Small-Business Grants: Where to Find Free Money

Federal and state agencies, as well as private companies, offer small-business grants. Here's a list of resources.

Steve NicastroJul 12, 2021
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Small-business grants provide free money for startups and existing businesses, including those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It can take time and effort to research and apply for funding. To help you start, here’s a list of federal, state and private small-business grants and resources.

Coronavirus small-business grants

The U.S. Small Business Administration introduced new coronavirus small-business grant programs as part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act:

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant: The SVO Grant program offers $15 billion in business grants to live performing arts institutions, movie theater operators and other eligible shuttered venues. Applications for the SVO grant opened on April 8. Businesses must have been in operation as of Feb. 29, 2020, to qualify.

Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance: The SBA provides Targeted EIDL Advances of up to $10,000 for small businesses in low-income communities experiencing a loss of revenue due to the coronavirus crisis. The advance works more like a grant than a loan, as it does not need to be repaid. The SBA will reach out to eligible businesses.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund: Restaurants and other food establishments that lost revenue due to the pandemic were able to receive up to $10 million in funding from the RRF. Applications for this program closed on May 24.

Federal small-business grants

Government agencies are among the biggest distributors of business grants, supporting a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. Applying may seem intimidating, but federal grants are great opportunities for small-business owners looking to grow.

Grants.gov: Grants.gov is a comprehensive database of grants administered by various government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: The SBIR and the STTR grant programs focus on research and development for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses with federal grants and contracts from 12 government agencies.

To qualify, you must operate a for-profit business, have no more than 500 employees and meet other eligibility requirements.

USA.gov: You won’t find any federal small-business grants here, but this government website provides resources for starting or growing a business, including a link to GovLoans, which has information on the types of available federal small-business loans.

State and regional small-business grants

Economic Development Administration: This U.S. Department of Commerce agency provides grants, resources and technical assistance to communities to support economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Each state’s agency helps businesses find financing (including state or regional grants), secure locations and recruit employees. You can search the economic development directory for regional offices and local resources.

Small Business Development Centers: Your local SBDC provides support for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. They’re often associated with local universities or the state’s economic development agency, and many can help connect business owners with financing opportunities, as well as counseling, training and technical assistance.

Corporate small-business grants

Many corporations and large companies have a philanthropic component that includes small-business grants. While some provide grants only to nonprofits servicing specific industries, some give to for-profit companies.

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: The company’s annual grant competition awards $250,000 to 12 small businesses, including a $50,000 grant and $7,500 in FedEx print and business services to its grand prizewinner. The 2021 contest opens on Feb. 16.

The contest is open to U.S.-based for-profit small businesses that have been operating at least six months, with no more than 99 employees.

National Association for the Self-Employed: NASE members can apply for monthly small-business grants worth up to $4,000, as well as an annual $3,000 college scholarship for members’ dependents. Grants are awarded year-round, with completed applications reviewed quarterly in April, July, October and January.

Specialty small-business grants

To help spread entrepreneurial success across demographics, many organizations focus their funding efforts on specific communities.

We’ve put together lists of:

Frequently asked questions

You can find small-business grants at government agencies, state organizations and private corporations. A few good places to start your search include the government database grants.gov, your local Small Business Development Center and nonprofits such as the Local Initiatives Support Corp.

Grant qualifications will depend on the awarding organization. Priority may be given to businesses in rural or low-income locations or those run by women or minorities, for example. Read a grant's complete eligibility criteria before applying to understand if your business qualifies.

The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act passed on Dec. 27, 2020, included funding for Shuttered Venue Operators Grants and Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Many big-name private organizations, including Facebook, Amazon and Verizon, introduced small business grant programs when the pandemic began but additional funding is not currently available.