Small Business Grants: Where to Find Funds

Grants don’t need to be repaid, making them an excellent financing option for small businesses.

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By Lindsay VanSomeren| Edited by Jackie Zimmermann and Janet Schaaf | December 28, 2023

You don’t need to receive an inheritance from a distant relative in order to muster together enough funds to start the business of your dreams. Most business owners cobble together funds from a wide array of sources — and of these sources, small business grants are an underutilized opportunity. 

The biggest blocker for many people is where to even find small business grants in the first place. But they’re more abundant than you might realize, if you know where to look.

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Federal small business grants

Most people are familiar with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the main agency tasked with helping small business owners find funding. However, many other government agencies offer small business grants, especially for ventures that may help develop products and services that are central to the agency’s mission.

If you’re new to searching for federal grants, — a database of grants from federal grant-making agencies — is a good place to start. There, you can find information on over 1,000 different grant programs and applications.

Once you register with, you can apply for multiple federal grants. Just keep in mind that it’s a vast database that can be difficult to navigate — especially if you’re looking for highly specific grants.

The SBIR and STTR programs are designed to encourage small businesses to partake in research and development and provide resources for any resulting innovations to be turned into viable products.

USDA offers quite a few grants to state and local governments and private and nonprofit organizations that can filter down to small business owners in rural areas. Direct grants may be available to farmers markets or roadside stand businesses — that’s in addition to direct low-interest government loans to new and family-owned farms.

The DOE works closely with the SBIR and STTR programs to fund energy research and development at small businesses. There are specific requirements you must meet and it’s a highly competitive field, but there is grant money available if you qualify.

The EPA also offers specific grants for businesses in the green or environmental sector. These highly sought-after grants often go to government agencies, nonprofits or research institutions working on projects related to air quality, climate change and pollution prevention, to name a few. Some of these opportunities filter down to local businesses.

The NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world. The application process is lengthy but worth it if you can secure some of the more than $32 billion the NIH spends on medical research each year. Like some of the other federal agencies on this list, NIH works closely with the SBIR and STTR programs to fund small businesses that engage in research that supports the nation’s health.

You can’t apply for a PRIME grant directly if you’re an entrepreneur, but you may be able to benefit from the economic development organizations that do receive these funds. Each year, the SBA offers grant awards to organizations that serve disadvantaged small entrepreneurs by offering services like education, consulting and capital. You can find a list of recent grant awardees online to see if any organizations near you have received funding that you can benefit from.

State small business grants

Just like there are government grants at the federal level, state governments also offer grants for small businesses. These grants are usually available through state agencies, where the competition may be less fierce due to the smaller applicant pool. They can also run across several states, so check the fine print before ruling one out because it seems to be out of your area.

The State Business Incentives Database can be a valuable database for business owners. It has a map feature that allows you to select your state and see the number of grants available and find information on tax credits and exemptions. However, it requires a login that is only available to members of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). A basic membership, which includes access to the database, costs $380 per year.

Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the EDA can be an excellent resource for small businesses looking for state grants. The EDA collaborates with communities and regions to drive economic development across the country. It does so by offering grants and working directly with communities so they can encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

All of the research and work that go into applying for any business grant can be daunting, but an SBDC might be able to help. There are nearly 1,000 development centers across the country where business owners can seek free consulting and training on various topics, including cybersecurity and digital advertising. SBDC consultants can help you find and apply for the right grants for your business.

If you’re already an established business owner and a minority, you might be able to get help connecting with capital, contracts and other new opportunities to expand your business through a regional MBDA center. These centers also provide entrepreneurship education for minorities who were formerly incarcerated to start and grow their own new businesses.

Expanding into international markets can be intimidating to many small business owners, but it can also be one of the best ways to grow many types of small businesses. The STEP grant program offers funding to state agencies for educational and financial assistance in helping entrepreneurs go global. You can’t apply for a STEP grant directly since those funds go to state agencies, but you can follow the money to your relevant state agency to find out what support options are available.

Finding small business funding options in your state

Don’t forget to search your state government’s website for small business grants and assistance opportunities. Many operate their own small business funding programs as well. Here are a few examples:

Corporate small business grants and awards

Businesses, associations, foundations, societies and other organizations may offer private grants for starting a business and growing it further. Like government grants, these private grants and awards come with their own application requirements and are sometimes reserved for certain types of companies or those in specific industries.

These grants can be a little tougher to find because there’s no centralized government database. However, if you meet the requirements and win the small business funding, they can be well worth the time spent researching.

Shipping giant FedEx annually awards approximately 10 U.S. businesses with lump sum awards up to $30,000. Applications typically open in February and close in March, with winners announced in May. You can sign up here to be notified when the contest returns. 

To be eligible, you must be a for-profit business and have the following:

  • A FedEx shipping account number
  • Fewer than 99 employees
  • A shipping need for your business

The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) awards $4,000 Growth Grants each quarter to its members. Business owners can use the money for marketing, advertising, hiring employees, expanding facilities and other business needs.

To apply, you must be a NASE member. A basic annual membership costs $120.

You can apply any time during the year, and the selection committee reviews applications in January, April, July and October.

The Second Service Foundation (formerly known as the StreetShares Foundation) is a nonprofit organization that helps former members of the U.S. military start or grow a small business.

Its Military Entrepreneur Challenge allows applicants to compete in front of a private Shark Tank-style panel as well as a public audience in order to receive small business funding amounts that are announced each year.

To apply, you must be:

  • At least a 51% owner of a business
  • A U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old
  • Low-income or otherwise unable to financially afford business startup costs
  • A veteran, reserve or transitioning active duty member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces or a spouse or child of a military member who died on active duty

Applications are currently closed, but check the organization’s grant program page to see when applications for the next round open.

The wholesale jewelry supply business Halstead is an annual award for emerging silver jewelry artists. The grand prize is $7,500 plus $1,000 in merchandise. In addition, up to four semi-finalists also receive $1,000 plus $250 toward Halstead merchandise.

You can download the application online, and applications typically must be postmarked by May 1.

If your business has a compelling story, you could win a $25,000 cash prize in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual Top Small Business Awards. Seventy other businesses receive a free one-year membership ($250 value) with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The telecommunications company Verizon offers a robust set of free small business resources, including free coaching, free small business grants and courses in digital small business topics such as social media marketing. You’ll need to register in order to see more details about these small business funding opportunities, but given that Verizon offers over $1,000,000 in small business grants every year, it could be well worth it.

If you’re a very small business — as in, less than $50,000 per year in sales — and can meet other requirements, you may qualify for one of Venmo’s Small Business Grants. In 2023, 20 small business owners received a $10,000 grant through this program, along with mentoring and spotlights on Venmo’s social media channels.

Lenovo operates the Evolve Small campaign aimed toward small business owners, offering support and funding. In 2023, applicants could apply for grants up to $15,000, plus unique perks like having a digitally-generated version of Queen Latifah appear in a custom business video advertisement for your company. Details about the 2024 grant contest haven’t yet been announced, so bookmark this page for future reference.

Competition for these small business grants is fierce, with over 19,000 applicants in 2022 alone competing for $250,000 in small business grant funding. This pot of funding is split up among 15 total awardees, with the grand prize being a $25,000 grant. Details on the 2024 Amazon Small Business Grant program haven’t yet been announced, but in 2023, applications were due in late May.

Small business startup grants

Startup businesses often have unique challenges getting funding because some business loans and grants require applicants to have been in business for six months to a year. Fortunately, several small business startup grants are targeted to early-stage companies. Some are open only to specific demographics, so review the eligibility requirements carefully.

WomensNet has several grants for women-owned businesses, including a monthly and annual Amber Grant. The monthly Amber Grant is $10,000, and each monthly winner qualifies for one of two $25,000 year-end awards. There are also monthly categorical prizes in addition to the two programs mentioned above, offering $10,000 small business grants in categories like skilled trades, health & fitness and more.

