Pride Month may be almost over, but LGBTQ-owned businesses support our communities and economy year round. To help these businesses thrive, we’ve compiled a list of grants for LGBTQ-owned small businesses. Grants are highly coveted, since they don’t need to be paid back and don’t make you give up a piece of your business to outside investors. Since small business grants are competitive, it’s a good idea to consider alternate means of funding as well. We’ll go over a range of financing options, from grants and loans to crowdfunding and angel investors.
Federal Small Business Grants
While these federal grants aren’t exclusively for LGBTQ-owned businesses, they’re a good place to start when looking for small business funding.
Grants.gov is a huge online database for federal funding opportunities. The website has over 1,000 federal grant opportunities and lets you search for grants in your industry. To apply, you’ll first need to create a Workspace account. Through Workspace, you can apply for grants as an individual or with a team of people from your organization.
USDA Rural Business Development Grants
Small rural businesses with fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue can apply for a Rural Business Development Grant. RBDG grants typically range between $10,000 and $500,000, and you can apply through your local or state Rural Development Office.
5 Private Grants for LGBTQ-Owned Small Businesses
Here are some private grants to consider if you’re an LGBTQ business owner.
1. Queer to Stay: LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Showtime® teamed up to create Queer to Stay, a program to fund LGBTQ+ businesses that were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To be eligible, you must own a US-based, for-profit business that mainly serves/caters to the LGBTQ+ community and be able to show how your business was financially impacted by COVID-19. The application guidelines state that special considerations will be given to queer people of color, queer women, and transgender and non-binary business owners. The application deadline is August 31st, 2023.
2. Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice offers multiple grant opportunities for LGBTQ-led nonprofits working for racial, gender, and economic justice in the US and internationally. Grants range from $5,000 to $60,000. The deadlines for 2023 proposals have passed, but check the website for upcoming opportunities in 2024.
3. National Pride Grant
The National Pride Grant from Founders First CDC awards a total of $25,000 in grant money to 25 LGBTQIA+ led businesses annually. To qualify, you must be an LGBTQIA+ business owner, CEO, or president of an active, US-based company with 2 to 50 employees, have been in business for at least one year, and have no more than $5 million in annual revenue. Applications for 2023 have closed, but you can sign up for the Founders First CDC newsletter to be informed when 2024 applications open.
4. NGLCC Community Impact Grant Program
NGLCC, supported by the Grubhub Community Fund, launched the Community Impact Grant Program, which offer $10,000 to $25,000 grants to LGBTQ+ owned and allied restaurants, bars and cafés that serve food. Applications for the 2023 grant cycle are closed, but check the NGLCC website in early 2024 for upcoming opportunities.
5. Borealis Philanthropy
Borealis Philanthropy offers multiple grant opportunities to nonprofits, including two that are specific to the LGBTQ community: the Fund for Trans Generations (FTG) and the Emerging LGBTQ Leaders of Color (ELLC) Fund. Here are the current opportunities available from these two funds:
Fund for Trans Generations—Currently accepting rapid response applications year-round. Apply through the Borealis Online Grants Portal.
Emerging LGBTQ Leaders of Color Fund—Currently accepting rapid response applications for organizations working in reproductive justice. You can learn how to apply by emailing [email protected].
Additional Funding Opportunities for LGBTQ Businesses
Since grant funding isn’t always easy to get, you should also consider other funding options, like taking out a small business loan, crowdfunding, or seeking outside investors.
Small business loans
Small business loans are a common source of funding for new businesses. When looking for a loan, consider Small Business Association (SBA) loans, which are government-backed and have lower interest rates than most other loan options. The SBA website has a list of intermediary lenders you can contact.
Another option is to set up an online crowdfunding campaign for your business venture. Crowdfunding can be a good idea if you’re launching a fun or useful product and have a strong web presence, or if your business has strong ties to the community and can rely on a lot of local support.
Venture capital funds
For start-ups, seeking venture capital funds can be a way to get funding from investors who believe in your business. Some venture capital organizations, like Gaingels and Pipeline Angels, specifically aim to invest in start-ups founded by LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color.
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