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Small business grants: What you need to know.

Small business grant programs deliver technical assistance and spur economic development. Answer your FAQs, and secure a grant that can provide support for businesses, nonprofits, and research institutions.

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What is a small business grant?

Grants are financial assistance that government agencies award to fund new ideas, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and stimulate the economy. Grant opportunities are available for many reasons, including helping small business owners recover from crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and helping startups get new technology off the ground.

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How can I secure a small business grant?

Every grant has different requirements, but all grant processes have three basic phases:

1. Pre-award phase

Prior to awarding any grants, grant-giving agencies determine their budgets, what types of organizations they want to fund, and how potential recipients should apply. Agencies publish Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) based on the legislative scope and budget potential grants. FOAs include the relevant information for applicants about eligibility and how to apply.

The details of how to apply vary, but generally a panel of at least three people independently reviews all grant applications. Regardless of the agency or type of grant, applications need to have meticulous documentation of their business plan, activities, and finances to get through screening.

2. Award phase

After reviewing applications, grant-awarding agencies send out Notice of Awards (NOA) to the organizations or individuals they’ve selected. An NOA is a legally binding document. By signing and accepting an NOA, the accepting organizations or individuals also agree to carry out the terms of the grant.

3. Post-award phase

After receiving a grant, businesses must document and report how they use the money. Grant recipients are sometimes audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and other federal agencies, which keep track of expenditures, policies, tax documents, and activities by grant recipients. Grants are intended to encourage certain kinds of activity, and accepting a grant is the beginning of a partnership.

After grant recipients accept and use the money, they have to submit final reports on their experience for review by the awarding agency.

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FAQs about small business grants.

Do I need to pay back a small business grant?
State and federal small business grants aren’t loans and don’t need to be paid back. However, grants aren’t free money. Accepting a grant doesn’t mean you get a check with no strings attached. Grant money comes with certain requirements, often entering into an ongoing relationship with the agency that awarded you the grant, like the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIRP).
Who is eligible for a small business grant?
All grants have different purposes, goals, and eligibility requirements. At any given time the federal government has hundreds of active, approved grant programs that businesses can apply for, so it’s likely that there’s something you or your business is eligible for. However, simply being eligible for a grant doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get the money. Grant-giving institutions only have so much funding and can’t give grants to everyone who applies.
How do I find a small business grant?

There are almost as many types of small business grants as there are small businesses — grants for eligible businesses are available from agencies like the Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture (USDA). In particular, the US Small Business Administration works to support entrepreneurs and small organizations by working with banks, credit unions, and other lenders.

Grant opportunities include, but are not limited to, businesses that are:

  • Owned by groups such as women, minorities, or veterans
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Research institutions
  • In rural areas and low-income communities
  • Working with or developing new technology
  • Specifically affected by the Coronavirus pandemic

New grants are available all the time. But many, like Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) or PPP Loans, are often time sensitive. Check for news about federal small business grants at grants.gov and sba.gov. There are also reasons to look at local governments’ grant programs, as small business development centers in your community might offer grants as well.

Finalize grants, paperwork, and small business loans faster with Acrobat Sign.

Time is of the essence when you’re applying for a small business grant. The grant application process can include several deadlines and a large amount of documentation. Meet deadlines fast and get agencies the information they need with Acrobat Sign.

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