grants of all kinds. Right now, there are 3 ongoing minority grants (few of these grants are yearly, but tend to change regularly with different requirements).
These 3 grants include the Enterprising Women of Color Grant Competition, the Entrepreneurship Education Program for Formerly Incarcerated Persons Grant Competition, and the Inner City Hub Innovation Grant Competition. All of these grants are only available to minority groups (women, felons, African Americans, etc).
18. First Nations Development Institution GrantsSmall businesses that are owned by Native Americans can apply for First Nations Development Institution Grants. This is a long-standing grant facility, established all the way back in 1993 and facilitating over $33 Million in grants. There are no restrictions on the application process, as long as the owner is Native American.
19. Minerals and Mining on Indian LandsThis grant is administered by the Department of the Interior. It allows financial compensation for Native Americans to evaluate mineral and mining potential in specific areas (Native American Reservations).
20. Community Connect GrantsThis grant is focused on internet connectivity. If your business is located in a rural area and focused on increasing broadband connectivity, then a community connect grant could be approved. This is a Department of Agriculture business grant.
21. Empowered Communities for a Healthier Nation InitiativeThis grant is orientated towards small businesses involved in healthcare and other health-related services. Specifically, the Empowered Communities for a Healthier Nation Initiative deals with health care for minority groups.
22. Caleb Brown Urban Entrepreneur’s Community GrantThe 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 and communities. It also provides them with training to empower future generations. 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.
Check out our recommended business loans for minorities
Best Small Business Grants for Veterans23. Veteran Business Outreach CentersThere are 15 Veteran Business Outreach Centers located across the USA. These centers offer finance, management training, and consultancy for veterans looking to make the transition to entrepreneurship. These centers are overseen by the Office of Veterans Business Development (‘OBVD’), which facilitates SBA grants to veterans.
24. StreetShares Foundation Veterans Business GrantThe StreetShares Foundation veteran grant is available not only to veterans but also to their spouses. The total amount available for this grant is $5,000 and is accepted based on the business idea, use of funds, product to market fit, and benefits for the veteran community. The StreetShares Foundation is a 501 (C) (3) corporation created solely for the purposes of educating and supporting the military entrepreneurial community.
25. Warrior RisingThe Warrior Rising grant is for US veterans and their family members who are looking at financial empowerment through grants, mentorship, and training. You can support this foundation or provide mentorship, as well as become a ‘vetrepreneur’. Warrior Rising hosts a number of initiatives for the empowerment of US veterans.
26. Veteran Support Foundation GrantThe Veteran Support Foundation (‘VSF’) provides funding to US veterans who are involved in non-profit organizations only. Funding is only provided for veterans involved in scientific, charitable, and educational purposes. They also offer a host of veteran support services outside of these grants. Funds are dispersed in October of every year, upon acceptance.
Important Note: There are not all that many veteran grants available, despite the appearances. All that is offered seems to be training and mentoring, which may not be what a business really needs. However, veterans can typically apply for any of the grants that are available to minorities, covered above. They can also take advantage of special loans, such as the SBA Veterans advantage loan or the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Check out our financing guide for veterans, including loans
Best Federal Small Business GrantsImportant Note: There are too many Federal grants to list, so only the most prominent examples have been mentioned here. Unless your small business is solving an issue in the field of technology, engineering, or health, you are unlikely to gain funding. Applications need to stand out to qualify for these grants.
27. SBIRSBIR (along with STRR, below) is the most popular business grant and research agency in the USA. SBIR stands for ‘Small Business Innovation Research’. SBIR is one of the biggest sources of funding for new businesses looking to engage in novel research that can be commercialized. SBIR is mainly focused on early-stage small businesses in the field of medicine. SBIR and STTR are collectively known as ‘Americas’ Seed Fund’.
28. STTRSTTR is similar to SBIR but is a bit more advanced. In order to qualify, the small business will have to actively collaborate with a recognized research institution. Under STTR, the small business must do 40% of the work, 30% for the research institution, and the rest will fall upon third-parties. Both STTR and SBIR also provide many grant opportunities to women business persons and socially disadvantaged groups. Note that practically all Federal grants are run through the SBIR/STTR programs.
