They say there’s no such thing as a free ride. In the world of small-business grants, you’ll pay your dues by searching websites, clicking out-of-date links, or struggling with government databases before finding a grant that suits your business goals.
To make things easier, we’ve started compiling a list of resources to help direct you toward free financing on a federal, state and private level.
Get Your Free Personal Credit Score Every Week from NerdWallet
- Open more doors for financing your business.
- Set your goals and track your progress.
- Signing up won't affect your score.
Federal small-business grants
Government agencies are some of the biggest distributors of grants. They will likely be highly specific and offer support for a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. The application process can be intimidating and requires a lot of hard work, but the grants offer a great opportunity for small-business owners looking to grow.
Grants.gov: Though daunting, Grants.gov is a comprehensive database of grants administered by various government agencies. You can search for financing opportunities for products or services your small business offers. To make sure you find the most relevant grants, click the “Browse Eligibilities” tab in the middle of the home page, then select “small business.” Next, select “Grant” under “Funding Instrument Type” on the left-hand side.
BusinessUSA: Slightly more user friendly than Grants.gov, BusinessUSA uses a questionnaire to help you find relevant grants for your business. It’s important to note, however, that the options it provides aren’t always grants — some are loans that have annual percentage rates. Click “Starting a Business?” to complete the questionnaire.
Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: The SBIR and the STTR are grant programs focused on research and development, particularly for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses, universities and research centers with federal grants and contracts from 12 government agencies.
State and regional small-business grants
Economic Development Agencies: Each state’s agency helps new and established businesses find financing, secure a location and recruit employees. They also can help point you to state or regional grant opportunities.
Small Business Development Centers: You can turn to your local SBDC, which provides support to 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 mentors and networking opportunities, as well as training on basic business skills. Your SBDC can also help you find financing opportunities.
Corporate small-business grants
Many corporations or large companies have a philanthropic component, offering their own small-business grants. While some provide grants only to nonprofits servicing specific industries, some do give directly to for-profit companies. With these types of grants, it’s important to be aware of submission deadlines because they often come around only once a year.
|FedEx's Small Business Grant||During its annual grant competition, FedEx awards 10 small businesses with grants up to $25,000 and FedEx office supplies up to $7,500.|
|Miller Lite Tap the Future||Tap the Future is a live-pitch competition. Twenty-five businesses pitch in front of judges in five major US cities for a chance to win $20,000. The winner from each location will go to the national competition for a chance to win a $100,000 grand prize.|
|National Association of the Self-Employed||NASE offers monthly $4,000 grants to small businesses. Must be a NASE member to apply.|
|LendingTree||LendingTree offers a $50,000 grant to help small businesses that are having trouble scaling. One award per year.|
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:
- Small-business grants for women
- Small-business grants for veterans
- Small-business grants for minorities
Need small-business financing?
NerdWallet has come up with a list of the best small-business loans to meet your needs and goals. We gauged lender trustworthiness, market scope and user experience, among other factors, and arranged them by categories that include your revenue and how long you’ve been in business.