by Tim Parker
Last Updated Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Small business grants aren’t sitting out there waiting to be claimed by every business owner in need, but they do exist. However, there are usually strings attached and hoops to jump through. Get the real story about small business grants here.
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Wouldn’t it be nice if a person or entity would give you money to run or grow your business?
In most years, the concept of grants and free money for small business is mostly a pipe dream. But in 2020 and 2021, the COVID 19 Pandemic led to the US government providing some “free money” to small businesses through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and grant program, and through forgivable loans to some through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). In addition, some state governments and very large corporations offered some grant programs.
But those special grant programs were put in place to provide some help for the dire circumstances many small businesses found themselves in because of the pandemic. Furthermore, the grants and forgiveable loans are targeted at existing small businesses. They don’t provide free money to start a business.
For the most part, however, if your existing business hasn’t been effected by COVID and you’re looking for someone to give you money for your business that you don’t have to repay, you’re going to be disappointed unless you have one of those proverbial “rich uncles” that you can tap for cash.
Here are facts about small business grants you should know:
Grants are hard to find
If you’re a small business owner or you will be soon, you’ve probably heard of the United States Small Business Administration or SBA. The SBA is the government agency in charge of helping you find success as a small business owner. However, according to the SBA it, “does not provide grants for starting and expanding a business.”
The federal government has grant programs along with some state and private organizations but most fund non-profits.
Grants are specific
If you’re hoping to find something similar to a loan but you’re hoping not to pay it back, that’s not how grants work. Grants are often designed to foster growth or serve the public good. If an organization can give somebody money to fund research that may someday cure a disease or clean up the environment, that’s money well spent in the grantor’s eyes.
There’s very little good that comes from giving a small business grant money for general growth.
They have strict reporting requirements
If you receive a grant, expect very specific rules on how you can spend the money. And expect the paperwork to take a significant amount of time. Grantors know better than to give a business money and forget about it. Not only do they have a fiscal responsibility to their donors, raising more money requires convincing their donors that the money won’t be wasted.
Grant money may not be free
Before you go after small business grants, you’ll want to have some money saved of your own. Grants are often awarded based on matching funds. For every dollar the grantor gives you, you have to put up the same amount either through cash or financing. They want you to have “skin in the game” as well.
Grant writing is an art
Grant writing is tough. It takes a lot of time and there’s an art to completing the request. Many people looking for grants hire a grant writer for help. If you’re not the greatest writer and/or have no experience writing grants, get some help—at least for the first couple.
There’s a TON of competition
People in the grant business know where to look to find offers that might pertain to them. Because of the amount of competition you might be perfectly suited for the grant but don’t get it because so many others are too. Don’t make a business plan around getting grants.
How to find grants
But what if you are the type of business or organization that grantors look for? How do you find a list of small business grants? Start with the SBA’s Loans and Grants Search Tool. Here, you can research different funding options that might apply to you. You can also try grants.gov for a long list of government-funded grants.
For other opportunities, visit the website or call groups and organizations related to your industry. If you’re a woman, for example, you could call your state branch of the Women’s business center and research Amber Grants to get started.
Sometimes the biggest stumbling block in obtaining funding is finding the grants that apply to you. This is where old-fashioned networking becomes one of your allies.
Consider an SBA loan instead
It’s not a grant but the SBA can help you get a small business loan. By going through certain SBA-approved banks, you can get a small business loan guaranteed by the SBA. This guarantee allows lenders to lower their lending standards. If you’re just starting or were turned down for a traditional loan, go to the SBA’s website and research the types of guaranteed loans available to you.
The idea of free grant money is certainly appealing to small business owners who are just starting or struggling to grow. The unfortunate truth is that you’re not likely to find it unless you’re a non-profit, educational institution, or contribute something that solves a large-scale problem. However, if you are in one of those industries that the government and private foundations and organizations want to see grow, there may be a lot of opportunities out there for you. Just be prepared for the mountain of paperwork and compliance that comes with any grant.
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About the Author
Tim Parker is the Founder and President of The Web Group, a full service IT firm focusing on security and compliance based in Tampa, Florida. In the little spare time he has, Tim enjoys writing financial articles for major websites focusing on entrepreneurship, investing, personal finance, and retirement.