29. NASAThe National Aeronautics and Space Administration (‘NASA’) provides a number of grants. Obviously, this is a very niche category. The program is broken down into 3 stages for funding. $125,000 is granted in the first phase, $750,000 in the second, and variable funding in the third. Numerous grants are offered by this agency. Applications with NASA are done through the SBIR (‘Small Business Innovation Research’) or STTR (‘Small Business Technology Transfer’) programs, like most Federal grants.
30. National Institutes of HealthIf your business is involved in the delivery of medical equipment, then you could be the beneficiary of a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Like most federal programs, it is broken down into 3 areas for funding. Applications with the National Institutes of Health are done through the SBIR or STTR programs.
31. Department of EnergyThe Office of Science from the Department of Energy provides small business grants to companies involved in environmental science, renewable energy, and other scientific/engineering related topics. Like all Federal grants, applications are submitted through the SBIR and STTR.
32. Environmental Protection AgencyThe Environmental Protection Agency (‘EPA’) offers numerous grants to businesses involved in areas of environmental concern (renewable energy, plastic recycling, resource management, water filtration, etc).
33. Homeland SecurityBusinesses that work in the field of surveillance, network administration, maritime security, munitions, chemical defense, etc, can contact the Department of Homeland Security with regard to a potential grant scheme.
34. Department of TransportationSmall businesses that are involved in the transportation of various kinds can contact an arm of the Department of Transportation (known as Volpe) for an application. Your business will need to be involved in the development of technology surrounding railways, highways, and airstrips.
35. Department of EducationSmall businesses can find education grants under the National Center for Education Research. If your business is involved in the development of technology in authentic education settings for infants, teachers, or students, then you may be eligible.
36. National Oceanic & Atmospheric AdministrationThe Technology Partnerships Office of The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (‘NOAA”) provides grants for companies involved in coastline economies and maritime affairs.
37. Department of Justice GrantsThe Department of Justice provides grant funds to projects that support law enforcement, public safety activities, and projects that improve the court and general criminal justice system. A number of agencies within the DOJ provide grants—last year they offered over 20 different grant programs.
38. Department of the Interior GrantsThe Department of the Interior provides small business grants—for instance, there’s an outstanding grant offered by the US Geological Survey for the collection of topographic elevation data. Find other DOI grant opportunities on grants.gov.
39. USDA Rural Development Business GrantsThe USDA Department of Agriculture offers both loans and grants to businesses and cooperatives in rural areas to create quality jobs. The fund community projects such as the development of housing, community facilities, and other services.
Best State Small Business GrantsImportant Note: There are too many state and regional small business grants to list, so only 3 have been listed here (Every state/local area will have many grants programs – reach out to the relevant state/county websites for more details).
40. Arizona Commerce AuthorityThis is the ideal resource for businesses located in Arizona. There are a plethora of options and grant competitions announced throughout the year. The Arizona Commerce Authority is designed to stimulate the state economy, like similar state-mandated incentives. The Arizona step grant is one of its most popular programs.
41. Arkansas Infrastructure Grant ProgramThe Arkansas Infrastructure Grant Program is run by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. There are several grants on offers, all aimed at businesses that are contributing to economic development in the state. The Arkansaw Infrastructure Grant Program is aimed specifically at small businesses that are creating jobs. More details can be found on the state website.
42. Colorado Export Development GrantThe Colorado Export Development Grant is designed primarily for startups and high growth small business firms with strong business ideas that are looking to revolutionize the economy. This grant hopes to ensure that innovation continues in the state. Small and medium-sized businesses are best served by this grant, in comparison to larger enterprises.
43. Iowa Business Development GrantThere is a wide range of grants provided by the Iowa state department, one of which is the Iowa Business Development Grant. This grant is primarily aimed at manufacturing centers, but also extends to retail outlets, particularly those that will help to boost downtown areas that need urban renewal. Check the Iowa grants portal for more information.
44. Kansas Job Creation FundAs the name suggests, the Kansas Job Creation Fund is designed to create jobs in the state. New businesses that are looking at a helping hand are best advised to take advantage. The requirements for this particular grant are quite low. This fund is also aiming to attract new businesses into the state.
