Many people are under the false impression that the Small Business Administration awards lots of grants to small businesses. This is not the case, but there are still business grants to be found. The SBA does not directly award any grants for businesses.
SBA does support organizations which help small businesses in other ways, including financial support. Those applicants most likely to win such grants are generally in specific groups such as minorities, women, veterans and people with disabilities. There are also grants designed specifically for individuals or organizations with special expertise and experience, particularly qualified to conduct special research or other projects requiring specific skills. Sometimes grants are targeted at defined geographic areas and at those who require support other than financial. So it is important to carefully review eligibility requirements when looking for a business grant. And of course if you are a part of one of the groups listed above, you would be wise to explore grants that may be open to you. The SBA as well as grants.gov are good places to start.
Sometimes special opportunities arise such as grants which became available due to the healthcare act. Such opportunities may be targeted at specific types of businesses or research facilities. While the application deadline for the 2010 opportunities has passed it is worth checking the news on grants.gov for any promising developments. Learn more about the impact of new legislation at Go Free Government Money's Business Grants page. You can also check the bottom of each page of Go Free Government Money to see real-time announcements of newly announced grant opportunities.
The SBA is still your best place to start when looking for business grants. They maintain information about what money is available for small businesses and what organizations are providing those funds Check their Federal Grants Resources portal to find a list of other agencies offering grants. You can also check the GSA (U.S. General Services Administration) for a list of financial and other assistance available to small businesses, which they arrange by category so you can easily track down grants targeted at specific groups (e.g. women, minorities).
Grants.gov is also an excellent source. You may not find a grant specifically meant to help you grow a small business, but there could be one that offers to fund an area of expertise that is relevant to what your business does. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers “small-business grants for research into ‘problems facing American agriculture’ in areas ranging from nutrition to marketing.” High-tech initiatives are sometimes provided by the government’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, which you can also find by searching the listings at grants.gov.
While “standard” grants for business may be hard to find or to qualify for, there are other ways to be creative about raising funds for your business – and get some time in the limelight. A recent article in The Washington Post by Annie Lowry is titled “Can cash prizes for innovation get the economy rolling again?“. It takes a look at the U.S. government’s use of cash awards as it tries to gain involvement of the private sector in finding solutions to specific R&D challenges.Her article came about after the reauthorization of the “America Competes Act”, which makes these contests possible.
And finally, don't ignore the library! While it may sound hopelessly old school, libraries are still great sources of information. There you can find plenty of grant-related books and directories. The librarian is also a great source, and may be able to direct you to sources not only in the library but also in your local community.
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