How to Get a Small Business Grant: A Simple Guide

A business owner researching how to get a small business grant

What does it take to start a small business?

A dream? An innovative idea? A boatload of determination and hard work?

Yes, yes, and most definitely, yes. It also takes some funding. That can include your own cash, business loans, or money from investors, friends, or family.

There is one source of funding that often can get overlooked: a small business grant.

Taking a Closer Look at How to Get a Small Business Grant

A small business grant is money that’s typically available to businesses whose work contributes to specific goals of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and even for-profit companies, as just a few examples.

It’s also money that usually doesn’t have to be repaid, which can make it an attractive source of funding.

We can help by showing you where to look for small business grants and how to apply for them.

Where to Find a Small Business Grant

Chances are you may not have heard about business grants. Still, there is a healthy supply of grants that are typically available if you know where to look. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Grantwatch.

This website features more than 27,000 grants and other funding opportunities from a variety of sources, including government agencies, charitable foundations, and corporations.

You can easily navigate to a “small business” section to help narrow your search. However, to get all the details on the grant, you’ll likely have to pay to subscribe.

But if you’re short on time (and what small business owner isn’t?), Grantwatch subscription plans offer a variety of services, including search help.

2. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE).

Every quarter, NASE reviews grant applications for established businesses that are ready to grow, but may lack the cash to do so. The maximum amount for each NASE business grant is $4,000, and it comes with considerable flexibility for how you can use it.

The list of requirements is shorter than many other grant programs, but one of them is that you need to be an NASE member, which requires a paid membership.

3. State-sponsored grants.

As you might expect, there is a lot of competition at the federal level for grant money. So another good place to apply for grant opportunities is in your state. There’s likely to be less competition and a range of grants at the state level that may be a better fit for your type of business.

You can get started by checking out this state-by-state grants guide.

4. Corporate grants for small businesses.

There are a lot of businesses willing to lend a hand to other businesses. The companies offering these grants are as varied as the businesses and entrepreneurs they want to help.

You can find a wide-ranging list of grants for minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as other types of businesses here.

Some popular corporate grants you may want to consider include:

5. Demographic-specific grants.

If you’re a woman, veteran, or minority small business owner, there are a number of specific grants available to help support your organization. Here are just a few examples of what’s out there.

The Amber Grant.

This program, run by WomensNet, awards a $10,000 grant each month to a female entrepreneur. At the end of the year, one of the 12 recipients can get an additional $25,000 in funding.

Applying is as easy as filling out an online form and paying a $15 fee.

Veteran Small Business Grants.

Veterans or their spouses who own over 50% of the business can apply for the Veteran Small Business Award. With the goal to inspire, educate, and support veterans, businesses can receive up to $15,000 in grant funding.

National Black MBA Association.

The NBMBAA scale-up pitch challenge is a competition that black-owned businesses can pitch their ideas to early-stage investors and venture capitalists. Three finalists compete in person before a panel of judges.

Grant awards include a $50,000 Grand Prize, with additional top prizes for 2nd place ($10,000), 3rd place ($7,500), and the People’s Choice Award ($1,000).

You must be a member of the NBMBAA to participate in the annually held competition.

6. Search the internet.

No single article (including this one) can unearth all the grant opportunities that might suit your business. A key to securing a grant is making sure what the awarding organization is looking for aligns with what your company does, as much as possible.

Spending a bit of time online can help you find the best opportunities for your business.

How to Get a Grant to Start a Business

If finding grants feels a bit like searching for gold, applying for grants is where you’ll be doing a lot of the pick-and-shovel work to get your hands on that funding ore.

While it can seem like a lot of work, here are some steps to follow to help apply for a small business grant.

1. Read the requirements.

Since grants are often created for specific purposes and types of business owners, it’s important to make sure you understand all the criteria used to award the grant.

At the same time, it’s just as important to make sure you meet all — and not just most of — the requirements.

2. Get the right paperwork.

Federal, state, and corporate grant providers have different ways to access the application forms you’ll need.

Federal grants — You usually need to register on their website to get a username and password to submit information through a federal online portal.

