Free Grants and Programs for Small Business

There are many grant programs available to small businesses, depending on a variety of qualifying factors. — Getty Images/ljubaphoto

Whether you’re starting a new small business or looking to grow the one you already own, finding funding can be a challenge for businesses of all sizes. If you’re looking for a small business loan or grant, CO— is here to help.

Each week, we update this list of loans, small business grants, or other opportunities to connect with programs and organizations that can help you with your business. Come back often to see the latest. And, if your organization has a program or grant you’d like to see listed here, email us at [email protected]

If you’re not sure of the difference between a loan and grant, check out our explainer here. You can also learn more about all funding options in our small business financing guide here.

Government grants

Begin your search for a grant from the federal government at Grants.gov. This government site offers the most comprehensive database of funds the government is going to give away. There are thousands of grants to apply for, with opportunities for companies from all backgrounds.

Keep in mind that not all assistance flows directly from the federal government to small business. Some funds are distributed to state and local governments and agencies, nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher learning. These entities, in turn, distribute the funds, or use them to provide technical or educational assistance on a local level.

In addition to the programs listed here, be sure to check with your state and local governments and use the resources listed below. When searching through grant and contracting options, note that you may qualify for more than one program.

As illustrated by the following sampling of grants, the assistance available to you from the government will vary, depending on your specific situation.

  • National Institute of Health Grants. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is currently funding grant opportunities related to COVID-19 research. These grants are reserved for small businesses that develop and research biomedical technology. There are multiple grants available with deadlines throughout 2021 and beyond.
  • NIA Research and Entrepreneurial Development Immersion (REDI): Entrepreneurial Small Business Transition Award: Research and Entrepreneurial Development Immersion (REDI) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant applications are now open for those qualified. This funding opportunity aims to support early-career scientists who have an interest in entrepreneurship to make an easier transition into the industry. Those who have “strong research skills and experience in technology discovery” in addition to an interest in growing their entrepreneurial skillsets are highly encouraged to apply. Applications will be open until February 17, 2023.
  • NIDILRR’s SBIR program. The SBIR program aims to support organizations to help advance technology, research, and support the social/economic benefits for the nation. The SBIR will be backing the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) through the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide 10 grants that support the improvement of the lives of those with disabilities. The total grant funding is estimated to be $1 million, and an outline of the available grants under this program can be found at the ACL website.
  • PHS 2022-2 Omnibus Solicitation of Small Business Innovation Research Grant Applications: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are sponsoring an opportunity for small businesses. Any qualifying small business — those with the research capability and technical expertise to contribute to the R&D missions of both the NIH and the CDC — is invited to apply for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant application related to qualified topics. Interested applicants can find a list of qualified topics in the grant announcement.
  • Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). The SBIR offers grants to small businesses so they can participate in federal research and development with the potential for commercialization. It’s a highly competitive awards-based program that helps businesses achieve scientific excellence and technological innovation. To qualify for SBIR grants, you must operate a for-profit company and satisfy other requirements.
  • Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR). Similar to SBIR, the STTR program focuses on funding research in the R&D arena. However, what separates the STTR is the requirement that the small business have a formal collaboration with a research institution. To qualify for STTR grants, you must operate a for-profit company and satisfy other requirements.
  • Trade Adjustment Assistance For Firms: In the early 2000s, the U.S. Department of Commerce sponsored the Trade Adjustment Assistance For Firms (TAAF) program to help financially assist manufacturers affected by import competition. Through this program, firms can qualify for up to $75K in federal match funding to help them financially recover from import competition and general business decline. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) funds local assistance centers that are available to help applicable businesses apply and reduce application paperwork.
  • U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Targeted grants and loans designed to aid minority-owned businesses are offered throughout the year. Minority-owned businesses can find information about local MBDA Business Centers at MBDA.gov.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). Intended to assist small businesses desiring to export product, this program distributes federal funds through state entities. Small businesses that meet the criteria set by each state can use the financial assistance to participate in foreign trade missions and shows, obtain entry to foreign markets, develop websites and design international marketing products or campaigns.
  • U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce offers ongoing funding opportunities for projects that support regional and national economic development. Applicants can apply for a variety of rolling-basis EDA investments that fund projects in construction, non-construction, planning, technical assistance, research and evaluation, higher education and more.

