Business Grants for Women
According to GrantsforWomen.org, research compiled by the Center for Women's Business Research and Entrepreneur magazine reveals that women are the most progressive species on the planet. Women are more likely than men to earn a college degree, launch a nonprofit organization and start a successful business.
Despite their business and career success, women are still disadvantaged. They are sometimes overlooked, and suffer from gender discrimination and even harassment. Grants, especially business grants for women, are one way to even the playing field. A grant is money given to a person or organization for a specific purpose. As long as the money goes to the intended purpose, it does not have to be paid back.
Types of Grants
There are four main sources of grants:
The government does not provide grants for starting or expanding a business, paying off debt or to cover business expenses. Government grants, however, are available for education and for businesses engaged in certain “betterment” endeavors.
Individuals with a personal interest in promoting certain kinds of activities fund private grants. Sometimes a private organization is set up as a foundation with a board of directors that handles grants and awards.
Well-known U.S. humanitarians who provide private grants include Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet and many others.
Corporate grants are developed and administered by companies that wish to fund projects that either enhance their reputations or have a reasonable chance of producing benefits to the funding company.
Companies that provide such grants through their foundations include Microsoft, Kellogg’s, General Electric, Verizon and others.
Nonprofit organizations or universities usually make professional grants within a given profession to advance the status of individual members of the profession and the status of the profession itself.
Organizations that offer professional grants include the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW), as well as various universities.
Where to Apply for a Grant
First, it’s important to note that applying for a grant does not cost anything, although some of the sites mentioned below charge a fee to help you locate grant makers or to help you with the process.
- Grants for Women has a search tool with an extensive listing of grant makers, many of whom offer grants to start or expand a small business.
- America’s Got Grants has an extensive, annotated section devoted to business grant opportunities for women. The site offers assistance in finding grant makers and helping you with the application process for a nominal membership fee of $29.95.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a free loans and grants search tool. While the SBA does not provide general grants to start or grow a business, grants are available for very specific groups, organizations or activities - such as businesses involved in scientific research and development.
- The Foundation Center has a subscription-service tool for searching for grant makers. The five levels of the service range from $20 per month to $180 per month.
- Although CollegeScholarships.org doesn’t provide information about business grants, it does have information and links for women seeking grant help with their education expenses.
- Start.ac is a crowd funding site in which many people put small amounts of money into projects they believe in. These projects can be a business start-up. A section of the start.ac website is dedicated to government business grants for women.
How to Apply for a Grant
Once you have identified the grant(s) in which you are interested, the next step is to apply.
America’s Got Grants suggests the following simple five-step process:
- Read each request for proposal.
- Create a checklist that encompasses every requirement for each proposal or letter of intent. Make sure to include items such as the deadline, requested proposal length, font type specified, spacing requirements, content that must be included (executive summary, project purpose, etc.) and any required attachments for each grant proposal.
- Ensure that each application is organized and complete.
- Review and edit the content of every section of the proposal or letter of intent.
- Adhere to the published deadline. It is highly advisable to send your proposal or letter of intent well ahead of the published deadline.
David Ingram of Demand Media offers these additional tips:
- Research the granting organization thoroughly. Visit its website and read any news articles or press releases related to the organization.
- Contact the granting organization and ask for guidance in preparing your grant proposal.
- Create a thorough description of your products, services and business model, and include it in your grant proposal. Add a budget, projected financial statements, and a detailed summary of how you plan to spend the grant money. End the proposal with professional biographies of yourself and your upper-management team.
- Create an executive summary after completing all other sections and place it at the beginning of the grant proposal.
The Bottom Line
Applying for a grant can be a daunting - thought not impossible - task. If the process becomes overwhelming, consider contacting an experienced professional grant writer for assistance.