With access to capital being so tight right now, grants are a hot topic among cash-strapped entrepreneurs looking to start or expand a business. Each year, the United States government supports businesses by providing billions of dollars in grants administered by 26 different federal agencies. More than 1,000 business grant opportunities are offered through the federal government each year and thousands more are offered through state and local agencies.
Out of the $600 billion in grants the federal government gives out every year about 5% ($30 billion) are awarded to businesses. The rest go to states, governments, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, universities, schools and school districts. When the federal government does provide grants directly to businesses, most are awarded to support research and development activities—primarily related to technology, energy, healthcare, public safety and criminal justice, among others.
Although 5% may not seem like a lot, it still amounts to $30 billion in grants that the federal government does award to businesses each year. Though you won’t find any federal grants specifically for starting a business or paying off debts, the range of business activities that federal grants support is broad enough on its own. As a grant writer myself, recent examples of funded business grants I have written included a $1 million grant to develop a renewable energy technology and a $9 million grant to commercialize a new concept in computing (U.S. Department of Energy). Other examples of awarded business grants include $91 million to develop solar PV cells (U.S. Department of Energy), $1.1 million to develop a communications infrastructure (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and $800,000 to support job skills training for rural populations (U.S. Department of Labor).
Before you begin looking for a grant for your business, keep the following facts in mind: