There are virtually no grants available to start or expand a business. The adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, is a good guide. A grant is a direct financial contribution made without expectation of repayment but with very specific expectations about outcomes. Organizations that give grants have criteria to meet that, by and large, excludes for-profit businesses.


What criteria does a grant-making organization use to make awards?

Foundations, for example, normally fund nonprofit organizations that qualify for public charity status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These nonprofit organizations are usually charitable, educational, scientific, religious, literary or cultural in nature.

The government grant program designed to fund for-profit businesses is called the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). Small businesses with strong research capabilities in science and engineering that are currently doing high quality research and development are the most likely to compete for funds to continue their research. The program is not an assistance program for small business – it is highly competitive and merit-based.

Washington State grants are limited to the Child Care Advantages Program. The Child Care Facility Fund is available to all licensed childcare providers. Another state is the Washington Technology Center, which offers the Entrepreneur’s Access (EA) Program.

Sometimes corporations offer seed money programs aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs.

Am I eligible for a grant if I am a woman, a minority, disabled or a veteran?

A Native American living or working on a designated Reservation may be eligible for grant funds. Other than that, there are no Washington State or Federal programs that provide grants for individuals meeting those criteria. That is not to say that assistance is not available. The most significant is preferential status for bidding on government contracts. Certification of preferred status is through the Office of Minority and women Business Enterprises. Nonprofit organizations that serve women, minorities, disabled people or veterans may offer grants or other forms of assistance.

How do I attain nonprofit status?

Request the Internal Revenue Service’s Publication 557, “Tax Exempt Status for your Organization” by calling 1-800-829-3676. This publication will provide general information about obtaining tax-exempt status, filing requirements, and detailed information on 501(c)(3) organization.

Online Resources

  • Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance  The (CFDA) currently tracks over $10 million federal dollars obligated to domestic assistance programs. CFDA provides a full listing of all Federal programs available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally-recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi- public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals.