Person working on submitting an application on a laptop.
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/Tero Vesalainen

If you’re trying to launch a business or keep it afloat, you may have discovered that accessing funds often requires a lot of time and effort. One popular but sometimes underutilized avenue to funding comes in grants, which are not tied to collateral and do not have to be paid back.

However, competition can be plentiful and opportunities may be limited depending upon your background, industry and company type. Therefore, it’s best to understand the process fully and know what grants are available, to not waste your time and increase your odds for success.

How to successfully apply for grants

When it comes to chasing grants, the most important things to focus on will be identifying the right grants for your company and crafting an application that will stand up to scrutiny. In order to accomplish these, consider the following steps:

  1. Research grants to find ones that are the right fit. Grants often have specific eligibility criteria, such as industry, business type, company size 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. You’ll also want to make sure you know if a grant only is applicable for people with certain backgrounds such as veteran business owners.
  2. Understand all the criteria and stay on deadline. 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, understand your bandwidth and make sure you carefully follow the rules.

Where to find grants

There are many sources for grants, including the federal government, local governments, nonprofits and corporations. To find a fit for your business, here are some places to look.

Check out government-based funding opportunities

First off, those applying should start their search using Grants.gov, a website offering the most comprehensive look at federal grant options for businesses. The site has thousands of grants to apply to for companies from all backgrounds. The Grants.gov site lists federal grants from agencies including Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and more.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers a wide array of grants and funding options. These include programs that target B2B-focused, tech-focused, veteran-owned, minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

The Grants.gov site lists federal grants from agencies including Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and more.

Understand your business differentiator

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

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:

  • National Association for the Self Employed (NASE): NASE members can apply for small business grants.
  • Idea Café: This online portal offers resources and grant opportunities in its Small Biz Grant Center.
  • SCORE: The organization SCORE helps small business owners connect with mentors and local resources, which can include ways to assist with funding.

With some discernment and a bit of time, you may find a great grant opportunity. Keep in mind that grant writing is a specialty. You may consider hiring a professional to assist you if you feel overwhelmed. There are benefits to getting outside help but that also comes with 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 June 18, 2021