Government Grants for Small Business

Financing the start-up or expansion of a small business can be the most challenging aspect of owning and running a business. Two of the more popular choices when looking for start-up or expansion funds are asking family for help and securing personal loans from a conventional banking institution. Unfortunately, in today’s difficult economic climate both of these options are usually not available to the average entrepreneur. The resources that most people overlook are grants and other forms of financial aid from the government. Although the federal government sets aside large amounts of money for just this purpose, they can be difficult to find since the funds are actually filtered through state and local agencies. It is these local agencies and nonprofit corporations that are responsible for posting and administering government grants for small business purposes.

Before pursuing this avenue, it is important to understand just what a government grant is and what it can and can not be used for. Federal grants are a form of financial assistance to help small businesses provide direct programs or research and development projects that serve the general public or a certain segment of a community. A federal grant may not be used for any purpose that would directly benefit the government in anyway. A government grant for small business is designed to assign services, property, money, etc. in order for the grantee to carry out a specific project that supports or benefits the public in some way. Hence, government grants are created in order to have a positive impact or benefit to a particular segment of a community and never for the benefit of the government.

Since there are certain types of small businesses that are more likely to have grant opportunities open to them than others, it is a good idea to match your skills and experience with those that have the greatest chance for success. There are several federal government agencies that routinely offer postings in a wide range of specialties such as:

  • Science, Technology and Environment

o   Scientific Research Grants – National Science Foundation

o   Environmental Grants and Fellowships – Environmental Protection Agency

o   Natural Resources – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

o   Energy Sciences Grants – U.S. Department of Energy

o   Telecommunications – National Telecommunications and Information Administration

o   Technology Grants – National Institute of Standards and Technology

  • Arts, Humanities and Education

o   Museums – Institute of Museum and Library Services

o   Education – U.S. Department of  Education

o   Visual and Performing Arts – National Endowment for the Arts

o   Humanities – National Endowment for the Humanities

o   Libraries and Archives – National Archives and Records Administration

  • Health and Medicine

o   NIH Grants – National Institutes of Health

o   Health Care Services – U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration

o   Cancer Research – National Cancer Institute

  • Community and Social Services

o   Law Enforcement – U.S. Department of Justice

o   Housing – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

o   Employment and Labor Grants – U.S. Department of Labor

Whatever area your business will be in, it is imperative that before you begin applying for any type of grant or other financing option that you have a completed business plan. Most grant and low interest loans for small businesses will require a business plan as part of their application package. The key factors in putting together a professional business plan and applying for government grants for small business lies in doing your research and of course knowing where to find grants that match your skills and experience.

There is plenty of free professional information and advice on all aspects of starting or expanding small business. It is extremely important to know where to find the best help as there are also many grant scams that you will want to avoid. Remember that no legitimate granting agency will charge a fee for filling out a grant application and they will always offer helpful information on how to fill out the application form. Keep in mind also that no government department or other granting body will ever contact you personally with offers of free government grant money nor can anyone guarantee that your request for grant funding will be approved.

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