Small-Business Grants for Minorities: The Best Opportunities―And Where to Find More

Looking for grants just for minority business owners? Business.org has rounded up your best grant options so you can get free funds for your small business.
Best for COVID Relief
L I S C logo
LISC
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Funds for businesses affected by COVID-19
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Grants for businesses in rural areas
Best for Native Organizations
first nations development institutue logo
First Nations Development Institute
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Variety of grants related to Native issues
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Larger grant sizes
Best for Asian American Women
Asian Woman Giving Circle
Asian Women Giving Circle
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Annual grant cycle
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Funds for art projects
Best Odds
Your Local Organizations
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Less competition for grants
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    More minority grant opportunities

If you want free money for your minority-owned business, grants offer one way to get it. But first, you have to find the right grant opportunity to apply for.

There might not be as many active grant programs for minority businesses as you might hope. But we’ve rounded up a few grants minority small-business owners can apply for―and plenty of information on where you can find more.

Let’s get you a grant.

Best grants for minority business owners

Minority small-business grants

Organization
Grant amount
Open to
Application cycle
Get started
LISC$5,000–$75,000Entrepreneurs in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York or in rural communitiesMonthly (through Feb. 2021)
First Nations Development Institute$10,000–$32,000Tribal governments and Native-controlled nonprofits and organizationsOne-time (Jan. 2021 deadline)
Asian Women Giving CircleUp to $15,000Arts and culture organizations led by Asian American womenAnnually

Data effective 11/16/20. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

LISC: Best for COVID relief

Yes
Pro Bullet Your business has been affected by COVID-19.
Pro Bullet You have a for-profit business.
Pro Bullet You need to pay rent, utilities, payroll, other operational costs.
No
Con Bullet You have access to capital elsewhere.
Con Bullet You don’t want to go through a background check.
Con Bullet You want to pay for marketing, remodeling, or other non-operational costs.

LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) has been offering COVID relief grants to small businesses since April 2020.

These grants have been designed to help vulnerable businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic. That means the funds have to go to immediate operational costs, such as making rent or payroll. And LISC has been prioritizing business owners that can’t get working capital elsewhere, with a specific emphasis on minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses.

Right now, the only active grant is the LISC-Lowe’s Rural Relief Small Business Grant―a grant specifically for businesses in rural areas. (LISC offered other grants earlier this year, including grants specifically for business owners in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.)

To qualify for the LISC-Lowe’s Rural Relief Small Business Grant, your business must be in an area with a population of fewer than 50,000 people. This grant has monthly application rounds, with the last round closing February 2, 2021.

LISC says it has already given $48 million in grants to 3,000 business owners.1 While it hasn’t announced plans for more grants or further application cycles just yet, we’re hopeful that it will soon.

First Nations Development Institute: Best for Native organizations

Yes
Pro Bullet You are a Tribal Government or Native-controlled organization.
Pro Bullet Your project supports Native communities.
Pro Bullet You have a clear budget, timeline, and staff list.
No
Con Bullet You don’t have a thoroughly planned project.
Con Bullet Your project involves lobbying, entertainment, or scholarships.

The First Nations Development Institute offers a variety of grants to Tribal governments, Native-controlled nonprofits, Native-controlled community organizations, and Native 7871 organizations.

These grants are one-time opportunities, but First Nations offer new ones on a regular basis. In fact, it’s offered 19 different grants since 2018.

Right now, First Nations has two active grants. One is specifically for tribes and nonprofits in California helping communities recover from COVID. The second, the Gather Food Sovereignty Grant, will go to tribes or organizations working to improve food systems in Native communities.

If you miss out on these specific grant opportunities, you can always check back for new opportunities. As we said, First Nations has offered quite a few different grants in the last couple years, though they focus on different topics (like language preservation).

And keep in mind that First Nations has more detailed grant funding applications that some other organizations do. The Gather Food Sovereignty Grant, for example, requires a clear budget and timeline proposal, in addition to other application materials. So don’t procrastinate on your First Nations grant application.

Asian Women Giving Circle: Best for Asian American women

Yes
Pro Bullet You’ve got a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or get sponsorship from one.
Pro Bullet You have a specific project in mind.
Pro Bullet Your project deals with Asian American women and girls.
No
Con Bullet Your project is not based in New York City.
Con Bullet Your project doesn’t have a social justice component.
Con Bullet You don’t have a track record of completing projects.

The Asian Women Giving Circle grant is easily the most niche grant on our list. But it continues to give funds year after year, so it’s worth mentioning.

As you can probably guess from the name, this grant is all about Asian American women. So you’ll have to have a nonprofit organization led by Asia American women to qualify, and your project has to deal with social justice for Asian American women and girls.

Oh, and your nonprofit organization has to be based in New York City. (We did say it was niche.)

If you meet those qualifications, though, you should definitely apply. The Asian Women Giving Circle hands out eight grants during each annual grant cycle. Between the niche qualifications and the number of grants, this grant likely has better odds than many others out there.

Much like the First Nations grants, the Asian Women Giving Circle does have a fairly involved application. Give yourself lots of time to complete it.

