As noted, the Feds won’t send you general grant money just for starting or expanding a business. However, the U.S. government does offer specific funding programs, many of which are available to small businesses and entrepreneurs that meet certain criteria. Examples include health-related research and green product development. Grants.gov offers a comprehensive search tool for federal monies.
This California nonprofit offers a mix of microloans, microsavings, and commercial real estate financing to small businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Opportunity Fund awards a $2 grant for every $1 saved when combined with a financial literacy training program.
Sometimes a modest amount of money can have a major impact. The Amber Foundation Grants have been supporting women entrepreneurs since 1998. These grants, usually $500 to $1,000 each, are intended to help with “the small but essential expenses that can often make the difference between getting started or being forever stalled.”
An Individual Development Account (IDA) is an asset building tool designed to enable financially disadvantaged families and individuals to save towards a targeted amount usually used for building assets in the form of home ownership, post-secondary education and small business ownership. In principle IDAs work as matched savings accounts that supplement the savings with matching funds drawn from a variety of private and public sources. See below for how IDA's might be a good choice for your business.
How IDAs Work
Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are special savings accounts that match the deposits of low- and moderate-income people. For every dollar saved in an IDA, savers receive a corresponding match which serves as both a reward and an incentive to further the saving habit. Savers agree to complete financial education classes and use their savings for an asset-building purpose – typically for post-secondary education or job training, home purchase, or to capitalize a small business. In addition to earning match dollars, savers learn about budgeting, saving and receive additional training before purchasing an asset. IDAs make it possible for individuals to build the financial assets they need to achieve the American dream.
IDAs are offered through partnerships between financial institutions (such as banks and credit unions) and local nonprofit organizations, or program sponsors. The IDA program sponsor recruits participants for the program, provides financial education classes, and provides additional training based on the participant’s asset choice – homeownership education and counseling, small business training, or guidance on choosing and enrolling in post-secondary education or job training.
After signing up for the IDA program, each participant opens a savings account with the partnering bank or credit union. The financial institution handles all transactions to and from the IDA, just as they do with other types of accounts. IDA accountholders receive regular statements detailing how much they have saved and the amount of match they have earned.
An IDA program can be as short as six months or as long as several years from beginning to end. IDA participants are allowed to withdraw money as soon as they have reached their savings goal, but they must first get approval from their IDA program sponsor. Some participants choose to use their funds toward one large savings goal, such as buying a home, while others make withdrawals for a number of smaller, related goals, such as a computer, textbooks, and college tuition.
Learn more about how to open an IDA for yourself.
Have a question? Find answers to many frequently asked questions about IDAs
Find an IDA Program
Looking for a program near you? The IDA Program Directory allows you to locate IDA providers in your area. Enter the agency name, city, state or zip code below to see a list of programs matching your search criteria.
The federal government doesn’t make general grants to small businesses, but your state or local government may offer other financial-assistance programs, such as low-interest loans. Contact your state’s economic development agency as a starting point. This online directory lists local and international agencies, too.