A business grant is essentially free money given to entrepreneurs and business owners to start and/or expand a business. A common misconception is that business grants are given away by federal government agencies. This is not true at all. Grants available through the U.S. government are generally reserved for non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, state and local governments.
However, there are plenty of state and local government agencies as well as private organizations and foundations that offer business grant money. If you are an established or aspiring entrepreneur or business owner, a good place to start looking for grant money is within your city, county, and state.
The U.S. Government’s official web portal is an excellent online resource that enables you to click on your state and search for state grant money within all kinds of areas, such as agricultural, environmental quality, health, law, and cultural affairs. You can also search the office of the Governor of your state, or search through various state offices such as Affordable Housing, Transportation Dept., Soil and Water Conservation, Education or any other department whose focus best aligns with the nature of your business.
Local sources of funding may include Lions Club, Rotary, Kiwanis, Veterans Administration, Community Development Foundation, Regional Planning Commission, colleges and universities, and hospitals. Civic organizations often have foundations that manage requests for grant money, and the objective must align with their mission and values and benefit the community in some way.
Another local source of business grant money is your state’s or city’s chamber of commerce, your mayor’s office, your councilman’s office, your congressman’s office, and even your governor’s office.
In addition to local government agencies, there’s an organization called The Foundation Center that provides a directory of over 200 corporate grantmakers. Such major corporations often establish trusts and foundations to give business grant money to companies and organizations that engage in efforts that are aligned closely with their mission and values.
A few examples are General Electric, Ford, Wal-Mart, the Gates Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Ford Foundation, Hasbro Industries Charitable Trust, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kipling Foundation, Clorox Company, Allstate Foundation, and International Paper Company. Each company’s foundation has a different outline on the types of businesses that can receive grant money and the awards can literally range from $500 to $5 million – depending on the size of the foundation.
The criteria will vary. Some grant money is specifically for established businesses, and other money is for newcomers. Some is for women entrepreneurs, and some is for minorities. Either way, there is grant money out there for you and your business. Keep looking, and don’t give up!