As you would expect, acceptance of free money from the government comes with a fair amount of paperwork. Applying for a grant can be time-consuming and technical. You want to make sure, therefore, that you are eligible before applying. In addition to the legal and administrative prerequisites, there are ongoing reporting and auditing requirements.

Government contract assistance

The federal government spends billions of dollars on goods and services each year. A lot of that money is spent through a competitive bidding process. Programs have been put in place to assist some small businesses with the process, allowing them a better chance to compete for those federal dollars.

  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program. The federal government seeks to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to such businesses annually, so this program helps with meeting that target. This federal contracting program offers assistance to small business owners who are service-disabled veterans. Eligible small businesses must be over 50% owned/controlled by one or more service-disabled veterans, have day-to-day operations and long-term goals managed by at least one service-disabled veteran and have a service-connected disability.
  • Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program. The federal government seeks to award at least 5% of federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses annually. Through this SBA program, the Office of Women’s Business Ownership provides support to women entrepreneurs by offering business training, counseling, federal contracts and access to credit and capital. Their goal is to offer equal opportunities for all women in business.
  • 8(a) Business Development Program. The purpose of this program is to assist small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged entities. This is achieved by limiting competition for certain government contracts to businesses participating in the 8(a) business development program. To participate a business must be certified as an 8(a) entity.
  • HUBZone Program. This program aids businesses in underutilized business zones by making them more competitive in regard to some government contracts. Businesses that join the HUBZone program can compete for set-aside contracts as well as receive preference on others, including a 10% price evaluation preference in open contract competitions.

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program

In addition to the billions of dollars spent purchasing goods and services, the federal government also sells large amounts of natural resources and surplus property. The SBA Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program sets aside a percentage of these goods for bidding by small businesses only. In addition, federal agencies sometimes divide surplus materials into smaller parcels, making it easier for small businesses to purchase. The five categories are:

  • Timber and related forest products.
  • Strategic materials.
  • Royalty oil.
  • Leases involving rights to minerals, coil, oil and gas.
  • Surplus real and personal property.

The program also provides training for small businesses on government sales and leasing.

General small business grants

There are many nonprofit and corporate entities offering grants and other assistance to small businesses. Here are a few such programs that are open to qualifying small businesses in any industry:

  • 500 Global Flagship Accelerator Program. Startups and small businesses seeking funding can do so on a rolling, year-round basis with the 500 Global Flagship Accelerator program. Since 2010, this program has offered businesses the opportunity for a four-month accelerator program based in San Francisco in addition to a $150,000 investment. Rules for applying can be found on the company’s website.
  • Barclays Small Business Big Wins Grant. Barclays U.S. Consumer Bank is hosting its third-annual Small Business Big Wins grant. This year, small business owners have the chance to win up to $60,000 to help fund their small businesses. Applicants should submit a 500-word story detailing their journey to entrepreneurship to the grant page. Submissions will be accepted through February 28.
  • The Barstool Fund. This grant is for small businesses affected by COVID-19 who kept on many employees during the pandemic and has a proven track record of success. Winners are chosen on a rolling basis; apply today for a chance to receive funding for your business.
  • Business Warrior Small Business Loans. The company Business Warrior understands that it can be difficult to get loan approval through a traditional banking method. To help small businesses get access to capital, Business Warrior is giving $5 million to small business owners. They will provide between $5,000 and $50,000 loans without the high rates cash advance companies normally charge.
  • Fast Break for Small Businesses. This popular grant program is set to return just in time for the 2022 NBA season. Sponsored by the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, and LegalZoom, the Fast Break for Small Businesses grant aims to support small businesses through $6 million in grants and services. Those selected as recipients will receive $10,000 in grants and free LegalZoom services. Applications are expected to open in the next few weeks, and those interested can sign up to be the first to know when they’re available.
  • FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. Small business owners are eligible to apply for the new FedEx Small Business Grant Contest with the opportunity to receive a $30,000 grand prize. Ten grand prize winners will each receive $30,000 in addition to other benefits, such as a $1,000 print credit through FedEx Office, mentor matching with Entrepreneur Organization, and more. One U.S. veteran winner of the 10 grand prize winners will also receive an additional $20,000. Applicants must create a FedEx account to be eligible. Applications open on January 31.
  • Fresh Start Business Grant. If you’re a new business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur looking for capital to grow or launch your business, the Fresh Start Business Grant was made for you. Incfile, a company that helps form businesses, wants to support those looking to start new ventures. Recipients of the grant will receive $2,500 in addition to Incfile’s free gold plan. The first few deadlines of June 30, September 30, and December 31 have passed, but the last deadline of March 31 is still open.
  • GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund. GoFundMe’s Small Business Relief Fund will match $500 grants to qualifying small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and raise at least $500 through a GoFundMe campaign. The fund is backed by GoFundMe and corporations like Intuit QuickBooks, Yelp, GoDaddy and Bill.com. Small business owners with existing campaigns can add the hashtag #SmallBusinessRelief to their campaign and fill out this form to confirm their business.
  • Small Business Digital Ready Program: In partnership with Verizon, National ACE has developed a digital readiness program to help small business owners succeed in a digital world. The free online curriculum includes expert coaching, peer networking, and other resources to support your small business. Those who register for the program and take two courses are eligible for a $10,000 grant. This opportunity is rolling, and you can learn more at the program’s webpage.
  • Small Business Readiness for Resiliency Program: Small businesses often feel the effects of a natural disaster the hardest. It can be difficult when starting a business to suddenly have to raise money to repair a roof or attend to flood damage. To help offset some of these concerns and costs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and FedEx have teamed up to create the Small Business Readiness for Resiliency (R4R) Program. The program helps small businesses put plans in place to prepare for disaster and also provides immediate emergency funding when necessary. There will be more than 100 grants of $5,000 each available to be distributed between May 2022 and June 2023. Application materials can be found on the U.S. Chamber’s webpage.

