Understanding Federal Grants Through the Small Business Administration

federal grants


One of the most stressful parts of founding or managing a new business is funding it. Many would-be owners push their dreams of owning a business to the side because they don’t believe they can finance it. However, there are plenty of federal grants that entrepreneurs underutilize in the early stages of their business.

Whether you’ve already started your business or are planning to launch one, you can benefit from federal grants. The process may seem overwhelming, but taking time to understand where to find grants and how to navigate the application process can provide the foundation you need to get your business started.

Introducing the SBA

The Small Business Association (SBA) website is one of the best places to go to start your grant search. The SBA’s sole purpose is helping small businesses find the resources they need to not only open their doors but to keep them open.

The SBA offers various government grants and also helps businesses find additional private grants within their neighborhood and industry. For companies first getting started, the organization also has a 10-step guide that walks you through the essential phases of starting a business.

If you’re already open for business, you can turn to the SBA’s online learning center full of articles on various business topics. These articles discuss legal compliance, how to find additional funding sources, and more. Entrepreneurs and business owners can also reach out to local SBA representatives for help.

Federal Grants Administered by the SBA

If you’re just starting your search for federal small business grants, the SBA or a financial advisor can often help you navigate the process. To organize your search, be sure you understand the categories of federal grants administered by the SBA:

  • Research and Development– If you’re involved in scientific research or development, check to see if you’re eligible for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These two programs help small businesses to realize their tech and incentivize commercialization.
  • Exporting– If your business involves exporting, check if your local state or territory government participates in SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP).
  • Additional Programs– Your business may also qualify for an SBA-associated program like the opportunities on this list.

Who Qualifies for SBA Grants?

SBA grant qualifications include the size of your business, your industry, and a slew of other factors. Most grants are open to small businesses that have just opened or are seeking funding to open. There are also grants for nonprofits working with veterans, tribal governments, technical training, and more.

Qualifications for grants SBA grants vary, but you can read the general terms and conditions online. Most grants provide funding for a specified period and require audits, administrative requirements, and additional documentation.

How to Apply

The SBA posts grant applications on grants.gov. You can search for current and upcoming SBA grants and deadlines and start your application either as a team or individual. Team applications will allow multiple people to work on an application, while individual applications only allow one author.

To increase your chances of being chosen, make sure you follow the application guidelines for each grant. Even if you’re applying for multiple SBA grants, you will most likely have to adapt your application for each one to meet the specific requirements.

If you’re applying for COVID-19 grants and aid, check out the SBA’s COVID-19 guidelines and loan resources. These resources can help new small businesses stay open during the pandemic. For both COVID-19 and regular federal grants, make sure you include all the required documentation to ensure your application is considered.

Federal grants require various documents to ensure the legitimacy of your small business or nonprofit. You can find the SBA’s list of common additional forms on their website. Required forms may include a federal assistance form (SF-424) and a federal finance report form (SF-425). If your grant requires a form not listed on SBA’s website, look for it on grants.gov.

Searching and Apply for Grants

Federal grants are widely available for nonprofits but still very competitive. To improve your chances of securing the funds, avoid using the same grant outline to apply for multiple grants. Creating new outlines every time will help you to cater your application to the specific organization you’re appealing to. If you need help navigating your grant search or applying for grants, ask the grant poster, such as SBA, to help you with the process.

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