What do small business owners need to know before applying for a grant? Receiving a small business grant is great, but applying for one can be daunting if you are not prepared. Here are some actions to take so you’re ready when an opportunity comes up, what to expect from the application process, and some tips for how to find grants for your business.
Because they don’t have to be paid back, government-funded or privately-funded grants can help boost businesses that are experiencing a shortfall beyond their control. They can also help a specific community of business owners grow faster.
Grant programs are often geared toward a specific group of businesses. Common criteria include:
- Business size
- Business location
- Ownership demographics
- Services the business performed for its community
- Job creation
- And more!
Have Your Documents Application-Ready
No matter what kind of small business grant you end up applying for, the application will ask for a lot of information to make sure your business fits the grant program’s criteria. But they can’t just take you at your word. Unfortunately, fraud is common in the grant world. To protect against fraud, the program guidelines will ask you to provide financial statements, identifying documents, and other information to help them perform due diligence.
To be ready to apply, you should keep all financial statements and records up-to-date and ready. Bank statements, business formation documents, business certifications, and tax returns are common asks from grant administrators.
You should ensure your businesses is registered and up-to-date with all relevant entities, like your local Secretary of State. It is also beneficial to have a running knowledge of your basic numbers, like annual revenue and dates of formation, so you don’t have to search for it at short notice.
Learn About Eligibility Requirements
All grant programs have eligibility requirements. This means the program is aimed at helping a certain type of business or business owner. Take the time to learn the eligibility requirements before applying, to save yourself time and frustration applying for a grant that isn’t meant for your small business.
Expect A Verification Process
Even though you submitted documents to show your application information is correct, the grant administrator still has to review all of those documents and confirm that they are valid. It’s easy to feel offended at these questions. But the organization providing the grant is also accountable for making sure they did everything they could to prevent fraud and errors, so verification is a necessary step.
This step can cause the process to take time. There’s no set timeline between completing a grant application and receiving an answer, so be ready to be patient.
How to Find Small Business Grant Programs
There are many places to find small business grant programs that are a fit for your business. Sometimes, you have to do some digging. There isn’t one unified list, because the programs themselves are funded by many entities at many levels.
It helps to know what kinds of terms to search for, so here is a list of potential resources for small business grants.
- Federal grants are listed at Grants.gov
- Your state:
- Visit your state’s economic development department, or department of commerce, where state-funded resources and opportunities for small businesses are listed
- Your county, city or town:
- Visit your local government websites or call their small business offices
- Local small business support organizations:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
- Technical Assistance or Training Organizations
- Chambers of Commerce
- Business Centers
- Women’s Business Centers
- Industry-specific organizations