State grants — It’s best to contact the agency sponsoring the grant and request the necessary forms.

Corporate grants — Most, if not all, of the forms and information you need will likely be found on their website.

3. Have a business plan.

If you don’t have one now, this could be a good reason to put your business plan together. You’ll likely find that it will come in handy when you’re writing the grant proposal. A good business plan can help in other areas as well, including loan applications and long-term planning.

Business plans take many different forms, but it should cover what you do, why it’s important, the problem or challenge you’re trying to solve, and how you plan to execute it.

We have a short article and a free business plan template that can help get you started.

4. Write the grant proposal.

If you’re wondering how to write a grant proposal for a small business, organizing your proposal around these points can be helpful:

Why you’re suited to receive the grant — This is the “why” part of your business, not the “what.” Why did you choose to start your business? Why are you passionate about it?

What you will do with the money — Be specific here. Help the grant officer clearly understand how the funds will be spent and how it will solve the problem or fulfill the mission behind the grant.

Share your secret sauce — Include statistics and accomplishments that help illustrate how your business is working toward achieving the goal behind the grant. Highlight your skills (and those of your employees) that you believe can get the best results from the grant funding.

5. Contact the grant officer.

This can do two things for you. It can help start a more personal relationship with the person who will be awarding the grant. And as a small business owner, you likely know the value of a good working relationship.

Speaking with the grant officer also can help you better understand what the organization is looking for. It gives you a chance to understand their “why,” which can help you do a better job writing your proposal.

6. Review everything.

There’s generally a lot of competition for grant money, so you don’t want to do (or not do) something that might knock you out of the running.

  • Read through the eligibility requirements, again
  • Be sure you answer questions completely and fill out forms correctly
  • Double-check all the details and deadlines for submission

7. Rinse, repeat, and reapply.

Many of the same grants are awarded annually. So if you didn’t win this year, you can reapply next year. Including what you’ve done during that year could make a big difference in your favor, especially if it’s in line with the grant organization’s goals.

How Business Insurance Can Help You Get a Small Business Grant

As we’ve mentioned a few times already, there’s a lot of competition for grants, so you want to be as buttoned up as possible when you’re being considered by grant officers and organizations. That can include having business insurance.

Grant officers may have good reasons to appreciate business insurance. According to a study from the Small Business Association Office of Advocacy, 36%-53% of small businesses surveyed reported being involved in a lawsuit in a given year.

Benefits beyond small business grants.

While you may apply for a grant only once a year, your business insurance is working for you 24/7/365. It can help protect you against claims and provide the same kind of assurance to customers, vendors, and financial institutions as it does to grant officers.

Easy to get covered.

You can get started online right now. If you have questions or need expert advice, one of our friendly insurance pros can help. You can reach them at 844-654-7272, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET).

And once you get started, it usually takes just 10 minutes, which could give you a nice break from working on those grant applications.

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When it Comes to Small Business Grants, Remember Your “Why.”

If you’ve started a small business, or if you’re thinking about doing so, there’s likely a driving force (or several) behind your decision. Maybe you want to be your own boss. Maybe you believe you can offer a better solution to an existing problem. Or maybe you also want to create jobs and become a positive force in your community.

One way to approach small business grants is to look for government, nonprofit, and corporate organizations that have goals similar to the ones of your small business.

At the very least, you’ll know there are others out there working with similar goals to your own. And if they also happen to offer a grant, it can be a great way to fund your business and work toward achieving your higher ambition.

One more thing.

Financing your business doesn’t have to be limited to grants. Our Resource Center has information on other options, such as loans. Here are a few guides to get you started:

Ed Grasso

As a 9-year-old at summer camp, I hated it — especially after being pulled screaming from the pool during the swimming competition. While this left me without an aquatic achievement patch, it also inspired the letter to my parents that got me an early release from Camp Willard. That showed me the power of writing. I’ve done my best to use it only for good ever since, such as writing helpful articles for small business owners.

Ed writes on a number of topics such as liability insurance, small business funding, and employee management.