There is a lot of misinformation being spread around about the availability of grants for businesses–especially since the economic downturn began several years ago. Perception is not reality though and the truth is that there is not an abundance of “free government money” available to small businesses just for the asking.
You’ve probably heard or seen the advertisements and websites that that claim that they can show you how to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to start or expand a business that the U.S. government “gives” away each year. Despite what these people would have you believe, the government isn’t just “giving away” money to small businesses. There are however, lots of opportunities for small businesses to connect with Federal dollars. First though, you need to understand a few things. Here are the facts about business grants:
- Nearly all federal grants go to states, local government agencies, schools or universities and qualified nonprofit organizations. Most Federal grants given to businesses are for specific purposes relating to the development of advanced technologies and renewable energy development.
- Every federal grant program is for a specific purpose, has required activities and requires that the recipient account for every dollar. If the specified activities aren’t carried out or the money isn’t accounted for properly, there are very serious consequences.
- All of the “secret” information that people will try to sell you is available for free at your local library or on the Internet.
What the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says:
- Don’t ever pay any money for a “free” government grant. It’s not free if you have to pay for it. Government agencies would never ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded – or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov
- Never give your bank account information to someone you do not know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
- Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” or something similar, it doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch – or not.
7. File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online on their website (www.ftc.gov) or call 1-877-382-4357.
If you are interested in learning about legitimate sources for business grant information, a good place to start is with your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office. The SBA does not offer business grants but they can help you connect with the proper resources for uncovering local, state and Federal business grant opportunities and they also may be able to guide you in the proper direction if you’re interested in pursuing cooperative agreements or contracting opportunities with the Federal government.
Alternatively, you can also work with a professional business grants consultant. These are persons who are skilled in navigating the Federal maze and can help your business connect with local, state and Federal dollars. Before hiring a business grant writer, check them out and make sure you’re dealing with a professional who knows what he or she is doing and has a track record of success.