Chapter 12

Small business grants

Grants are a great funding option for some businesses. They can be a lot of work to get, but the reward is free money.

What is a small business grant?

A grant is money that’s given to your business by the government, a company or a philanthropist. Grants are essentially free money – you don’t have to pay them back. Their aim is to give small businesses a helping hand. They’re often targeted at job creation, projects that traditional lenders don’t support, and on increasing economic benefits for communities.

Who gets them?

Competition for grants is high – everybody wants free financing. You’ll see a lot of them are for non-profits, but keep looking, there are plenty for businesses too.

Small business grants tend to be aimed at certain regions or sectors, specific types of businesses or causes, or particular community groups.

How much is a small business grant?

Grants can go from as small as a few hundred dollars to as large as hundreds of thousands. Most, however, are less than 10K. For that reason, they’re often a supplement to other types of small business funding.

How do you find them?

Grants can come from every level of government, philanthropists, or companies.

Here’s where to check:

  • Government websites – central and local government. They should have a list of their grants and links to other sources like non-profits, foundations and corporations.
  • Small business and industry associations. They may have their own grants or information about grants their members have had success with.
  • Your accountant or bookkeeper. They may have other clients who’ve been successful getting grants.

Are there startup business grants?

There are grants for startups but they’re not going to fund your whole business. They might cover the costs of getting professional advice to create a business or financial plan, specific training, or investment in equipment. They’re aimed at getting your foot on the ladder – it’s still up to you to climb it.

Grants for research and development (R&D) are more plentiful, especially for innovative products and processes. These grants can help you plan, develop, test and refine your idea. They may take you through several stages but ultimately you’ll have to find the final funds to go to market with your concept.

What strings are attached with grants?

Grants can be targeted and have restrictions. The money might only be able to be spent on specific things, or in certain places. For example:

  • you might have to do some type of orientation or training before you can access the funds
  • they might have a time limit, such as having to do your R&D within 12 months
  • you may need to put up an equivalent amount or combine it with additional funding
  • you may have to justify what you’ve done with the grant, or share results if, for example, you used the money for R&D

How to apply for a small business grant

The money might be free but you’ll need to show why you deserve it.

Don’t rush it

Be prepared to put in some serious time on the application. So read up about what’s required from you before you commit. Check the time frame: how long will it take to apply and get an answer? Can you wait that long or is another source of funding a better idea?

Tailor your application

Do your homework as to why the grant was created and its purpose. Your application should show how your business fits the aims of the grant and how the grant will help your business – and make a wider difference if that is an objective.

Be thorough

Expect to provide information on yourself as well as your product or service, your market demographics, and how you plan to spend the grant. This may involve charts, graphs, and budgets. Know the strengths of your business so you can impress. Your business plan should have most of the information you need.


Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

How to finance your business

Need finance for your business? Learn about the types of finance, approaching lenders and investors and more.

  1. What is business finance?

    Your new business idea is ready to go. Now you need to find the right small business funding. But where do you start?

  2. How much business funding do you need?

    Knowing how much money you need will help you choose the right type of finance. These tips will help you find a number.

  3. Debt versus equity finance

    Most forms of funding fall into one of two camps. Let’s look at the main pros and cons of debt versus equity.

  4. Main types of finance

    It takes money to make money. So what sort of finance options are there? Here are the types that fund most businesses.

  5. How to get a business loan

    Getting a business loan is still one of the most common ways to finance a business. So let’s look at how to get one.

  6. Peer-to-peer lending

    Peer-to-peer lending is an alternative method of getting a business loan. How does it work?

  7. Friends and family loans

    Friends and family loans may be available when other types of finance aren’t, but they do require some precautions.

  8. Invoice financing

    Ever thought your cash flow would be better if everyone just paid what they owed you? Well, you may not have to wait.

  9. How to find investors

    How do you find investors for equity financing? Let’s look at what types there are and where to locate them.

  10. Angel investors versus venture capitalists

    Angel investors and venture capitalists are alternative finance sources. What can they offer your business?

  11. How crowdfunding works

    Crowdfunding can get you the money to build a business, and the attention to build a customer base.

  12. Small business grants

    Grants are a great funding option for some businesses. They can be a lot of work to get, but the reward is free money.

  13. Pitching for business funding

    Seeking business funding is a major step but you needn’t be daunted. Here’s how to pitch your business.

  14. Tools and guides for your business

    Now that you’re in business, you want to stay there. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

Download the guide to financing your business

Your intro to the different types of finance, including their pros and cons. Fill out the form to receive our finance guide as a PDF.

Start using Xero for free

Access Xero features for 30 days, then decide which plan best suits your business.