The United States government supports entrepreneurs and businesses by providing billions of dollars in funding through grants and cooperative agreements administered by 26 different federal agencies. Each year, these agencies publish more than 1,000 different grant opportunities that are open to small businesses.
Of the more than $500 billion the federal government awards in grants each year, only about five percent ($25 billion) is awarded to for-profit businesses. Thousands more business grant opportunities are offered through state and local funding agencies.But make no mistake about it–while yes, there are billions of dollars in small business grants available every year, it’s not the ‘government money free-for-all’ that some people would have you believe.
Governmental agencies don’t just give away ‘free’ money with no strings attached, and they don’t have billions of dollars in grants set aside just for women, minorities and people who want to start a business or pay off debts. Most federal government grants given to small businesses are awarded specifically to support research and development activities.
Even if your project is not related to research, there are lots of ways for your business to gain access to government grant funds, and I can show you how.
I have secured well over $200 million in funding for my clients over the last ten years. In addition, thanks to my subject matter expertise and in-depth knowledge of the factors the drive funding decisions, I am regularly called upon to help private- and public-sector funders to decide which business, programs and organizations to fund. In this capacity, I have either led or been part of the decision-making teams that have awarded more than $1 billion in funding over the last five years.
Grant Writing Resources
Find out if you’re ready to hire a professional grant writer, or consider one of my other options: my free Business Grants eBook, my full Business Grants book, or one of my grant writing courses.
Grant Writing Resources
The overwhelming majority of grants awarded directly to businesses are for carrying out specific research projects aligned to strategic national or state priorities. But government grants support other activities as well. Other than not offering grants to start-up a new business, pay for general operating expenses or pay down debt, local, state and Federal grants support an incredible variety of projects that are initiated by or directly benefit businesses of all sizes. Examples of types of projects eligible for grant funding are shown below:
Research and development (R&D)
this is where the federal government directs most grant funds available to businesses. Some states also provide grants to businesses to support research, development and commercialization activities. These funding programs are ideal for small businesses interesting in researching and developing technologies, approaches or strategies. Funding instruments include direct grants, cooperative agreements and contracts. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are the largest providers of R&D grants in the U.S. (link to SBIR/STTR discussion – http://rflavin.com/blog/is-your-company-ready-to-after-a-small-business-innovation-research-sbir-grant/)
these grant funds support projects that provide services directly to the target population (e.g., healthcare services, education or training, etc.). These funds are a good choice for businesses that provide services to organizations, agencies, governments and specific populations. These types of business grants are available through the federal government and in some states. Funding instruments include direct grants, cooperative agreements and contracts.
some funding agencies are interested in supporting pilot projects that demonstrate new or innovative approaches to solving problems. Businesses that want to further develop novel ideas that are of strategic national interest often find these funding programs to be a match for the activities for which they are seeking grant funds. Grants of this type are available through various federal funding agencies and in some states. Funding instruments include direct grants, cooperative agreements and contracts.
Technology development or commercialization projects
the federal government invests a significant amount of money supporting the development or commercialization of innovative technologies that support strategic national priorities. These technologies can be related to a broad range of topics including healthcare delivery, education, distance learning, electronic medical records (EMR), energy conservation, development of renewable energy sources, law enforcement or public safety, homeland security, and others. These funding programs are ideally suited to small businesses that have developed new technologies. Funding instruments include direct grants, cooperative agreements and contracts. Some states also offer these types of grants.
Some funding programs support activities that build the capacity of governmental
agencies, schools or universities, healthcare organizations, law enforcement or public safety agencies or community-based organizations. Funding programs that support capacity-building activities are good choices for service providers and consultants. Funding instruments are usually in the form of grants or contracts
Economic development or job creation
there are several different types of economic development grants and funding
instruments available through the federal government, most state governments and
even through some local governments, including towns, cities and counties. Funding instruments include direct grants, tax incentives or rebates and programs such as New Market Tax Credits. These funding opportunities support economic development, economic expansion or the creation/retention of jobs in targeted regions.
Target new customers through partnerships
Thousands of businesses across the United States gain access to Federal grant funds each year by establishing partnerships with eligible public sector entities including state and local governments, governmental agencies (e.g., law enforcement, social services, healthcare, etc.), schools and universities. This strategy is successfully employed by businesses of nearly every type and size—from the smallest one-person operations up to some of the largest and most recognized businesses in the world. The strategy also works for nearly every type of business service or product, but is especially useful for service providers (e.g., specialized training), manufacturers (e.g., equipment, products, etc.) and technology-focused firms.