Industry-specific and diversity small business grants

Some small business grant programs are confined to a specific entrepreneur demographic or business profile and they often have an application process that is easier to navigate. This is a sample list, so be sure to check with nonprofits and large corporations in your geographic area or industry.

  • 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition: The Small Business Administration (SBA) has created the 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition to award impactful and inclusive approaches to encourage collaboration across industries in research and development. Fostering strategic ecosystem partnerships will help build community and encourage the sharing of resources among researchers, entrepreneurs, corporations, and others. Prizes up to $200,000 will be awarded to those ideas that best support growth accelerator partnerships. Phase 1 applications opened on January 11, and the deadline to apply is February 10.
  • Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator Program. If you’re a seller in Amazon’s store, you may be eligible for the Black Business Accelerator Program. Created to support Black entrepreneurs, the program offers financial support, mentorship, business advice, and promotional support. Eligible sellers will have access to free imaging services, cash grant opportunities, advertising credits and money toward start-up costs. You can learn more about this opportunity at their website.
  • Amber Grant Foundation. With a simple goal of supporting women entrepreneurs, the Amber Grant Foundation was founded by WomensNet in 1998. The foundation awards a $10,000 grant each month and an additional $25,000 grant each December to women entrepreneurs with a compelling story.
  • Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF) Grant: Early-career investigators researching Rheumatic diseases are encouraged to apply for the annual Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF) grant. The award amount has been increased this year to $125,000 per year, renewable for two years. ANRF grant applications must be submitted before January 20, 2023. Instructions and guidelines for applying can be found on ProposalCentral.
  • Association of African-American Vintners Grant: The Association of African-American Vintners (AAAV) designed a grant to support Black-owned AAAV members with marketing, innovations, or operations costs. As funding growth can be particularly challenging for people of color, AAAV hopes to help by awarding $5,000 grants. The group is accepting donations to help support the grant fund. The first round of funding was provided by H-E-B. Applications will open in January, but those interested in applying are encouraged to be sure they meet eligibility requirements in advance. More details can be found on the AAAV website.
  • BIPOC Small Business Grant by Annuity Payment Freedom. This grant by Annuity Payment Freedom was created in response to the impact of the pandemic on BIPOC-owned businesses. There are both marketing grants to help drive traffic and micro-grant opportunities. These are awarded to businesses on a rolling basis, with winners announced on the last day of each month.
  • Black Founder Startup Grant. The Black Founder Startup Grant program from the SoGal Foundation and other sponsors provides grants of up to $10,000 to Black and multiracial women and nonbinary entrepreneurs. The program accepts applications on a rolling basis and is open to entrepreneurs with a legally registered business who plan to seek investor financing to scale.
  • Capital One Business Grant. Capital One announced its Capital One Business grant program this week, which will aim to support black-owned businesses. In partnership with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), $10,000 grants will be awarded to black-owned businesses to try and supplement any business that was lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Carhartt For the Love of Labor Grant: Carhartt, a popular workwear distributor, created the Love of Labor grant program to help connect workers with trade programs in their local communities during an unprecedented labor shortage. Awards will be distributed on a rolling basis to “like-minded organizations” that are dedicated to the education, training, and placement of workers into trade jobs. The first four recipients of the grant have already been chosen, but organizations with interest in the program can apply by reaching out to Carhartt directly. Nominations are accepted as well.
  • Casper Accelerate Grant Program: The Casper Association aims to support the adoption of blockchain technology via Casper, a scalable blockchain network. To support innovation within the blockchain industry, Casper has opened the Casper Accelerate Grant Program. Those who want to build apps to support infrastructure, end-user applications, and research innovation are invited to apply. This $25 million grant program has a rolling application deadline, so you can apply anytime here.
