Microloans: Top Nonprofit and SBA Lenders of 2021

Microlenders offer small loans to entrepreneurs, and many offer free consulting and other services.
Rosalie MurphyNov 12, 2021

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Microloans are small-business loans that are, by definition, small — less than $50,000 in many cases. Many also have short repayment terms and low interest rates.

Microloans can be a good fit for business owners who might struggle to qualify for traditional financing, including startup founders and people with limited credit history. These loans are also typically issued by mission-based nonprofits that focus on lending to women, people of color and other underserved communities.

Microloans may be backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration or issued by microfinance organizations with alternative lending models. Many microlenders only serve particular states or regions.

If you’re shopping for a microloan, here are some lenders worth considering. Note that in addition to loans, many of these lenders provide free or low-cost training and business coaching to help entrepreneurs develop knowledge and skills.

How Much Do You Need?

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SBA microlenders

The U.S. Small Business Administration backs low-cost government small-business loans through a network of private lenders. The SBA microloan program offers loans of up to $50,000 to small businesses. Its average loan is around $14,400 with a 6.5% interest rate as of January 2021, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Here are some top lenders of SBA microloans. If none are in your area, the SBA’s website can help you find a microlender near you.

Pursuit

Microloan size: $10,000-$50,000.

Interest rates: Up to 9.125%.

Availability: New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Pursuit promises a decision on SBA microloans within two business days and funding within five business days to qualifying businesses. To qualify, you’ll need two or more years in business, two or more employees, positive or break-even cash flow and more than $120,000 in annual revenue, among other requirements.

CDC Small Business Finance

Microloan size: $20,000-$50,000.

Interest rates: 8%-10%.

Availability: Select counties in California.

CDC Small Business Finance ​offers microloans targeted at new or early-stage businesses. These loans can be used for working capital, business acquisitions, equipment purchases and more; you do not need to provide collateral to be approved. Note, however, that CDC Small Business Finances only makes microloans in specific California counties.

Accompany Capital

Microloan size: $500-$50,000.

Interest rates: 3%.

Availability: New York City.

Formerly the Business Center for New Americans, Accompany Capital ​provides microloans to refugee and immigrant small-business owners in New York City. There is no minimum credit score, but you’ll need positive cash flow and any required licenses. In addition to these microloans, Accompany Capital also makes credit-building loans of up to $2,000 and provides training on how to build your credit score.

Justine Petersen

Microloan size: $500-$50,000.

Interest rates: 7.25%-11%.

Availability: Missouri, eastern Kansas and southern and central Illinois.

Justine Petersen, which is based in St. Louis, offers SBA microloans of up to $50,000, with unsecured loans of up $3,000 available. Justine Petersen also has microloan programs through a partner community development financial institution and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Community First Fund

Microloan size: Up to $50,000.

Interest rates: 7% and up.

Availability: Eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware.

Community First Fund is an SBA microlender working in the Philadelphia region. Like most SBA microlenders, it provides business owners with capital along with coaching and other support. And like some SBA lenders, it offers alternative forms of financing, too, like the Affinity Group Lending Program, where community members come together to receive financial education and small credit-building loans.

Other nonprofit microlenders

Many microfinance organizations offer small loans outside the SBA microloan program, too.

Some of these microlenders operate much like the SBA lenders above, with similar loan limits and interest rates. Others, including Kiva and Grameen, draw on international microfinance experience to present alternative lending models based on social networks and more.

Accion Opportunity Fund

Microloan size: $5,000-$100,000.

Interest rates: 5.99% and up.

Availability: Nationwide.

The Accion Opportunity Fund, which is part of global nonprofit Accion, makes small-business loans to companies with at least one year in business and $50,000 in annual sales. When you apply for a microloan, Accion will present you with several offers, all with different terms and interest rates, and you can choose the one that fits your needs best. Accion also offers business coaching and mentoring.

LiftFund

Microloan size: $23,427 was LiftFund’s average loan in 2020.

Interest rates: Not listed.

Availability: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

San Antonio-based LiftFund offers small-business loans to entrepreneurs in 14 states, primarily in the southeast. Borrowers can also attend group training sessions and receive one-on-one consultations from business coaches.

Pacific Community Ventures

Microloan size: Up to $250,000.

Interest rates: 4.25%-13%.

Availability: California.

Pacific Community Ventures ​is a community development lender that offers loans of up to $250,000 to small businesses in California. You need to have been in business at least a year and, ideally, have been profitable for six months. Most borrowers have at least one employee and there is no minimum credit score.

Kiva U.S.

Microloan size: Up to $15,000.

Interest rates: 0%.

Availability: Nationwide.

Kiva U.S. is a part of Kiva, a nonprofit working in more than 80 countries. To receive an interest-free microloan of up to $15,000 through Kiva U.S., borrowers must apply for prequalification, then invite friends and family members to lend to the venture. This helps establish the borrower’s creditworthiness. Once that happens, Kiva opens the loan to people who help crowdfund the desired amount. In total, the fundraising process can take about eight weeks, and borrowers have up to 36 months to repay their loans.

Grameen America

Microloan size: $4,500 on average.

Interest rates: 15%-18%.

Availability: In 18 U.S. cities.

Grameen America ​has a nontraditional lending system: Borrowers must form a group with four other women they trust. That group then participates in financial training together. Afterward, each member opens a savings account and receives a microloan to build their own small business. The women meet weekly to make repayments and receive ongoing education.

Other borrowing options

Many SBA microlenders also offer alternative forms of financing, like the Affinity Group Lending Program from Community First Fund and credit-building loans from Accompany Capital.

If a microloan won’t offer you enough funding, see if you can qualify for other types of business loans, such as a traditional term loan or business line of credit. Compare factors like interest rates and funding time to find the right fit for your business.

If you’re seeking capital but aren’t sure where to start, consider connecting with a lender in your community first, then exploring your financing options.

Former NerdWallet staff writer Benjamin Pimentel contributed to this article.