45. Louisiana Community Development Block GrantLow-income residents in Louisiana can get some assistance through the Louisiana Community Development Block Grant. While a small business cannot apply directly, you can receive funding if you are doing related work by helping the community. Disaster recovery grants are also possible through this avenue.
46. Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant ProgramEvery three months, participants are awarded funding from the Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant Program (‘CCQIG’). Small businesses involved in child care facilities can benefit from this grant.
47. Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and FundMaryland actually has a large number of state grants available to residents. Another grant option is the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund (‘MEDAAF’). This is actually an unusually broad business grant and many businesses will be eligible.
48. Minnesota Dairy Business Planning GrantThis grant is only available to a very narrow range of applicants. On the other hand, what this means is that the competition for this is very low. Businesses that are involved in agriculture, the environment, or daily farming can benefit from the Minnesota Dairy Business Planning Grant.
49. Minnesota REETAINREETAIN stands for Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now. If your business is involved in childcare or education then you can easily qualify. The prizes range from $1,500 to $3,500. It is mainly for childcare professionals and small businesses setting up childcare facilities.
50. Idaho State Trade Expansion Program (‘STEP’) GrantThe Idaho STEP grant has an equivalent in practically every other state – all wish to increase trade in the region. The STEP program is well recognized. The main difference is that each state will have very specific criteria for a successful application. The Idaho STEP grant caters primarily to businesses that are looking to expand into international markets.
51. Illinois Recycling Expansion and Modernization ProgramLike state economic grants, most states will have some form of environmental grants available to local small businesses. In Illinois, this is known as the Recycling Expansion and Modernization Program (‘REM’). The grant extends all the way to $250,000. However, this is a matching cash grant, meaning you have to put up an equal amount of funding in order to get the amount you desire.
Best Corporate Small Business Grants52. FedEx Small Business GrantsFedEx offers one of the most well-known small business grant programs available. Unfortunately, this means that qualification chances are low. In 2018, there were 7,800 applications and 10 winners. This means that the chances of success are about 0.13%, which are not great odds. The winner of this grant was awarded $25,000, second place got awarded $15,000, and the rest $7,500.
53. Coca-Cola FoundationThe Coca Cola Foundation has provided over $1 Billion since its inception in 1984. The grants are nearly always offered to humanitarian initiatives, such as water projects in Africa, education, or renewable energy. Your small business must be involved in one of three areas to qualify – the empowerment of struggling women, environmental protection, or youth development.
54. Comcast Innovations 4 EntrepreneursComcast offers a small business grant to entrepreneurs who are looking to advance in the field of technology and communications. The winners of this prize will receive up to $20,000 in funding for their new venture. They will also benefit from a trip to Philadelphia in order to meet with business innovators who can bring their ideas to fruition.
55. Visa Everywhere InitiativeEach year, the VISA Everywhere Initiative offers 3 winners $50,000. The winners are in the payments industry with innovative solutions. The program was launched in 2016 and has been a huge international success.
56. Kuvio CreativeThis is a niche grant offered to businesses that are making a difference. This grant opens 3 times a year. However, it is only available to non-profits, minority businesses, veterans, and women-owned businesses. In addition, the reward is not financial but consists of 100 hours of free services offered by Kuvio Creative – mainly marketing and web design.
57. Wells Fargo Community InvestmentWells Fargo offers a grant in nearly every state, though its Community Investment Program. The banks offer local, national, and specialized grant programs.
Best Non-Profit GrantsNote: Practically every single international conglomerate company (Pfizer, Monsanto, Bank of America, Duke Energy, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Facebook, etc) has grant programs in place to assist non-profits in global improvement. Large foundations will also provide such programs.
58. Alcoa Foundation
The Alcoa Foundation issues grants to non-profits with a focus on increasing education in localized communities. They also actively participate in the communities where grants are allocated. Alcoa is a Foundation designed to further global education. The main emphasis is on STEM research and resource sustainability.
59. Bristol-Myers SquibbThe BMS Foundation provides grants to nonprofits focusing on disease prevention and assisting individuals with specific medical needs.
60. CaterpillarThe Caterpillar Foundation accepts grant requests by invitation only. They work primarily with large national and international non-profit organizations.
61. CitiGroupCitiGroup gives corporate grants to 14 large nonprofits through its Partners In Progress program and for 2016 has also launched a $20 million Community Progress Makers Fund.
