Probably the biggest myth about small business grants is that there aren’t enough to go around. This is especially true for minority business grants.
Don’t believe us? Just look at the numbers: In 2018 there were $1.7 billion in minority grant funding available; only $149 million was actually awarded. It’s time to change the trajectory.
Hello Alice partnered with the “Grant Bae” Shonna Lee Williams and Second Chance CDFI to create a step-by-step guide on how to Apply for Minority-Owned Business Grants. This guide will provide you with ideas, structure, and enthusiasm for getting the funding you need when the next (or first ever) great grant opportunity comes your way.
Below, we break down some of the key considerations you should make before applying for a minority-owned business grant. We’ve also included a recording of a recent Ask-Me-Anything call where our experts answered questions from the Hello Alice community. For an even more in-depth explanation of the grant process, you can skip straight to our guide.
Prepare to Write Your Grant Application
There are some common items you’ll want to have ready before getting started on any grant proposal. In general, applications ask you to provide the following information:
- Cover letter
- Executive summary
- Statement of need
- Goals and objectives
- Methods and strategies
- Plan of evaluation
- Budget information
- Organizational background
In her Ask-Me-Anything event with Hello Alice, Williams advised that it’s useful to have a “master proposal” ready to adapt to a program’s specific needs. This can help you complete an application efficiently and with minimal effort.
“Because there’s a system in place, you have to have a master proposal, you have to have a budget, you have to have all of these different accolades in order to generate a successful grant proposal,” she said.
Double Check That You Qualify for the Grant Program
Not every person who applies for a grant will receive one. Reviewers typically award limited grant funds to the applicants who meet the eligibility requirements and align with their organization’s values.
To gauge whether your business is a good fit for the program, make sure that you meet the baseline qualifications for the grant. Automated filters will likely sort out any applicants who don’t meet eligibility criteria like number of employees, minority status, or similar requirements.
You should also check out who they’ve funded previously. If you see that they have funded organizations similar to yours in the past, this funding opportunity may be a good fit for you. You could even reach out to past recipients and ask for advice.
What to Include in a Minority Business Grant Application
Your grant proposal should tell the story of why your business needs this funding and how you will use that funding to deliver tangible results.
Remember that reviewers will be reading many applications. In order to stand out from the crowd, you will want to craft your proposal using simple language that’s free of jargon.
You should also outline business goals that are SMART — an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework ensures that your proposal is thoughtfully planned and trackable.
“As reviewers, we are drawn to numbers, and it gives a little more tangible feel to what we’re reading,” Williams said. “If you are requesting $25,000 from a grantor, specifically state how the funding will be used and executed.”
Where to Look for Minority Business Grant Opportunities
Subscribers to the Hello Alice newsletter receive weekly updates about the latest grant programs and funding opportunities, and following the Grant Bae is an awesome way to stay up-to-date on similar programs.
Consider Minority Business Certification
As we outline in another blog post on the topic, there are a variety of business certifications available for women, veterans, and members of certain minority groups. Getting certified opens your business to a host of exclusive funding opportunities and supplier diversity programs. Because of the narrower eligibility requirements, you are likely competing against a smaller pool of applicants, too.
Williams advises you to take advantage of as many of these certifications as possible. “Always compete, because you never know,” she said.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Chance
Bottom line, Williams said that if you don’t apply for a grant, you can’t receive a grant. That’s why she often advises clients to shoot their shot and apply!
“Never discredit yourself by saying, ‘Oh, no, I don’t qualify,'” she told us. “If a grantor says that you don’t qualify, then you don’t qualify! But until a grantor says, ‘Okay, you don’t qualify,’ then what’s the harm in applying for it?”