Your local organizations: Best odds

The grants above are great, but the best place to find grants for minority entrepreneurs might be your own backyard.

Local organizations, clubs, and colleges may offer grants for minority-owned businesses in your area. These will have less competition than national grants, so you’ll have much better odds of winning funds.
And as you may have noticed, our list of grants for minority business owners is pretty sparse (more on that in just a minute). Looking at local grant opportunities can give you more options.

So ask around at your chamber of commerce, business center, or entrepreneur association. You may be surprised at the grant opportunities around you.

Minority small-business grants 101

You’ve seen our favorite business grants for minorities, but let’s take a moment to talk about how grants work and answer some questions you might have.

Minority business grants work just like any other business grants, which means that they give free money to businesses that don’t have to be repaid.

To get a grant, you have to qualify and submit an application. For some grants (like the LISC grants above), there aren’t many qualifications to worry about. But for others (like the Asian Women Giving Circle), the qualifications can get pretty detailed and specific.

Keep in mind that many small-business owners want grants, so you’ll likely have quite a bit of competition when you apply. But if you’re lucky, you’ll win the grant and get the money for your business. Just make sure you use it for the designated purpose, or else you could wind up in trouble.

Why is the list of minority grants so short?

Our list of minority grants is shorter than others out there. And frankly, that’s because we stuck to actual grants for minority-owned businesses. Other lists . . . don’t.

To show you what we mean, let’s break down some of the “grants” you’ll find on other lists.

For example, the MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) extends grants to organizations that run its Minority Business Centers―not to businesses. Likewise, the USDA’s Rural Business Development Grants go to entities (like towns and colleges) that help small businesses in rural areas.

Even the Native American Business Development Institute (NABDI) Grant goes to tribes doing feasibility studies on proposed businesses rather than to businesses themselves.

And the SBA 8(a) Business Development program doesn’t do grants at all. It does help socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, yes, but it does that by helping them get government contracts and getting business training.

See what we’re talking about?

And unfortunately, we weren’t able to find too many real grants for minority business owners. Several we did find were one-time grants, and the deadlines were already past.

That should give you hope, though, because it means that other grants for minority business owners will come up―if you know where to look.

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Where can I find other grants for minority entrepreneurs?

New grants come out all the time. You can probably find lots of grants not listed above.
As we said, one of your best bets is to look locally. Find organizations or institutions related to business, and ask if they have or know of any grant opportunities. Your local chamber of commerce or MBDA Business Center might have some leads for you, for example.

You can also look out for Federal grants by checking Grants.gov.

And if we spot any great new grant opportunities, we’ll be sure to update our list.

What counts as a minority-owned business?

The definition of a minority-owned business will depend on the grant you’re applying for.

It’s always best to look at the specific eligibility requirements for grants you’re interested in.

That said, one popular definition comes from the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMDSC). It offers a certification for minority-owned businesses.

To qualify, a business must be primarily owned (at least 51%) by a minority group member―or a person who has at least 25% Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic, or Native American heritage.

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Other business grant options

If you can’t find any grants for minorities that will work, you still have plenty of options.

You can always apply for general business grants, for example. Yes, you’ll have more competition―but you’ll also have more opportunities.

We’ve listed a handful of our favorite business grants below. (Our guide to grants for startups has more information about them.)

Grants for small-business owners

Organization
Grant amount
Open to
Application cycle
Get started
Amber Grant$10,000–$25,000Women entrepreneursMonthly
FedEx Small Business GrantUp to $50,000Small-business ownersAnnually
National Association for the Self-EmployedUp to $4,000NASE members (self-employed entrepreneurs)Quarterly
StreetShares Foundation$4,000–$15,000Veteran, reserve, or active-duty US military and their spousesAnnually

Data effective 11/16/20. At publishing time, amounts, rates, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

And if you’re a female entrepreneur, you can always apply for some of the best small-business grants for women.

Other business funding options

While grants are great (who doesn’t want free money?), you may also want to consider other financing options.

For example, you can try crowdfunding your business. Crowdfunding for business can take a long time, and it tends to work best for product-based businesses, but it’s another way you can get money you don’t have to repay.

Or you can look into low-cost business loans. Kiva microloans don’t have any interest. So while you do have to pay them back, they cost much less than business loans from other lenders. And if you’re up for paying a little more, we’ve rounded up the best business loans for minorities.

The takeaway

Grants offer a great way to get free financial assistance for your minority-owned business.

While our brief list may not have had the perfect grant opportunity for you, we hope we’ve given you ideas of where to look for other grants―whether it’s a local grant specifically for minority businesses or a national grant any business can apply for.

Good luck getting a grant!

Now that you know about your grant choices, learn more about more of the best small-business funding options.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources
1. LISC, “LISC Small Business Relief Grants.” Accessed November 16, 2020.

Chloe Goodshore
Written by
Chloe Goodshore
Chloe covers business financing and loans for Business.org. She has worked with many small businesses over the past 10 years, from video game stores to law firms. Those years watching frustrated business owners try to sift through their many options gave her a passion for breaking down complex business topics. She wants to help business owners spend less time agonizing over their businesses so they can spend more time running them.
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