Grants are available but take some research to find.
Grants are an appealing method for business funding because they don't need to be paid back; but there are several criteria to follow when writing and applying. — Getty Images/fizkes

If you’re trying to launch a business, you may have discovered that accessing funds often requires resourcefulness. Grants are an appealing source to investigate because these funds are not tied to collateral and don’t have to be paid back. However, you’ll likely find the competition can be plentiful and opportunities may be quite limited depending upon your industry and company type. Therefore, it’s best to understand the process so you don’t waste your time and you increase your odds for success.

How to successfully apply for grants

Consider the following steps when applying for a grant:

  1. Research grants to find ones that are the right fit. Grants often have specific eligibility criteria, such as industry, business type, size of company and location. Additionally, a grant may have a stipulated use (e.g., technology upgrades, training, etc.), so you must have a need that aligns with this. Grants for Women, a resource for women seeking grants and scholarships, advises that you not apply for grants if you don’t meet the eligibility criteria. “You do not get points for creativity; the grant committee or governing body will simply discard your application,” they cautioned.
  2. Understand all the criteria so you can prepare well. You need to know what information to provide and the application deadline. Grant writing takes time, so being prepared and keeping a schedule is important. Put the deadline and the award date on your calendar so you can keep track not only of when to apply but when to check back on the website or expect communication about the awarding of the grant.
  3. Be realistic about your need and ability. While getting “free” money sounds great, if it’s awarded to your company, you must abide by the guidelines. This means you can only use the money as stipulated and must adhere to reporting and accounting requirements. When considering applying for a grant, take a moment to consider your bandwidth to do so.

[Read: Choosing the Best Funding Strategy for Your Business]

Where to find grants

There are many sources for grants, including the government, nonprofits and corporations. To find a fit for your business, here’s a way to narrow your search:

Check out government programs

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is an independent agent of the U.S. Federal Government. Through the SBA you can start your journey with Grants 101, find information about the application process and stay abreast of new grant opportunities.

Grants often have specific eligibility criteria, such as industry, business type, size of company and location.

Understand your business differentiator

Your gender, ethnicity and veteran status can all factor into which loans your business is eligible for. There are several opportunities available to entrepreneurs who meet these specific criteria:

  • Women-owned businesses: With a quick an online search, we found several sites geared toward helping female entrepreneurs, including resources and grants through Grants for Women, SBA-sponsored Women’s Business Centers around the country, WomensNet, which provides tips, encouragement and grant opportunities, and the Eileen Fisher clothing company’s Women-Owned Businesses Grant Program that promotes socially responsible women-owned businesses.
  • Minority-owned businesses: The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, supports regional business development agencies that assist local minority-owned businesses. You can contact the office in your region for information on programs and resources.
  • Veteran-owned businesses: The Veteran Small Business Award Grant Program is a contest with prizes ranging from $4,000 to $15,000. This StreetShares Foundation program features finalists on the foundation’s website, three of whom get a chance to pitch their business idea at a live competition.

[Read: A Complete Guide to Starting a Veteran-Owned Business]

Connect with your community

If you own a small business or are self-employed, you can access resources and apply for grants through these organizations:

With some discernment and a bit of time, you may find a great grant opportunity. Keep in mind that grant writing is a specialty; so, if you feel overwhelmed, you may consider hiring a professional to assist you. There are benefits to getting outside help, but there is also a cost. You’ll need to weigh what makes the most sense for your business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 04, 2020