Small Business Grants: How To Get Free Money (2024)

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Small business grants provide free money to small businesses, startups and organizations alike. Businesses can use these funds to grow their business, recover from the pandemic or do work that benefits the public, among other purposes. However, finding available grants and applying can be time-consuming. We simplify the process here.

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What Is a Small Business Grant?

A small business grant is a sum of money awarded to a small business owner or organization. Several entities, including the federal government, state and local governments and private corporations provide funds for small businesses in specific industries that meet certain eligibility requirements.

Unlike a business credit card or loan, small business grants don’t require repayment. Although grants are considered free money, an organization or individual typically has to spend a lot of time and effort researching available grants and writing grant proposals.

In addition, some small business grants come with specific guidelines on how you can use the funds. Failing to adhere to the rules may result in repaying some or all of the money you receive.

Small Business Grant vs. Business Loan

Although a small business grant and loan are both ways to get funds for your business, they operate differently. A small business loan, unlike a small business grant, has to be repaid, plus interest and any fees a lender charges.

The business loan application process also differs. When you apply for a small business loan, a lender normally reviews your personal and business credit scores to determine whether you qualify. A grantor, on the other hand, doesn’t check your credit since it doesn’t expect repayment.

In addition, when you apply for a business loan, you’ll likely receive funds faster than applying for a grant, provided you qualify. For example, some lenders can approve qualified applicants on the same business day and disburse funds within a few days. However, if you apply for a federal grant, it can take up to six months for a grantor to make a decision.

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Types of Small Business Grants

Several types of small business grants exist, including Covid-19, federal, state and regional and specialty grants.

Covid-19 Small Business Grants

Covid-19 grants are available to businesses that have suffered financial loss as a result of the pandemic.

  • Fiserv + Clover Back2Business Grant Program: This program provides grants to Black and minority-owned small businesses in certain cities that have been affected by Covid-19. To qualify, you must be 18 years or older, own a business that was formed before Jan. 1. 2020 with annual revenue of less than $1 million. Applications are currently closed but additional grants are anticipated in the new year.
  • Ohio’s Entertainment Venue Grant: Ohio’s Department of Development administers grants up to $30,000 to museums, movie theaters, sports arenas and other entertainment venues impacted by Covid-19.
  • Restaurant Revitalization Fund: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides grants to bars, restaurants and other eligible businesses impacted by Covid-19. Applications are now closed.

Federal Small Business Grants

The federal government awards billions of dollars in funds each year to small businesses that engage in work that benefit the public, such as infrastructure and scientific research projects. You can find federal small business grants by visiting

  • SBIR and STTR Programs: These programs offer federal funds to small businesses that engage in scientific and technological research and development that has the potential to be commercialized. To qualify, a business must operate for a profit and have no more than 500 employees.
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grants: The DOE announced on Oct. 18, 2021 it set aside $105 million for small businesses that invest in clean energy research and development. Funding will be administered by DOE’s Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) and Small Business Innovation Research programs (SBIR). You can find more details on the DOE’s funding opportunities page.
  • National Institute of Health (NIH) Grants: The NIH offers numerous grants to small businesses that engage in biomedical and behavioral research. There are thousands of grants available on its grants and funding page.

When searching for federal small business grants, keep in mind that the federal government doesn’t offer free money to individuals to start a business. If a website promises to give you free money from the government, it’s likely a scam.

State and Regional Small Business Grants

State governments also offer funds to small business owners. You can search for these grants online or by contacting your state’s economic development office.

Corporate Small Business Grants

Corporations, like Visa, offer small business grants to nonprofit organizations, startups and other organizations.

  • Visa Everywhere Initiative: This is a global competition designed for startups that focus on solving commerce and payment issues. Winners receive free money, as well as global exposure for their business. You can sign up to be notified when 2022 applications become available.
  • Walmart Local Community Grants: Walmart gives grants that range from $250 to $5,000 to nonprofit organizations that benefit the community. The application deadline is December 31, 2021.
  • Nike Community Impact Fund: Nike, in partnership with the Charities Aid Foundation of America, awards funds to nonprofits in select metro areas that have a positive impact on communities through sports and other community-focused initiatives.

Specialty Small Business Grants

Some organizations set aside funds for certain groups of business owners who face unique challenges, including minorities, veterans and women.

  • Black Founder Startup Grant: SoGal Foundation, along with its partners, offer several cash grants that range from $5,000 to $10,000 to Black women and nonbinary entrepreneurs. To qualify, you must have a legally registered business, identify as a Black woman or Black nonbinary person and plan to seek investor funding to scale.
  • The Veteran Small Business Award: The Street Shares Foundation hosts a pitch contest each year for veteran-owned businesses that have a social impact on the military community. If you qualify, you must create a pitch video and submit an online application. Applications are closed for 2021.
  • The Amber Grant Foundation: The Amber Grant foundation awards $14,000 each month and $25,000 in December to women-owned businesses. While applying for this small business grant is easy—you only have to fill out a short form—the application fee is $15.

