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How to Find Grants for Small Businesses

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How to Find Grants for Small Businesses

Aug 24, 2021
 Text that reads 'Grants for small business' and two circle framed pictures of small business owners working, one a woman packaging an order and the other a woman and a man at a table

Give your Business a Boost 

Your business is losing money due to a poor economy, or a declining customer base and you don’t know what to do.  

You need to launch a new endeavor or change the angle of your business, but you simply don’t have the funds to do so.  

You don’t want to take out another loan, but one way or another you need a boost.  

It can be scary. 

One of the best ways to give your small business a jump start is by applying for a small business grant. Grants are money allocated by government agencies or private entities designed to give businesses or non-profits extra funding to accomplish a worthwhile cause. Causes can range from charitable acts and social services, such as building low-income housing, to merely keeping a small business afloat.  

There are thousands of grants available to all types of businesses and all it takes is a simple application to get access to money that can revitalize your business. The hard part is finding them. 

In this post, we will detail some resources for finding small business grants as well as some basic tips for applying to them to help your name stick out amongst the copious amounts of applicants.  

A Needle in a Haystack 

It’s true, small business grants are hard to find, especially if you’re not looking strategically. However, there are resources out there to help business owners find the funds they need.  

Often, grants are aimed at helping businesses recover from a specific cause, such as the novel coronavirus, or aimed at businesses that accomplish a specific, necessary task. There are even grants for businesses owned by a specific demographic, such as women-owned businesses or veteran-owned businesses.  

Below are some common resources for businesses to use to find grants: 

  • Grants.gov
    • Grants.gov is a grant-find database run by the US government aimed at helping people access grants of all kinds. Their handy database lets you select categories to search through and even sort by keywords. They have Grants that are posted as well as forecasted grants that are not yet available for application.
  • Eda.gov
    • The US Economic Development Administration, run through the US Department of Commerce, provides grants, resources, and technical assistance to support economic growth. The programs are broken down by state and allocate resources to help businesses find funding.
  • Small Business Innovation Research & Small Business Technology Transfer
    • Highly competitive programs that encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research with the potential for commercialization. These organizations (which work in close partnership) enable small businesses to explore their technological potential and provide the incentive to profit from commercialization. These organizations connect funding to scientific research-based businesses.  

Grants.gov is the best bet for most businesses, but several specified organizations exist exclusively to help businesses in their industry achieve funding. It is important to regularly research grant opportunities as some have short windows of application and can pass you by without you noticing.  

How to Qualify 

The first thing you do if you see a grant opportunity that you think applies to your business is to write a thorough application letter. This will express a clear interest in the grant and let the funding organization know what you will use the money for. A more complete explanation is available below.  

Your ability to qualify depends on the awarding organization. Priority may be given to businesses in rural or low-income areas, or businesses run by a certain demographic. Ensure you read the grant’s eligibility before applying to avoid wasting your time.  

Less competitive grants will inherently give you a higher probability of success. National grants, while often worth more money, will have high levels of competition, with sometimes thousands of applicants. It can be difficult to have your voice heard. Local and statewide programs usually grant less money, but you will likely be more carefully considered.  

In short, don’t always aim for the biggest dollar amount. Sometimes two or three smaller grants can take you further than one large grant.  

Determining your Resources 

Some businesses elect to apply for grants from the office of the owner or using an already on-payroll employee. However, if your company doesn’t have the resources to apply for grants, you may consider hiring a freelance grant writer.  

Grant writers are typically freelance or contract employees, however, they can also be hired as part-time or full-time employees. Grant writers are relatively cheap, starting at $20 per hour, and often bring in more money than they are paid. Their rate is based on their success, so a grant writer who has secured several hundred grants can go for upwards of $150 per hour, while a college student or recent graduate is more in line with the $20 per hour figure.  

Remember, you need to be sending out high-quality grant request letters or else you will be wasting your time and resources. 

How to Write a Grant Letter 

If you decide to pursue grants yourself or wish to train an employee, you must know the proper format for writing a grant letter. 

Here are the components of a successful request letter: 

  1. Start with a cover letter. A cover letter should be brief and state your business name, the project title, and the amount you are requesting.  

  1. Proposal summary. Sum up your request in one short paragraph. Each request should begin this way to allow the reader to easily sort through the applicants. 

  1. Problem statement. Concisely state the problem you intend to solve using the grant money.  

  1. Objective and outcome. Explain your plan more thoroughly and exactly what outcome you will produce.  

  1. Program plan. Detail exactly how you will execute your plan and use data to back it up. 

  1. How your company is prepared. List your accomplishments as an organization and detail why the funder can trust you with their money.  

  1. Evaluation plan. After the project is complete how will you know you were successful? Detail how you will gauge your success using exact metrics. 

  1. Program budget. Include a point-by-point breakdown of your budget. How will every dollar be spent in pursuit of your goal? 

  1. Sustained impact. Explain the good the funder’s money will provide to the community or world. Is this something that will stand the test of time, or merely delay a problem? 

A grant request letter can be rather lengthy and more than a little complicated. This is why many businesses opt to have a seasoned grant writer perform the task.  

Whether you decide to hire a grant writer or write the letter yourself, ensure that it follows this format. You can look up examples online to emulate if you so choose. Either way, be thorough and have a detailed budget or else you will get nowhere. 

Don’t take Grants for Granted 

If you have early success finding a grant, use the money wisely and exactly the way you detailed in your letter. Misappropriation of grant funds is grounds for fraud, so make sure you understand the laws surrounding grants and their use.  

Small business grants can be an excellent way to get your business moving in the right direction. So too is joining a chamber of commerce. Not only can chambers help you find funds, but they also connect you with a wide community of business owners in your community. The Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance is a collective of chambers of commerce from southern Ohio that work together to build a brighter future. Tell your chamber of commerce to join SOCA today. 

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