To be considered for a small business grant, you need to fill out an online application describing your business and what you would do with the money and pay a $15 application fee.

Hello Alice provides information on several different grant programs. You can sign up for a free account to apply for multiple grants. Available small business grants may change over time, but applications for a $1,000 American Dream award are being accepted until April 30, 2024.

The Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program is a one-year fellowship for women business owners. The program includes training, a peer community, a paid-for trip to the Tory Burch offices and $5,000 for business education.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be a woman entrepreneur who owns the largest or equal stake in a for-profit business that is majority owned and controlled by women
  • Be at least 21 years old, proficient in English and a legal resident of the U.S. or its territories

The program also prefers that the business has been in operations for less than five years and generates annual revenues of at least $75,000.

Applications for the 2024 fellowship have not yet been announced, but for the 2023 fellowship year, applications were accepted until Nov. 3, 2022.

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is for fintech startups that deliver innovative payment and commerce solutions for businesses and consumers.

In addition to local and regional prizes, the global finals event awards:

  • $50,000 to an overall winner
  • $10,000 to an audience favorite
  • $10,000 Visa Direct prize

In the U.S., applications typically close in June, with the finals event in September.

You don’t even have to have started your business yet in order to qualify for the Bizee Fresh Start Business Grant — in fact, that’s who this grant is primarily targeting. Although application dates haven’t yet been announced, one winner will receive a $2,500 grant towards startup costs, plus a free Bizee Gold business services membership (valued at $385).

This small business grant is aimed specifically toward entrepreneurs who’ve been operating a subscription-based business for two years or less, or who have incorporated a subscription model into their existing business plan within the last two years. Applications for the 2024 competition have not yet been announced, but the 2023 competition awarded one business owner a $10,000 small business grant, plus $40,000 worth of extra services.

Hardship grants for small businesses

Hardship small business funding can take many forms in addition to grants. You may qualify for subsidized small business emergency loans, for example. Here are some of the top options for grant assistance during times of hardship:

It pays to be proactive with the Readiness for Resiliency (R4R) program offered through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. This online training program allows you to learn more about readying your business for a disaster before it happens. Then, if a federally declared disaster happens in your area, you may qualify for a small business grant of up to $5,000 — as long as you were registered in advance of the disaster. 

Small restaurants operating in areas that have been impacted by state or federally declared disasters may be eligible for a $10,000 small business grant through DoorDash. Restaurant owners are able to apply up to one year after the disaster occurred, with applications being accepted on a quarterly rotating basis.

If you’ve been selling your merchandise on Etsy for at least a year, you may be eligible for a $2,000 small business grant if you’re impacted by a federally declared natural disaster. You don’t have to apply immediately, either — eligible applicants can apply for the grant up to a year after the initial natural disaster occurred.

Grants for nonprofits and educational organizations

Nonprofit organizations are structured to operate as businesses, minus the for-profit part. That can make paying for the organization’s activities tough without outside funding sources — that’s why there are so many grants available for nonprofit work. Here are a few:

The mega-bank Wells Fargo offers grants each year to nonprofits working to strengthen local communities in four key areas: financial health, housing affordability, small business growth and sustainability. Applications for the 2024 round open up in February, and you must first submit a grant interest form for your organization in order to be invited to submit a full application.

Your nonprofit organization may be eligible for a Walmart Foundation grant if it serves your local community by offering support in one of eight key areas: community and economic development, diversity and inclusion, education, environmental sustainability, health and human service, hunger relief and healthy eating, public safety and quality of life. Applications are accepted on a quarterly basis for awards ranging from $250 to $5,000, and you can apply for multiple awards in a year (up to 25, to be exact).

If your nonprofit organization is involved in arts and culture, you may be eligible for one of several grants offered through the NEA, a government-funded program. For example, the Challenge America grant offers $10,000 for art projects headed by organizations in underserved communities.