How to Qualify for a Small Business Grant

Eligibility requirements vary based on the type of grant you’re applying for. A grantor may require that your business operates in a specific industry, fits its definition of a small business and meets a minimum annual revenue threshold.

Before you apply for a small business grant, review the requirements carefully to ensure you have the best chances of qualifying.

How to Apply for a Small Business Grant

The grant application process varies from grant to grant. For instance, if you apply for a small business grant with the Amber Grant foundation, you can complete your application within a few minutes by submitting a short form. However, when you apply for a federal grant, you’ll be required to submit a formal grant proposal and it could take weeks to finish your application.

Here are some documents and information you may need when applying:

  • Your name
  • Personal story
  • Business plan
  • Business pitch
  • Annual revenue
  • Bank statements
  • Years in business
  • Purpose of funds
  • Number of employees
  • Website name

If you need help completing your grant application, contact your local SBDC.

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Small Business Grants: How To Get Free Money (2024)


Can you borrow money from the government to start a business? ›

The U.S. Small Business Administration helps small businesses get funding by setting guidelines for loans and reducing lender risk. These SBA-backed loans make it easier for small businesses to get the funding they need.

Does the government give money to startups? ›

California state grants for California startups. California provides a variety of startup funding in the form of grants and loans to California-based businesses.

What is the most common grant? ›

The most popular type of grant is for Program support. Program grants provide funding for specific projects or programs. Generally, these are restricted grants, where recipients must only use funds for the exact purpose outlined in the grant proposal.

Is the Amber grant a real thing? ›

The Amber Grant was created in 1998 to empower women business owners. Today, we award over $30,000 each month to different grant winners — including THREE $10,000 Amber Grant recipients.

What is the easiest business loan to get? ›

Compare the best easy business loans of 2024
LenderBest forBankrate score
FundibleEasy business loans for bad credit4.7
Accion Opportunity FundEasy low-interest business loans4.2
Taycor FinancialEasy equipment loans for startups4.2
KivaEasy business loans with no annual revenue requirement4.3
3 more rows
Mar 31, 2024

What is the easiest SBA loan to get approved for? ›

SBA Express loans, part of the SBA's 7(a) loan program, offer the easiest application process and the fastest approval times among all SBA loans. These loans, with payoff periods as long as 25 years, are designed for purposes such as refinancing debt, buying equipment, or improving real estate.

How do I get my startup funded? ›

  1. Determine how much funding you'll need.
  2. Fund your business yourself with self-funding.
  3. Get venture capital from investors.
  4. Use crowdfunding to fund your business.
  5. Get a small business loan.
  6. Use Lender Match to find lenders who offer SBA-guaranteed loans.
  7. SBA investment programs.
May 19, 2023

What is a startup grant? ›

Startup business grants provide free funding to help small businesses grow without debt. Competition for small-business grants is fierce, however, and many awards require a minimum time in business — often at least six months.

Who can help you start a business? ›

Find your local SBA district office

District offices provide small business counseling, training, and the tools you need to start or grow your business.

Does the government give out $9000 dollar grants? ›

The government does not offer free money or grants to people for personal needs.

What is a P20 grant? ›

Exploratory Grants (P20) Often used to support planning activities associated with large multi-project program project grants.

What is a U24 grant? ›

Resource-Related Research Projects--Cooperative Agreements (U24) support research projects contributing to improvement of the capability of resources to serve biomedical research.

What type of grant does not have to be paid back? ›

The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) administers the Cal Grant program, a California-specific financial aid award that helps pay for college tuition and fees. Cal Grants do not need to be paid back.

How many people apply to the Amber grant? ›

To join the pool of 400 to 700 monthly applicants, you must apply before the end of the month. After careful review, the winner is selected by the WomensNet advisory board and announced 7-10 days into the new month. If there is a larger-than-average applicant pool, WomensNet will award grant money to multiple winners.

What is the $10 000 grant for small business in Wisconsin? ›

Main Street Bounceback Grants spur economic well-being in communities throughout Wisconsin by providing $10,000 to help new or existing businesses move into and revitalize vacant commercial properties.

How much can you borrow to start a business? ›

Small business loan amounts by loan type
LenderAverage small business loan amount
SBA 7(a) loan$479,685
Online loans$5,000 to $250,000
Short-term loans$20,000
Medium-term loans$110,000
7 more rows
Nov 20, 2023

How do you get the money to start a business? ›

  1. Determine how much funding you'll need.
  2. Fund your business yourself with self-funding.
  3. Get venture capital from investors.
  4. Use crowdfunding to fund your business.
  5. Get a small business loan.
  6. Use Lender Match to find lenders who offer SBA-guaranteed loans.
  7. SBA investment programs.
May 19, 2023

How to borrow money from government? ›

In order to receive government assistance, you must complete an application and meet specific eligibility requirements. Many assistance programs do not provide cash payment. is a great place to begin your search for government loan programs.

Who lends money to start a business? ›

Banks, credit unions and community development organizations issue SBA loans. And while the SBA doesn't set a minimum credit score, lenders offering SBA loans may set their own minimums.


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