For women entrepreneurs, women’s small business grants are one potential funding option for starting or growing a business. These grants are offered by public and private institutions alike, meaning that there are many opportunities out there; however, since there’s no one place to look for them, this also means that information about women’s small business grants can be a bit difficult to track down.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting a women’s small business grant: what they are, who is eligible, how to apply, what documentation you might need, some tips for the application process, and where to start the search for grant funding.
- Women’s small business grants are offered by educational institutions, nonprofits, private companies, and all levels of government for the purposes of funding women entrepreneurs across many different fields and industries.
- A business grant is a type of funding that usually does not have to be paid back, but is also classified by the IRS as taxable business income.
- Applying for a grant requires the applicant to meet the eligibility criteria for the grant, as well as completing the required forms and often, submitting a proposal and other documentation.
- Grant funding opportunities can be quite competitive, so to have the best chance of success, applicants should take advantage of any and all available resources provided by the grant organization and allow themselves plenty of time to prepare their application.
What Is a Women’s Small Business Grant?
A women’s small business grant is a form of business capital for women entrepreneurs. Unlike a loan, a grant is more like a financial gift to a business from the grantor or granting organization.
It’s important to note the following about grant funding:
- Grants are generally considered to be a form of taxable business income by the IRS.
- Grant money does not generally need to be paid back unless the terms of the grant are violated for some reason.
- Competition for grant funding tends to be intense, as many people apply for these opportunities.
- Grants are usually created for a specific purpose, so they usually have detailed and specific eligibility criteria to ensure the funding is used as intended.
Who Is Eligible for Women’s Small Business Grants?
Women’s small business grants are intended to support women entrepreneurs in reaching their business goals. Because grant funding is offered by a diverse range of private and public institutions and organizations, the purpose and eligibility of each specific grant will vary.
The eligibility criteria for a particular grant might include considerations such as:
- The nature and size of the business (e.g., industry and number of employees)
- The grant funding intention (e.g., to support women innovators in the food and beverage industry)
- The annual revenue of the business (e.g., under $2 million)
- Age of the business owner or applicant (e.g., over 21 years of age)
- Age of the business (e.g., been in operation for between one and five years)
- Identity of the owner, founder, or staff (e.g., majority of employees self-identify as women)
- Residency status and registered business location (e.g., US-based)
The Application Process for Women’s Small Business Grants
The application process for a women’s small business grant will vary according to the opportunity, but in general, it might include the following:
- Registration or information provision: the applicant might create an account or fill out details about themselves and/or their business to confirm eligibility. (Government grants in particular may require a specific registration step with the agency offering the grant.)
- Grant selection: in situations where an organization has a range of grants to choose from, the applicant selects the grant or grants they wish to apply for.
- Application: the business owner submits their required documentation for the grant.
- Review: the grantor reviews all applications and confirms the results to all applicants.
Required Documentation for a Women’s Small Business Grant Application
Since there are a wide range of grants available to fund women-owned small businesses, the documents required for the application will depend on the specifics of the grant opportunity.
Generally, women’s small business grant applications will require the following documents as part of the application:
- Information about the applicant and/or their business
- Personal and/or business identification numbers or other official documents
- Financial documents
- Application forms
- A detailed abstract, project plan, or proposal
- A budget detailing how the grant funding will be used
- The applicant’s CV or resume
- Professional or personal references
Tips for a Successful Application
To have the highest chance of success in securing grant funding, setting aside adequate time to write the proposal, as well as gathering all the required information ahead of time, is advisable before making any application.
Grant opportunities are often highly competitive, so applicants should ensure that they meet all the eligibility criteria as well as being highly specific on all the details of what the funding will be used for. Since grantors review a high volume of proposals, it’s important for the application to be both clear and concise.
Many organizations offer grant writing assistance and resources, some even around their own grant opportunity. It’s always a good idea to check if the grantor will be organizing any workshops or webinars related to the grant and to attend these sessions if possible to glean further information about the application process. Grantors may also offer previous examples of successful grant applications for applicants’ reference.
Some grant opportunities are recurring. Keeping track of and setting reminders for announcement dates and application deadlines can be a helpful prompt to dedicate time to applying for a particular opportunity.
Finding Potential Grant Sources
The following sources provide lists of grant opportunities and/or resources around grant applications:
- Grants.gov is a comprehensive source for federal government grant opportunities and can be filtered by eligibility for “small businesses”.
- IFundWomen maintains a universal grant application database that matches eligibility criteria with businesses, as well as listing grant opportunities on their site.
- The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council offers programs and opportunities in support of women entrepreneurs, including grants.
- The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) provides resources on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship and posts grant opportunities on their site.
- GrantsforWomen.org provides information, opportunities, and application tips for a range of grant types for women.
- Hello Alice is a free online platform that aims to assist small businesses in launching and growing. They regularly list grant and other funding opportunities.
- The Amber Grant Foundation by WomensNet was founded in 1998 to memorialize the entrepreneurial spirit of Amber Wigdahl and awards a variety of grants on a monthly and annual basis.
What Is a Women’s Small Business Grant?
A women’s small business grant is a form of funding available to women entrepreneurs. Unlike a loan, a grant does not need to be paid back (unless the terms of the grant are violated).
What Is the Application Process for a Women’s Small Business Grant?
The application process for a women’s small business grant will depend on the specific opportunity, as each grant has a dedicated purpose and set of criteria. Generally, the application process might require a registration step, and submitting a proposal and/or filling out an application form for review. Grants offered by the government tend to have a more in-depth application process.
Who Is Eligible for a Women’s Small Business Grant?
Since women’s small business grants are intended to support women-owned businesses, the eligibility criteria will likely require verifying that the business is owned or run by someone who identifies as a woman. There may be additional criteria depending on the intention of the grant.
Does the Government Offer Grants for Women-Owned Businesses?
Yes, the government provides grant opportunities to support women in business at the local, state, and federal level. However, it should be noted that the federal government only provides grants for the purposes of research and development, or management and technical assistance, but does not provide grants for starting or growing a business.
The Bottom Line
Private and public institutions alike currently offer many grant opportunities to women entrepreneurs in order to address systemic and historic inequities in funding. Women seeking funding for their business may look to grants as an alternative to taking out a loan, but should be aware that these opportunities are highly competitive and the applications are often time-intensive. As such, to increase the chances of success, all the eligibility criteria for the grant must be met, and the application must be specific, thoughtful, and detailed.