In order to increase the participation of women in business, grant makers have developed programs that give special consideration to women applicants for grants. Businesses owned by women are considered historically underutilized businesses (HUB) and may qualify for extra points during the grant review process. Recently, a spate of development programs have targeted women 35 years of age and older. Forty years old, however, is not a common break point for grant eligibility. While 40 may be a traumatic milestone for you, it doesn't appear to give you any special leg up in obtaining grants.
Grant makers want to encourage women, especially those age 35 years and older to take leadership roles in business and industry to a greater extent than they have in the past. Unfortunately, women at this stage in their careers may already be beginning to encounter age discrimination. Women may actually face age barriers at a younger age than their male counterparts. Understanding the gender bias women already face in the career marketplace, government and private funders have begun to provide more grant funded training opportunities, financial resources and supportive programs that help women build networks of professional contacts and acquire management skills that help them take advantage of potential career opportunities.
Federal, state and local agencies and corporate and private foundations all offer grant programs that favor women applicants and may, in addition, further target women over 40 years. These opportunities can be found by searching for requests for proposal (RFP) that are released by federal, state and local government agencies and by foundations. RFPs are the complete application and grant announcement for a particular grant program. Go to your local funding library to search for these grants. Funding libraries may be special sections at a public library, the United Way or a regional nonprofit management center. They have subscriptions to paper and electronic search tools that help you find grants for women over 40 years.
Finding Grants for Women Over 40 Years
First check out Grants.gov, the federal clearing house website for all federal grant opportunities (see References). Sign up for Grants.gov's e-mail alert newsletter. You can select areas in which you have an interest, and their grant alert newsletter will filter out unwanted RFPs and send you only the ones you want. States have similar grant alert sites. Some funds may be available at the local city and county level for women, particularly women-owned or -led organizations working in distressed and underserved areas. It may take some schmoozing with local politicians and meeting with administrative staff, council people and commissioners to find out how to take advantage of local funding. A search of foundations for those who give money for women's issues may turn up some foundations who give grants that not only fund designated women's programs,but also give extra points to women applicants, older applicants or both.
Should you find a grant that does award extra points for being a woman over 40 years, your proposal will still have to meet the requirements of the funder. Grants are always given for specific purposes that serve the general public welfare. Neither government agencies nor private foundations offer general purpose grants to for-profit businesses or to individuals no matter what gender or age. Government and most private grants are awarded almost exclusively to nonprofit charities or to businesses that are contracted to do educational, cultural, scientific, medical, defense, construction or research and development work for the government or in the public interest.
The fact that your organization has women in key leadership positions or your company is owned or run by women and is eligible to provide the work the funder wants done, may give you a better shot at being funded. But, if all you have is a vague business idea you want someone to give you money for, the U.S. Small Business Administration says you have no chance at all to find a grant for your project. Like banks and investor groups, the government and foundations do not fund poor or nebulous ideas.
Especially in tough financial times, predatory advertisers will tell you there are millions of dollars in free government money out there if only you are a woman over 40 years, disabled, a senior, jobless or whatever. "Don't buy the hype," says Grants.gov. The federal government doesn't give money to individuals or start-up businesses or nebulous projects. State governments don't. Private foundations don't. Just because you're a woman over 40 years, doesn't mean you are entitled to a grant. Such grants don't exist. If you have a good idea, a great business plan, some money you've already raised, a collaborative project that fills a need in your community, then you may have a better chance to qualify for low-cost loans or even a grant if you're a woman over 40 years. A foundation may give a grant to a woman over 40 years who can do something the government or foundation wants done, like research or development of a new product the public needs, to encourage more women to participate, but you still have to deliver the goods.
If your grant proposal isn't responding to a specific request for proposal, however, it is an absolute waste of time to write letters to funders with an unsolicited idea asking for general grant support. You have a better chance of getting such a grant from your rich Aunt Florence who loves you and won't ask too many questions.