  • EnrichHER Grant: Does your small business need new equipment, a new marketing campaign, or product expansion? The EnrichHER small business grant will help your business get the funding you need. This program gives eligible entrepreneurs — especially women and people of color — and businesses $5,000 to help with smaller expenses. There is a $37 application fee, and this application round is rolling.
  • Etsy Emergency Relief Fund: If you’re an Etsy business owner, you may be qualified to apply for relief funding courtesy of a partnership with CERF+, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping artists prepare for and recover from emergencies and disasters. The partnership was established in 2017, and both companies continue to provide up to $2,500 in funding through the grant program. To apply, you must have been a registered Etsy business for at least one year and have been affected by a natural disaster. This grant opportunity is rolling.
  • Foundation for a Just Society Grants. Foundation for a Just Society offers grants to local, national, regional, and global organizations and networks that support the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQI individuals. You can email the organization for more information on specific grants.
  • Go. Be. Elevate Fund. Formerly known as the Good Work Network, Go.Be. aims to help entrepreneurs and small business owners with a focus on diverse and minority businesses. To continue to support small businesses led by women and people of color, Go.Be. will grant up to $4,000 toward any project meant to help grow your small business. To be eligible for this grant, you must be a Go.Be. client, so head to their grant page and see if your small business fits the criteria for entry.
  • 2023 Halstead Grant. To support new talent in the jewelry industry, the Halstead Grant will offer a grant of $7,500 in start-up capital for its 17th year of the program. Applicants must be new jewelry designers that work primarily in silver. The grant winner will also receive $1,000 in merchandise. Other finalists will receive small cash prizes and support in promoting their businesses. The application period closes on May 1.
  • Hivers and Strivers Investment Program. As an angel investment group, Hivers and Strivers works to provide capital to qualifying businesses. Specifically, the investment group funds projects submitted by veteran-owned and veteran-led businesses. Funding opportunities can range from $250,000 to $1 million. Those who qualify can apply for funding for a business idea on a rolling basis, but businesses reliant on government contracts are not eligible to apply.
  • Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge. Affordable housing continues to be a struggle for many people across the country, and there’s a long way to go in order to close the gap. Enterprise and the Wells Fargo Foundation have come together to launch a $20 million competition to encourage innovative housing solutions. The Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge will grant $1-3 million to ideas that reimagine access to affordable housing. Submissions will be accepted until March 3, and you can register for an upcoming information session on February 2.
  • IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Fund. IFundWomen launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund that provides community-funded microgrants and free coaching to women-owned businesses affected by COVID-19. Grants are distributed on a rolling basis. To be considered, women entrepreneurs must start a campaign on IFW.
  • Kinetic Black Business Support Fund: Network and connectivity solutions provider Kinetic will offer eligible Black-owned businesses free internet service and up to $2,500 in financial support. Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants must be Black-owned businesses, have 25 or fewer employees, and meet other eligibility requirements listed here. Businesses also need to be located in a Kinetic service area, which includes 18 states listed here.
  • The Kitty Fund: Kim Folsom is the CEO of Founder’s First, an organization that supports small business expansion. In honor of Mother’s Day and her own mother, Catherine “Kitty” Abrams Tadlock Webster, Folsom launched The Kitty Grant in 2020. This year, the $25,000 fund will invest $1,000 in 25 mother-led small businesses. Grant money can be used however recipients see fit. Eligibility requirements and the pre-registration form for this grant can be found on the Founder’s First website.
  • MBDA Capital Readiness Program: The Department of Commerce offers a grant program to support minority business resource development. The MBDA Capital Readiness Program helps facilitate the distribution of resources to socially- and economically-disadvantaged individuals (SEDI) seeking capital to start a business. Applicants from qualified organizations able to assist SEDI business owners with scaling and capital are encouraged to apply. The closing date for applications is February 28.
  • #MomsMeanBusiness Campaign: ZenBusiness, a company that helps others launch and run their own businesses, has created the #MomsMeanBusiness campaign to recognize the resilience of moms and celebrate their accomplishments. To help mothers take the first step toward entrepreneurship, ZenBusiness is covering business formation costs and will help entrepreneurs form an LLCC, track expenses, secure a business name, and more. All mothers are eligible and costs will be covered for “every mom in America.” The program is rolling and you can sign up here.
  • Ms. Foundation’s Ms. South Grant: The Ms. Foundation aims to highlight the challenges all women face — especially in business. The Ms. South Grant specifically supports the leadership of Women and Girls of Color (WGOC) in 14 southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. WGOC-led organizations have the opportunity to apply for funding, leadership training, and educational services through the grant. The Ms. Foundation will invest $1.5 million in WGOC-led groups in the south and support their business growth. Applications are due January 13.
  • National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants. According to its website, the NASE has distributed over $1,000,000 in grants to its members. Its growth grants provide up to $4,000 to assist with training, marketing and more. You must be a member for 90 days before you are eligible to apply.
  • National Geographic Explorer Grant: Those interested in joining the National Geographic community have the unique opportunity to apply for funding up to $20,000 to support a project that will be considered for entry. Projects must demonstrate how joining the explorer community will help to establish the applicant’s career. Guidelines for this grant are listed on the National Geographic webpage.
  • Patagonia Corporate Grant Program. Patagonia’s corporate grant program offers between $10,000 and $20,000 of funding to nonprofits with missions to protect and preserve the environment. If you meet the grant requirements, you can apply today.
  • Power Forward Small Business Grant. Black-owned small businesses located across New England are eligible for the Power Forward Small Business Grant program. Sponsored by the NAACP, Vistaprint and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, eligible businesses with a maximum of 25 employees will be awarded grants of $25,000 on a rolling basis.
  • Rebuild The Block: Rebuild The Block was created with the sole purpose of supporting Black entrepreneurs. Through their grant program and donations, the company provides monetary support to Black businesses to help them connect with community members on a larger scale. Their popular grant program is open right now, but don’t wait to apply — the application form only accepts 90 applicants per three-month cycle. To apply, Black-owned businesses must detail how they’ve been affected by COVID-19 and/or looting destruction. More requirements can be found on the grant page.
  • RTC Women in Tech Fund: Rewriting The Code (RTC) works to support college and early career women in tech by providing them with opportunities to help disrupt gender and racial inequality in the industry. The RTC Women in Tech Fund provides financial resources to women enrolled in undergraduate tech programs to help cover costs that may be an obstacle to education. There are three different grants available depending on each applicant’s specific financial needs. All applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
  • SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant. This grant gives Black women or non-binary entrepreneurs the opportunity to receive up to $10,000 in a cash grant. SoGal has partnered with several sponsors to create this grant in order to promote and support Black women and those identifying as non-binary having equal opportunities to capital for their small businesses. To apply, you should have a legally-registered business, self-identify as a Black woman or nonbinary entrepreneur, and plan to seek financing now or in the future. This deadline is rolling, so the sooner you apply, the better!
  • StartOut Scholarship Program. StartOut offers scholarship opportunities to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who wish to participate in their Founder Program and become a Giving Member. The initiative provides a 12-month membership for those LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who have been underrepresented, underserved and underestimated within their community.

Additional resources

The programs listed above are a good start when it comes to grants and funding. You may find additional resources available by following the links below.

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Published January 12, 2023