Women who own small businesses can secure grant funding to help them support the launch of their business, the introduction of a new product or service or the exploration of a new market. There are numerous opportunities available, but women must understand how the grant process works, where to find sources of funding, the importance of providing detailed and thorough responses and the critical step of providing updates and reports to the granting agency.
How the Grant Process Works
Granting agencies provide funding to organizations and individuals whose mission and strategic direction is aligned with their own. For instance, a women starting a business focused on coaching and mentoring for young women might turn to universities and not-for-profit educational groups as a source of funding.
Finding Available Grants
Focusing an Internet search by using specific key terms can help to narrow the results significantly and results in less time searching through a wide range of grants that may not be applicable. GrantsforWomen.org includes information about many grant opportunities including those offered by the National Council For Research On Women, Open Society Institute, Raise The Nation, Sara Lee Foundation, Talbots Women's Scholarship Fund, Three Guineas Fund For Women, Whirlpool Foundation the Women's Funding Network, and many more.
The federal government can also be a source of information, through the Small Business Administration (www,sba.gov). The Small Business Act authorizes contracting officers to specifically limit, or set aside, certain requirements for competition for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs).
Responding Thoroughly in the Grant Proposal
The key to successfully attaining grant funding is to find a clear match between your needs and the funding organization's mission, vision and values, and to respond thoroughly, accurately and completely to the grant requirements. Read requirements carefully and make sure to understand what is being asked for. Don't skip questions and don't provide partial answers. The granting agency is asking for information for very specific reasons -- those who respond thoroughly will have an edge in the process.
The Importance of Reporting
Granting agencies require grantees to report to them how their funds have been used effectively. Follow-up and reporting requirements of grant writing can often be overwhelming, particularly for small businesses. Be sure to understand what those requirements are, and establish processes to document, track, report and follow through on how the funds have been spent.