Every small business owner and entrepreneur has heard the buzz ‘Get a grant!’, but is it really possible? Is it more likely to spot a unicorn outside of your office than it would be to find a grant? Where do you start? We’ve done some research and found the Top 5 fast and easy resources to help you organize your grant research.
First, know that while it is possible to spend hours buried in websites, books, and other documents picking apart each and every grant found to determine eligibility, it is not necessary, nor productive. Grants are not common, and you often have to meet specific criteria. Most grants are given in partnership with a contribution from the business owner; unless you are starting a non-profit. Here is a list of top resources to determine if you should pursue a the Benjamin’s through a grant, or not.
The Small Business Administration does not offer grants to businesses for start- up or expansion, and most businesses are not eligible for government grants. However, there are some special circumstances, such as specific types of research businesses, where there is government funding available. This tool provides a check list for the researcher to check off, and the tool looks for grants that match that criteria.
This is another source for finding federal grants, but while some may be available, businesses are more likely to come across available loans. New funding opportunities are added frequently though, so this is one to definitely keep bookmarked.
Though not free like the others, this one could be worth the fee for the daily bulletin and updates on available grants that members receive.
This information rich resource is put out by Michigan State University. It includes blogs and other information helpful for finding funding for economic development and grants for individuals.
This is an online database of over 5,000 grant opportunities from state, federal, and local governments as well as private foundations.
Once you have a list of grants that you qualify for, you will need to organize the pertinent information such as application requirements and deadlines for each one. There are a few different ways to do this. Organizing the information electronically is ideal, with calendar alerts for each deadline. Here are our favorite ‘quick and easy’ tools:
- Evernote - Give users the ability to save pictures and recorded sounds, as well as websites with pertinent information, is the major draw here. There is a free version, but the fee for extra storage is minimal and usually worth it.
- Excel – The old-fashioned version for those who like to do things old school. Sheets can be made with more detail for each project. Link each sheet to a cover page similar to the one below for a quick overview of all projects at once.
- Organiser - Used for project management, this free software actually works well for organizing research also. Highlights include the ability to easily group information into folders and subfolders, support for contacts, dates, and locations (including websites), and the use of Grant charts to provide a visible analysis of progress.
While there are grants available for small businesses, qualification is typically subject to very specific criteria. Minorities, women, and non-profit organizations generally have more available to them, and those that remain often require a financial contribution from the owner. When grants do not suffice, the next step is a small business loan, for which there are many more options. We will discuss small business loans, and organizing your research for one, in a future post.
Co-authored with Faith Stewart.