Single mothers are definitely under pressure to multitask, from raising children to keeping a house to earning an income to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. If a single mom has a business idea, a good way to start the small business is to research and apply for financial grants that can help get the business started. Grants are not loans but are financial support and come from different types of organizations, from corporations to private foundations to the federal government. While grants are considered “free money” to some, there are guidelines with each type of grant that need to be followed once the grant has been provided. These include providing annual reports and financial statements once the business is off the ground. Many organizations, including the government, fund grants for single mothers. Here are steps on how to search for the grant that is best related to your business plan and goals.
Federal Government Grants
Go to Grants.gov and begin your search. There are many ways to search for the grant you are looking for. This website lists Grant Opportunities where you can search by category (from Arts to Transportation), or by agency (from the Department of Agriculture to Small Business Administration), or you can do an advanced search where you can search how far out the agencies give their grants, what type of funding you are requesting, and more. If you have found a grant that you qualify for, the next step is to apply for the grant in just a few easy steps.
Many large corporations have departments that give grants to people for many different reasons. The Levi Strauss company, for example, gives grants to low-income working people so they can build assets and possibly finance education to enhance and stabilize their future. Both Home Depot and the Bank of America corporations give grants to local communities. Bank of America says, "Our local market presidents and their teams develop relationships with other community leaders to determine the best use of philanthropic dollars in each community." The best site for searching for corporate grantors is The Non-Profit Times, a searchable database of thousands of corporations (see Resources).
Private Foundation Grants
Private foundations are set up to provide funding for people who are looking for financial assistance to set up a business. They also provide grants for many other individuals or groups for numerous reasons. The Foundation Center is a subscription-based search engine and a "national nonprofit service organization recognized as the nation’s leading authority on organized philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust." While The Foundation Center isn’t free, it provides the best information for private foundation grants available, and there are levels of subscription that should help you, depending on your financial situation.
Before You Begin
Before you begin looking for your single mother business grant, be prepared to answer some questions the grantor will ask. For instance, how far will your business reach (local or national), how much money will you need to launch your business, how many employees would you need, will you have a board of directors to assist with decision making, and finally, do you have short- and long-term goals for growth?
According to Grants.biz, there are over 1,500 domestic government grant programs available to the American public for 2009 alone, with over 1,000 federal Government grant programs, 24,000 state programs, 30,000 private foundations and 20,000 scholarship programs available as well as nearly 840,000 nonprofit organizations. Current funding for government grants is at 1.5 trillion dollars for 2009, so don't be discouraged if you get a rejection. The key to this task is try and try again.
Your local library may be a great reference for searching for grants, as many libraries carry the Grantmakers Reference Books, which provide listings of foundations indexed by what types of businesses and organizations or programs they give to. If you start with a letter of inquiry versus a full-length proposal, write a short, one-page query, but always follow the guidelines of the specific grantor. If you do not receive a response to your letter of inquiry, you can follow up with your full-length proposal. Be persistent and optimistic--if your idea is a good one, there are many resources that can help you along the way.
Jodi Beuder is a writer and marketing consultant based in Reno, Nev. Her portfolio includes work for the "Reno Family Examiner," Skagen Designs and Teamwrx. Beuder holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Redlands (Calif.). She has two books that are currently in review for publishing, one fiction novel, and one parenting book she co-wrote with her mother.