62. Duke EnergyThe Duke Energy Foundation offers local community development grants up to $10,000 to nonprofit organizations whose programs and missions support at least one of the Duke Energy Foundation’s four investment priorities: education, economic and workforce development, environment, and community impact.
63. EmersonThe Emerson Charitable Trust supports nonprofits in these areas: arts & culture, civic, education, health, and youth.
64. EnterpriseThe Enterprise Foundation has given grants to thousands of local non-profits focused on community improvement, education, and environmental stewardship.
65. Exxon MobilThe Exxon Mobil Foundation supports nonprofit groups by focusing the majority of its charitable donations on creating economic opportunities for women, furthering math & science education, and malaria prevention.
66. FordThe Ford Motor Company Fund provides nonprofit grants to groups focusing on community life, education, and safety.
67. GE FoundationThe GE Foundation focuses its corporate grants primarily on health and education through its Developing Health and Developing Futures initiatives.
68. Walmart Foundation GrantsThe Walmart Foundation offers grants to non-profit organizations. It runs two categories of non-profits, local and national. The local/community grant ranges between $250 and $5,000. The national grant is for $250,000 and above. Any socially orientated business is welcome to apply, with an aim to bettering the world at large.
69. Wells Fargo Community Giving GrantsWells Fargo Community Giving Grants are aimed at nonprofit organizations as well as educational institutions. Businesses can apply for this grant at any time, unlike most other programs with fixed application dates. Wells Fargo grants are unique in the sense that there is no fixed amount of grant award, and it will depend on the unique model in question.
70. 3M3M focuses its corporate grants in three areas: education, community, and the environment. Most of their grants are to invited non-profit partners or through matching employee giving.
Best Small Business Corona Virus Grants71. Amazon Neighborhood Small Business Relief FundLike all major US-based conglomerates, Amazon is helping out with the Corona Virus. However, this is only being provided to small businesses in Seattle. Applications are accepted online and this is only available to businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 Million in annual revenue. The requirements are a little stiff – the businesses need to be located ‘within a few blocks’ of official Amazon offices, and must be open to the general public. However, the cash prizes are huge – up to $5 Million.
72. Facebook Small Business Grants ProgramThe Facebook Small Business Grants Program is offering a massive $100 Million in cash grants and advertising credits not just in the state or country, but internationally. 30,000 small businesses across 30 countries can apply. The program is currently overwhelmed with applications, like many other incentives. Requirements are similar to Amazon – business must have a physical presence near a Facebook office and have fewer than 50 employees. Facebook has also set up a small business resource hub to help out.
73. SBA PayCheck Protection Program (‘PPP’)The SBA Paycheck Protection Program (‘PPP’) is the foremost relief option for small business owners in the USA. It provides employers with funding to pay wages and other essential expenses, so employees are not laid off.
This program is available with the biggest online lenders (OnDeck, Kabbage, LoanBuilder, Lending Club, SmartBiz, etc) as well as large financial institutions. However, the program ran out of funding from April 16 to the 27th. New relief has been provided but these programs are often overwhelmed. This loan/grant does not have to be repaid.
74. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Relief (‘EIDL’) AdvanceThe SBA Economic Injury Disaster Relief (‘EIDL’) Advance is a $10,000 advance on the standard EIDL loan. This grant/loan does not have to be repaid. All businesses with less than 500 employees may apply. Businesses suffering from a loss of revenue due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply. Unfortunately, like most SBA programs, funding is not available at the current time and new applications are not being processed, except for businesses in the agricultural industry.
75. SBA Debt ReliefBusinesses who are currently benefiting from an SBA loan of any kind (microloan, 7(a), or CRE (7)(a) do not have to repay the loan during COVID-19. Lenders have been ordered to stop collecting payments on all SBA loans. Similar debt relief options are available with nearly all commercial lenders. Those who are still demanding payment during COVID-19 are having a very hard time on review sites with tonnes of angry customers. SBA debt relief is applicable to all recipients of SBA programs.
76. SBA Express Bridge LoanBusinesses that already have a relationship with the SBA through an express loan can now gain access to a $25,000 advance very quickly. Those who are waiting on funding for an EIDL application can use this SBA Express Bridge Loan Advance in the meantime. This loan will be repaid in full, upon the successful completion of the EIDL loan. For more information on all the Corona Virus financial options, check out the FinImpact comprehensive guide.
77. Yelp SupportYelp Support is now offering cash prizes. However, they are offering something better. Yelp is providing $25 million in waived advertising fees. The benefits of a good advertising campaign are huge, as any business owner can attest. These grants are aimed at small businesses including restaurants, bars, cafes, etc. This is being offered in lieu of the Corona Virus pandemic.
78. Save Small Business FundThe US Department of Commerce has released a Save Small Business Fund to employers that employes between 3 – 20 employees. The business must be an eligible area and all that is needed to apply is a W9 tax form and to be in an affected area. A $5,000 grant for expenses is the maximum amount under this program. New applications are not being accepted at the current time.
Read our survival guide for SMBs & COVID-19
Best Small Business Grants for Startups79. ActivityHero Business GrantThis grant is partly run by GoDaddy, a huge online hosting services provider. 8 children’s facilities are awarded cash prizes for their services. The ActivyHero business grant application process is a competition based on popularity. – 3 family reviews are needed, and the most popular grant (as voted by customers) gets the prize. The top prize is a $10,000 grant for a specific children camp.
80. 4.0 Schools FellowshipsThe 4.0 Schools Fellowship is aimed at entrepreneurs who are looking to improve educational facilities in the USA. The prizes range from $600 to $10,000, depending on how far along in the business process the idea happens to be. The deadline for each application process is in September.
81. Jack Daniel’s Pitch DistilledSmall business owners with revolutionary new business ideas can apply to the Jack Daniels Pitch Distilled grant competition. The idea is then pitched to a group of wealthy business owners at the event. The winner of this will pocket $5,000 in funds, as well as ideas from the business owners as to how to bring it to fruition.
Check out our recommended business loans for startups
Miscellaneous Small Business Grants & Resources82. AT&T AspireCurrently, AT&T are not accepting applications for their Aspire grants, so you’ll need to monitor this page. The grants are intended for small businesses that are focused on improving education, especially for high schools.
83. SAMSAM.gov was once known as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. This is another great federal grant database with a modern re-design. However, it is still in beta, and users might experience glitches. While there is some overlap with Grants.gov, you’ll find a number of unique ones as well that makes it worth your time to check.
84. Challenge.govChallange.gov technically isn’t a site that offers grants, but they do offer significant amounts of prize money for solving challenges facing a variety of industries. Many are technology-oriented, but their certain common problems to be resolved as well.
85. GrantWatch:GrantWatch doesn’t offer any grants themselves but keeps on top of new grants that are available for veterans.
86. Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream Grant ProgramThe Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream Grant program offers grants up to $1,500 and are for student-owned businesses at the University of Michigan. The grants are only available for students, but you do not need to own a business already to qualify for one, you just need a good idea. It’s as much of an educational program as it is a funding one.
87. Lending TreeLending Tree primarily offers different types of loans, but also periodically runs small business grant contests. In 2017, the winner won $50,000.
88. 100,000 Strong in the Americas100,000 Strong in the Americas grants are specifically for higher education institutions. While your small business can’t apply for these grants directly, you could partner with a higher education institution if your business offers services for students.
Business Grants – What are the Downsides?
Business grants constitute a form of financial compensation that does not have to be repaid. However, this does not mean that it comes without any disadvantages. First, it takes time and energy to apply for a grant. When this means, really, is that it costs money to file for a grant, even if it does not cost anything directly.
If you do succeed with a grant application, expect a rigorous follow-up. The institution that allocated you the finance will expect you to allocate the money towards the goals the grant provides for. There are reporting and due diligence requirements to account for.
These are the two primary downsides. You have to research grants and spend a lot of time and energy applying for them. This comes with no small amount of stress and paperwork. You also have to follow through and report back to the organization.
Of course, the main downside is that you could spend a lot of energy, time, and money applying for grants, and not qualify for a single one of them. In other words, the biggest downside is that it could be a complete waste of time if you don’t succeed.
Differences Between a Business Loan and a Business Grant
Many people (and even reputable lending institutions) use the terms ‘loan’ and ‘grant’ interchangeably. But a loan is a financial agreement between two parties, generated by a credit institution (i.e. a bank) and underwritten by the lending institution. The funds are given to a qualified applicant on the condition that the funds will be repaid at periodic intervals, along with interest. The applicant will typically need to meet the minimum credit score requirements, minimum annual revenue, and minimum time in business.
On the other hand, a grant does not have to be repaid. Because it is not a loan, it is not subject to the same regulatory scrutiny and financial reporting requirements in comparison to a loan. The SBA is currently describing its Corona Relief options as loans that do not have to be repaid, but this is actually incorrect terminology. A loan that does not have to be repaid is a grant, the defining criteria of a loan being something that is temporarily borrowed before being repaid.
Best Alternatives to Small Business Grants
If you want to be assured of finance without going through an unsecured grant application process, then there are a number of alternative options you could consider. The 3 primary options are SBA loans, online lenders, and crowdfunding.
SBA LoansSBA loans are the most common means of financial access. They offer the largest amounts of cash for the lowest interest rates. You can apply for SBA loans through a bank or large financial institution. Alternatively, you can apply using a quick online process, such as through SmartBiz. The primary disadvantage of this loan is that it’s extremely hard to qualify for, with a large list of documentary requirements to satisfy. It also takes a long time to process.
CrowdfundingCrowdfunding is a newer route for small businesses. It garnered a lot of attention around 2017 and 2018 with sites such as GoFundME, IndieGoGo, and Kickstarter. However, the industry has become a little saturated and there is a lot of work that goes into such a campaign. Additionally, a small business needs to have a really unique proposition with an aim at social, technological, or environmental revolution to gain the required funding.
Online LendersOnline lenders are hands down the best route to take in terms of acquiring finance quickly, without hassle. If you simply need cash fast to keep your business afloat without messing around, an online lender is the best option. By far.
The best online lenders include SmartBiz, OnDeck, Kabbage, Lending Club, and PayPal LoanBuilder. The credit requirements are low, the funds can be in your account instantly, and the application process is swift. Consider that the Kabbage process is 100% automated and only takes 10 minutes to complete. The minimal requirements are 12 months in business and $50,000 in annual revenue to qualify for a line of credit, available instantly.
Business Grants FAQs
How do I get free money to start a business?There is no such thing as free money. If you are a minority group or solving a specific social problem, you may be eligible for a grant program. But the competition is very stiff. While it might be free, you still have to put in the time to locate the correct grants and apply to them.
How do I get a grant for a business?Find the relevant grants on a local, state, or federal database. Research the criteria and submit an application. Make sure you meet the minimum criteria.
How can a woman get a small business grant?In terms of grant applications, women are the number one demographic. There are more grants for women entrepreneurs than any other social category (with the possible exception of non-profits aiming to solve social problems). Obviously, you’ll need to be a female entrepreneur with a unique story to apply for the majority of these grants.
Is grant writing hard?Grant writing is not exactly hard. A more accurate description is that grant writing is specialized. It’s an art that needs to be cultivated. The writing style will have to be polite, to the point, and professional. Many businesses outsource grant writing to specialists.
How do I qualify for a small business grant?Each grant is unique in terms of who can qualify for it. Generally, most grants are geared towards women and minority groups. Many grants are also available for businesses that are looking at social, economic, and environmental development.
Do you have to pay back small business grants?A grant does not have to be repaid. This is the defining feature of a grant. However, you will be held accountable for the spending of the proceeds and will have to report back. You will also have to write some sort of testimonial with regard to the grant process if you qualify.
Finding a grant is easy. There are thousands of them. But finding the right grant is a completely different story. Get out a spreadsheet, make a list of relevant grants, and systematically start applying to them, one by one. It takes a lot of time, but grant applications are now a big aspect of running a small business.
If all of this seems like too much effort, then consider an online lender such as Kabbage or OnDeck. More often than not, you’ll get the cash instantaneously after a 10-minute application. While the money may not be free, you won’t need to work for it, and your chances of success are nearly guaranteed.
Sarah Davis is a business executive specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and international law. She achieved her MBA from Cornell University after completing a legal undergraduate at UC Berkley. Sarah runs her own business consultancy firm in tandem with working alongside the FinImpact team.
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