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How to Get a Small Business Grant: 7 Tips to Secure a Grant

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Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake

Updated May 6, 2021
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How to Get a Small Business Grant: 7 Tips to Win a Grant; Small business grants can make starting a new business or growing an existing one easier.
Small business grants can make starting a new business or growing an existing one easier. Unlike loans, which have to be repaid, grant money may not require business owners to pay it back. Figuring out how to get a small business grant can be complicated if you’ve never done it before, and the grant landscape can be competitive. Understanding more about what's needed to qualify can help when you’re seeking out grant money for your small business. Below are seven tips that may help you find and secure the small business grant that will work for you.

1. Get Familiar With the Grant Options

One of the keys to getting a business grant is simply knowing what's available. Small business grants aren't all alike. While there are some grant programs that offer funding to any kind of business, others may be more selective as to which types of business owners they support. For example, when searching for grant opportunities you may come across:If your business fits into any of those categories, looking for relevant grants could help you find additional possibilities as you fine-tune your search for grant funding. 

2. Know Where to Look for Grants

Grant money for small businesses can seem elusive unless you know where to look. A general web search can turn up some results, but there are a number of websites that aggregate different kinds of small business grant opportunities in one place. Some of the options you might consider include: 
  • Grants.gov. This government-run website houses information on more than 1,000 grants as well as additional resources for potential applicants. 
  • GrantWatch. This subscription-based website allows you to search for grants using different criteria and provides information about other resources, like grant writer referrals. A subscription is $18 per week, $45 per month, $90 per quarter, or $199 per year. 
  • Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). This government-run website lists some grant competitions as well as providing other resources for small businesses
  • Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is involved with some grantmaking, particularly in the area of research and development, and also grants funds to community organizations.
  • USDA Rural Business Development Grants. Rural Development provides grants (and loans) to encourage the development of housing, healthcare, first responder services, utilities, and other essential services.
You can also research how to get a small business grant at the local or state level. Your city's Chamber of Commerce or state business development agency may be good starting points for finding grant opportunities. 

3. Review Individual Grant Criteria

When it comes down to applying for small business grant funding, researching the qualification criteria first is critical. This can help you pinpoint the grant opportunities you're most likely to qualify for, while weeding out ones that aren't a good fit. Every grant is different, and again, one of the main criteria for a specific grant might be whether you operate a woman-owned business, belong to a minority group, or have veteran status. Beyond that, however, consider other minimum qualifications, such as:
  • Time in business
  • Type of industry
  • Annual revenues
  • Number of employees
  • Planned use for grant funding
Some small business grants may be aimed at newer businesses, while others may be geared toward helping established businesses grow. Still others may place conditions on how grant money can be used to further business activities. These are all things you should know before putting the time and effort into completing the application. 

4. Know What Registrations You May Need to Apply

Depending on the grant program, you might need some registrations before you can apply. For example, you may be required to have any or all of the following:If you're applying for grants through a portal like Grants.gov, you may also need to register for an account with the site first. Making sure you have all the necessary registrations in place before you apply can save you time later. 

5. Update Your Business Plan

It's typical for lenders to ask to see a copy of your business plan when you’re applying for loans. For SBA loans, for example, a business plan is a requirement when you want to be considered for funding. It's not uncommon to need an updated business plan when you’re trying to get grant money for your small business. If you haven't updated your business plan recently, or if you've never drafted one, that's one more thing to cross off the list before you apply for funding. A business plan should contain certain details about how you run your business. The basic format typically includes:
  • An executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • A description of your organization and management
  • Details about your products or services
  • Financial projections and expected growth
Remember that getting a business grant can hinge on how you present your business. Your business plan, along with the details you include in your application, are your chance to make a strong case for why you should receive funding. 

6. Complete the Grant Application

Perhaps the most important step in how to get a small business grant is filling out the application. This part of the process can take days or even weeks, depending on how extensive the application is and what the grant-making organization requires in the way of supporting documentation. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you fill out the application:
  • Know your due dates. Grant applications often have deadlines and you don't want to miss out on a chance to secure funding. So make note of when the application is due and give yourself plenty of time to complete it. 
  • Read it through at least once. Give the application a thorough review so you know what's covered and what you'll need to provide when you're ready to submit it.
  • Be truthful. Avoid including inaccurate or misleading information on your application, since that could cause you to be disqualified for grant funds. 
  • Be thorough. One thing to note about how to apply for small business grant money is that less is not more. In other words, if the application asks for a detailed description of how you plan to use the money then don't offer up a one- or two-sentence explanation. 
  • Don't leave anything out. If a grant application asks for specific documentation, such as a copy of your business plan or a recent profit and loss statement, don't fail to include it. An incomplete application could be rejected right off the bat, so make sure you're submitting all requested documents. 
Before you hand in your grant application, proofread it for spelling or grammar errors and correct any you find. You may also want to have someone who's experienced with small business grants or grants in general look it over as well. You could also consider hiring a grant writer to review your application. A second set of eyes may discover overlooked mistakes or areas you could improve. 

7. Follow Up If Appropriate

Once you've sent in your grant application, the waiting game begins. The application review and approval process can take weeks or even months, depending on the grant. During this time, you may want to reach out to the grant organization and check up on the application. Specifically, you could ask if there's any additional information or clarification needed as your application is being reviewed. You don't want to be a nuisance. But following up could help with getting you a small business grant if it keeps you on the grant-maker's radar. 

The Takeaway

Grant money for small businesses can be a financial lifeline if you're hoping to launch a new venture or grow a business you already have. Working out the details of how to get a business grant can help you find the best grant options and deliver the strongest application possible. In the meantime, don't discount small business loans as an alternative source of funding. Applying for a small business loan is something to consider if you think you'll need more money than a small business grant can provide or you need funds relatively quickly. Visit Lantern today to compare small business loans as well as personal loans and credit cards when you need business financing.
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.This Lantern website is owned by SoFi Lending Corp., a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license number 6054612. SoFi Lending's NMLS number is 1121636. NMLS Consumer Access. SoFi Lending Corp. operates this Lantern website in cooperation with Even Financial Corp. ("Even"). If you submit a loan inquiry, SoFi will deliver your information to Even, and Even will deliver to its network of lenders/partners to review to determine if you are eligible for pre-qualified or pre-approved offers. The lenders/partners receiving your information will also obtain your credit information from a credit reporting agency. If you meet one or more lenders' and/or partners' conditions for eligibility, pre-qualified and pre-approved offers from one or more lenders/partners will be presented to you here on the Lantern website. More information about Even, the process, and its lenders/partners is described on the loan inquiry form you will reach by visiting our Personal Loans page.SOLC21021

About the Author

Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, investing and small business. Her work has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, Forbes Advisor, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca writes about a variety of topics for SoFi, including budgeting, saving money and student loans.
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