Many of SCORE’s clients ask, “I’ve heard about grants and their possible help in financing my business. So what are grants all about?”
Let’s start with defining what a grant is. A grant is typically money that is given by one entity to another entity that is not required to be paid back. The grantor is often a government department, corporation, or foundation or trust and the grantee is often (but not always) a nonprofit entity, educational institution, business or an individual. After researching to find an appropriate grant for your business to pursue, the next step in receiving a grant is to submit a proposal or an application. Here is where some care must be taken in “writing” the grant application. More on this later.
Which grant should I pursue and where do I look for them? My first caution in looking for grants is to be careful in your on-line searches via “Google or Bing”. There are many results from your searches that are from companies requiring fees to help you locate grants. Typically in your search lists they are labeled with the “Ad” marking on the list. I would avoid these as many are scams. Do your own research.
Two categories of grants that I want to talk about are 1) Federal or government grants and 2) private or foundation grants.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS (grants.gov).
There are several types of grants not relevant for a small business to spend time researching. Block Grants are awarded to governments, state and local communities, and Land Grants are awards of land for specific public use such as educational institutions. These will appear initially when you search for grants at grants.gov.
The third type of Federal Government grant that a small business may be interested in is Research Grant. In the annual budget of the U.S. Federal Government a very large amount of money is allocated for research. For example, with our current COVID environment research money has been awarded to pharmaceutical companies for vaccine development. For small businesses a percentage of the total research budget for all departments (typically 2-5% of the research budget) must be awarded to small businesses. This can total in the millions of dollars. The two programs in this area are:
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs (SBIR.gov) encourage small businesses to engage in research and development with the potential for commercialization. From the SBIR.gov website: “Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR and STTR enable small businesses to explore their technological potential and provide the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated, and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.” Phase I awards are in the $25,000 range, used for product and service development with Phase 2 awards in the past in the range of $250,000 for commercialization.
If you have an idea for a product or service look into these grants. All departments of the Federal Government participate in the SBIR program.
PRIVATE OR FOUNDATION GRANTS
Many corporations have setup foundations to promote their interests and support community causes. In addition, many communities have foundations focusing on their local geographic area. These foundations bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities. With most foundation grants going to nonprofit businesses it is necessary for a for profit business to seek out grant projects where they can be a collaborative contributor to the nonprofit’s success. This collaboration requires research into many foundations. Subscribe to their email lists to receive newsletters, blog links, etc. to stay current.
A few examples in our area include:
Charlevoix County Community Foundation (c3f.org), a charitable organization that's dedicated to improving and enriching life for all who live in our area. Their grants encourage environmental stewardship, artistic talent, and economic growth, health and wellness, youth initiatives, recreation, education, and more.
Petoskey - Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation (phsacf.org) serves as a connector, partner, collaborator and resource to fuel the power of community for the greater good. Since 1992, they have been helping generous donors and innovative nonprofits come together to create positive change in Emmet County. On their website is a page of other local foundations: Local Funders Petoskey - Harbor Springs Foundation (phsacf.org)
WRITING THE GRANT
Most grants fund a specific project and require some level of compliance and reporting. The grant writing process involves an applicant submitting a proposal (or submission) to a potential funder, either on the applicant's own initiative or in response to a Request for Proposal. If you have not written grant request before I would suggest taking a class at a community college or watching several webinars to get an understanding of the process. Resources to assist in the grant writing process are also available on line.
Small business grants are an entrepreneur’s dream! They offer money that does not have to be repaid. But finding, applying for and winning small business grants can be daunting.
In a January webinar, presented by Education Director of Nav (www.nav.com) Gerri Detweiler, you’ll learn:
- The main sources of grants, including both private and federal grants
- Tools for researching small business grants
- Application tips to increase your chances of being successful
- Is there really free money to start a business?
- The current state of COVID-19 small business grants
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. We have been doing this for more than 50 years. SCORE is associated with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and has 11,000 volunteers nationwide. SCORE.org has some wonderful resources available to everyone.
Tip of the Mitt SCORE is partnered with the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce and mentors there on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. We mentor in pairs and if the scheduled times don’t work for you, we will schedule a meeting outside of those hours at various locations such as the library in Petoskey, the library in Boyne City and various coffee shops. To make an appointment with SCORE in Petoskey, just call (231) 347-4150. We have 20 mentors between Petoskey and our branch in Gaylord. At the Gaylord branch we partner with the Otsego County Economic Alliance and meet with clients 5-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 a.m.-noon on Thursdays. Call (989) 731-0287 to make an appointment in Gaylord.