The Economic Development Administration maintains the Economic Development Directory, a list of resources for nonprofit grant-seekers within each U.S. state. In addition, it may also offer grants of its own for nonprofit organizations seeking to help develop local economies around the country.

How to get a small business grant

The process to get a small business grant is a lot like how to get a business loan. Remember that every grant will vary, so check the requirements before applying. The following is a general step-by-step guide you can follow to get started.

1. Review the program’s requirements

Each small business grant has different requirements that applicants need to meet to be considered for the grant award. Before applying for a grant, check that you meet the basic program requirements, including location, business size, industry and match requirements, if any. Some may even require that you have a membership to a specific organization before applying.

2. Gather your organizational documents

Once you know that your business falls into the right category (or categories) to apply for a grant, you’ll want to gather your documents. A business plan and a cover letter laying out why you’re applying for funds and how you plan to use them will most likely be required. You may also need the following:

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • DUNS number
  • Revenue history
  • Organizational chart, including the number of employees
  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns
  • List of contracts your business holds
  • Location(s) information
  • Contact information

3. Complete the grant application

Lastly, you need to fill out the actual grant application, where you’ll likely spend most of your time. These applications typically require small business owners to answer open-ended questions, and application complexity can vary depending on the organization from which you’re applying for a grant.

You might need to explain why you need the funds, your plan for the money if you win, the background of your business or how your business contributes to your community. These questions can be technical and specific depending on the grant you’re applying for, and they’re an opportunity to make sure your application stands out among the competition.

Business grants vs. business loans

The main difference between small business grants and small business loans is that loans need to be repaid, while grants generally will not. A small business loan needs to be repaid in the agreed-upon time with the agreed-upon interest rates and can require collateral. Loans also usually come from a bank or a specific lender, though some institutions, like the SBA, offer both loans and grants; both types of funding may also have rules about how funds can be used.

While loans and grants have stark differences, they can each benefit your business and might be useful during different times of your business’s life cycle. Startup business grants might help new businesses get on their feet, while business loans are typically for larger amounts and can be helpful for scaling your company. Startup businesses may find it difficult to get a loan without at least several months in operation and consistent revenue.

Alternatives to small business grants

Applying for free grants to start a business or expand your current operation can be time-consuming. If you don’t think your odds of getting a small business grant are worth the effort involved, it may be better to focus on other avenues for small business funding instead:

  • Small business loans: These may be hard to get for newer businesses, or for business owners with bad credit or fluctuating income — but it’s the best way to guarantee a large source of funds and build business credit. 
  • Small business credit cards: These offer a convenient way for you and your employees to make business purchases, as well as earn rewards for your spending. 
  • Crowdfunding for business: If you have a buzzworthy product, asking for funds upfront before launching a new product can often be a fruitful avenue to explore. 
  • Peer-to-peer lending: Although this is becoming less common, peer-to-peer lending offers a way for small business owners to receive funds directly from investors. 
  • Bootstrapping: Many entrepreneurs are forced by necessity to start their business from scratch, with whatever savings they have on hand — a recipe that can yield results for strong business ideas.  

Frequently asked questions

You can find small business grants through the federal or state government, nonprofit organizations, private companies and foundations. A few good places to start are the federal grant database and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

SBA grants for small businesses aren’t generally a thing, at least not directly. Instead, it works with states and community organizations that promote entrepreneurship and provide small business counseling and training programs. It also offers several types of loans

According to a 2020 survey by Clutch, the majority (57%) of business owners first launched their new venture with personal savings. After that, 19% of startups received funds from friends and family, 18% used credit cards and 12% were able to secure a bank loan to launch their business.

There isn’t any single set of guidelines for who is eligible for U.S. business grants. Rather, it depends on the requirements and policies of each individual grant-making organization, of which there are dozens (if not hundreds) currently operating in the country. Some minority groups may also benefit from grants, including: