Grants for Businesses


A grant is a transfer of money usually from a nonprofit agency or government agency to another nonprofit or government agency. A grant may be given to an individual (such as a scholarship or fellowship) but it is more often given to an organization. When a grant is given, there are usually no requirements to repay the money. The library often gets inquiries about how to get “free” money or grants to meet a particular need. While grants might not be available in every situation, other forms of assistance are still very valuable. Check out the following frequently asked questions and answers about locating grants and other types of assistance.

I want to find out more about government aid. Where do I start?

Most government grants go to states, cities, or other nonprofit organizations so that these groups can provide programs and services to individuals. Grants for higher education are one exception where government grants are given individuals. To apply for higher education grants and loans from the federal government, you will need to submit a completed FAFSA form. The FAFSA form is available at some library branches and is available online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.

For information about other government assistance for individuals, try the Government Benefits website. Answer a few questions and then view a list of government programs that may be appropriate for your needs, along with information about how you can apply.

Assistance Listings
An online resource, formerly the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Assistance Listings is the U.S. government resource for all federal assistance listings open to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; for-profit and nonprofit institutions; and individuals. This page features links to a quick start guide to help users navigate the site and to the search for assistance listings. You can also download PDFs of past years’ CFDAs.

The Central Library also has a copy of the annual Government Support Index Handbook, formerly the Government Assistance Almanac*. This volume lists the same programs found in the online CFDA/Assistance Listings, but many users find the book easier to use. A reference copy is kept at the Business/Science desk at Central Library and is available for use within the library, but cannot be checked out.

If you are looking for federal grants geared towards organizations, you might be interested in Grants.gov, where federal government agencies post grant announcements. You can browse announcements by date, agency, category, or eligibility. In order to apply for these grants, you must complete the online registration process as described on the website. Be sure to register early, as the registration process can take up to four weeks.

What is a non-profit organization? Can I get money from them?

A nonprofit organization is an organization that either does not make money or uses all of the proceeds from services and products to advance its services and programs. Although many nonprofits have programs that help people, the aid is usually not in the form of free money. IRS regulations make it very difficult for nonprofits to give money directly to individuals. 

I work with a non-profit organization. What resources are available for my group?

The Central Library’s Nonprofit Resource Center is a special collection of resources located on the third floor in the Business/Sciences Department. Whether you are just starting to research a nonprofit venture or would like to strengthen an existing one, there is a wealth of information available in a variety of formats, including books, periodicals, and online tools. Foundation Center by Candid hosts a wide range of free tutorials, webinars, and online courses via GrantSpace. As a Funding Information Network partner, the library maintains a core collection of print materials as well as a subscription to Foundation Directory Online, a searchable database providing comprehensive information on grantmakers, their grants, and recipients. 

Can my church apply for grants and assistance?

Churches, as organizations, can apply for grants and funding from private foundations and other charitable groups. Churches meeting the 501(c)(3) requirements are automatically considered tax exempt by the IRS; however, many foundations prefer to give to organizations that have an official 501(c)(3) determination letter on file. For more information, visit Grantspace by Candid for a list of resources for faith-based organizations.

I would like to start a for-profit business. What assistance is available for me?

Generally, the grants available to business are intended for disaster relief, agriculture, and the development of technology. However, there are many sources of non-grant help in the Memphis area:

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) offers free assistance to help business owners grow and develop successful, thriving businesses. The TSBDC gives advice about banking, sources of capital, business proposals, and more. Contact them at 901-333-5085. 

The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a nonprofit association dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with free, confidential, face-to-face counseling. Contact this group at 901-544-3588.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) does not provide grants  to small businesses. Instead, the SBA offers guaranteed loans made by banks and credit unions for start-ups and existing businesses. The Tennessee district office of SBA is located in Nashville, and their telephone number is 615-736-5881.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a method of raising money for a particular cause or special project that involves soliciting donation from a large number of people, typically online through social networks. Businesses, nonprofits, and individuals can use crowdfunding for any type of project, including charitable causes, artistic projects, startup funds, or personal expenses. For more information, visit the GrantSpace Knowledge Base, which has extensive information and a helpful list of resources.

I need help with housing costs, such as rental assistance or renovation and repair. Can the government help?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has rental assistance programs and offers loans and loan-guarantee programs for buying, repairing, and rehabilitating homes. Information about these programs can be found on the HUD website. You can also contact the local HUD office at 901-544-3367. USA.gov’s Help with Home Repairs and Modifications page has more information about funding for home repairs. Additionally, the USDA has information on single-family home funding.

Is there funding available for education, artistic projects or other personal needs?

The library has several reference books that can be useful in locating scholarships for higher education. You can find these materials in the Job & Career Center located in the Business/Sciences Department. GrantSpace has information for artists seeking individual grants, as well as clarification on other forms of grants to individuals.

Most forms of assistance for personal needs (such as medical bills, housing, or funds for individuals with disabilities) will come from charities or government assistance programs. Locally, we encourage you to contact LINC 2-1-1. You can also visit USA.gov’s Benefits, Grants, and Loans page for more information on financial assistance for personal needs.

See Also:
Small Business Resources

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Small Business Center Grants for Businesses page last updated September 11, 2019.