Whoever said, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” apparently hadn’t heard of small business grants. What do Facebook, DreamWorks, PayPal, and Apple have in common? All were founded or co-founded by someone from the LGBT community. With about 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses in the US, it’s not surprising that LGBT people have built some of the most successful businesses on earth.
That being said, everyone has to start somewhere. Small business grants and loans are a great way to get the capital you need to get your big idea off the ground.
The David Bohnett Foundation
And what better place to start looking for grants than the David Bohnett Foundation. The David Bohnett Foundation is committed to improving society through social activism and that shows through their grants.
The David Bohnett foundation started awarding money to members of the LGBT community in 1999 and since its inception has given away over $23 million in grants. This year, they have given away almost $1 million and have an entire section of their website dedicated to grants for the LGBT community.
The grants themselves range from $500 to $10,000 depending on which one you apply to.
This grant is great if you have a business idea that is focused on sustainability, which is the main mission of the Coca-Cola Foundation. They are dedicated to enhancing the sustainability of local communities worldwide and empowering underprivileged people.
Throughout the fiscal year, the foundation gives away one percent of its operating income. Since its inception, the foundation has given away over $1 billion, and in 2017, it gave away $138 million to over 70 communities worldwide.
Application guidelines can be found here.
American Association of University Women Career Development Grant
If you’re looking to re-enter the workforce, but need an advanced degree, the American Association of University Women Career Development Grant (AAUW) offers funding just for you.
The Grant was founded in 1972 and continues today. Each grant is between $2,000–12,000 depending on needs, and recipients can use the funds for tuition, fees, books, supplies, local transportation, and dependent care.
The grant applications are open from August 1 to November 15 each year and you can apply here.
Eileen Fisher’s Supporting Women in Environmental Justice Grant
Starting a female-led nonprofit? Check out these grants sponsored by the women’s clothing retailer Eileen Fisher.
This grant focuses on preventing climate change, encourages nonprofits to apply if they want women to be part of the solution to climate change. The goal of the nonprofit should be to train women leaders to provide women and girls with knowledge, tools, and access to contribute to climate change resiliency.
Eileen Fisher has allocated $200,000 this year and will split it up into $10,000 to $40,000 grants.
Applications are open during the month of April.
Eileen Fisher’s Community Partnership Grant
If environmental justice isn’t your jam, Eileen Fisher also has a community partnership grant. Eileen Fisher is committed to helping grassroots nonprofit organizations thrive because it believes that the biggest impact happens at a local level. They want to partner with people committed to creating a thriving inclusive local community.
If you’re wanting to start a business that makes positive change for the Environment, Human Rights, and Women & Girls in your community, then you need to apply to this program. The grant gives each recipient $2,500 to be used for program or operating expenses.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis through our online form and evaluated following each quarterly deadline.
Open Meadows Foundation
Open Meadows Foundation is another great place to look if you want to start a nonprofit focusing on equality and activism. Geared towards women and girls, Open Meadow’s mission is to direct its resources towards changing the world. We are looking for projects focused on activism, political change, and empowerment directed by, and benefiting women and girls.
Each project’s annual budget should not exceed $75,000 and smaller organizations are given priority. They also have a $2,000 grant available specifically for projects that have a diverse staff, which is great if you’re looking to hire other LGBT people.
To apply, head to their website, which you can find here.
Women’s Business Centers
You’re also going to want to check out this database of SBA-sponsored centers. It includes a network of over 100 educational centers that provide resources for women-focused small businesses.
The mission of WBC is to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs. It’s a great place to get connected to other like-minded individuals and start that business project you’ve been putting off.
To apply for their grants, you’ll need to get connected to the nearest women’s center.
The ExxonMobil Foundation focuses most of its philanthropic efforts on creating economic opportunities for women, math and science education, and malaria research. As a company, ExxonMobile has invested upwards of $120 million into programs that empower underprivileged women.
Their latest initiative, She Counts, is a collaboration with Women’s World Banking and Center for Global Development to give women financial tools they need to start businesses. As a company, Exxon has pledged up to $5 million in grants in 2019.
To work with them, you’ll need to get in touch with their communications director.
Arcus focuses on organizations working to advance social justice for LGBT people around the world. Their grants go to people who are working to make the world a more equitable place. In 2018, they granted $15 million to organizations that focus on those causes. They also gave away $12 million to companies working to save great apes and gibbons, which is a bit more specific, but if that’s your jam, it’s worth checking out as well.
To apply, head on over to their website.
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice (US)
Another grant that helps support LGBTQI groups fighting for racial, economic and gender justice, Astraea has several different grant programs. One is for U.S. organizations, another is for International organizations, a third specifically for Intersex people, and finally one for a Global Arts fund.
Each grant is a little bit different, but they generally range from $5,000 to $30,000 per year depending on the needs of the organizations.
To apply to any of their programs, head here.
Ford Foundation (US)
Ford Foundation has a database of grants that’s worth scrolling through. Altogether they’ve given away 1,294 grants to 1,038 grantees totaling $397 million. Each grant is a bit different, and some are small such as their $3,000 grant for Creativity and Free Expression program, and others are massive such as their $200,000 grant for their Beyond Current Program Structure program.
You’re almost positive to find something that suits your needs. Check it out here.
LGBT SMALL BUSINESS LOANS
SBA LGBT Outreach
If you’re looking to specifically network with other LGBT businesses to get started with your own, SBA has a funding and resources page specifically for the LGBT community.
While they have a myriad of small business loans, you definitely want to see if you qualify for the Business Development program. This program is specifically in place to help marginalized people who don’t have a lot of business capital get their projects off the ground.
To check out the eligibility requirements, and to apply, you’ll want to go to the SBA website.
StartOut is a community for LGBT entrepreneurs that provides resources, education, mentorship, and funding. Their mission is to increase the impact that LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs have in their own society.
Their program is subscription-based, but if you sign up, you get access to events, forums, and showcases. Plus, you’ll be paired with a mentor.
They have chapters in Austin, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
If you need a small business loan, Excel Capital is a proud partner of the LGBT community and is ready to help you find the right loan for your business.
They’ll guide you through the process of acquiring a loan and help you figure out exactly why you need the loan. Maybe it’s for payroll or new equipment or a business expansion. Having a clear idea of how the boost in cash flow will help set you up for success is important, and this company makes sure you get that figured out.
LGBT VENTURE CAPITAL
Want to go a more traditional route and raise funds through investors? Live in Texas? Well Diversity Fund has got the hookup. They are focused specifically on women and minority-led businesses who need capital, along with their investor allies who might not have the means to invest traditionally into startups. The tech platform connects investors with entrepreneurs.
As a crowdfunding tool, Diversity Fund unites rewards, lending, and equity finance, provides sophisticated tools for investors to evaluate each deal and company, and is fun and engaging for everyone!
The idea is that new companies can reach a large body of investors through crowdfunding on the platform. The platform allows both accredited and “unaccredited” investors to put their money towards Texas businesses and startups.
Go check it out today!
Backstage Capital recognizes that less than 10 percent of all venture capital deals go to women, People of Color, and LGBT founders, and they want to change that. Backstage Capital has invested over $7M in more than 120 companies led by underrepresented founders. This could be a great place to reach out and find people who want to invest in your business.
They also have a robust mentoring team that you can connect with as well to help get your project up and running.
You can also get connected with them here.
Want to work with an organization focused on LGBT businesses but that also has a philanthropic branch devoted to LGBT causes? LGBT Capital might be the fit for you. Their philanthropic arm focuses on LGBT charities with a particular focus on social enterprise and entrepreneurship.
But they’d also love to work with you to develop, design, and execute your business plan. They developed an LGBT Diversity Investment Index to help fund projects focused specifically on the LGBT consumer market. And they have a research team devoted to exploring that market and helping you create a profitable business product.
You can reach out to them with the email listed on their website.
Angel List – LGBT Market
If you’re building an LGBT technology startup, try to get your company on the AngelList. It connects job seekers and investors to LGBT platforms with a mission to democratize the investment process and to help startups with their challenges in fundraising and talent.
It’s a great way to knock out two birds with one stone. You raise both capital and can fill job positions for your quickly growing company. It even lets you raise the money free of charge. How amazing is that?
To join the platform, and for more information, start here.
Republic – LGBT Startups
If you’re looking for another crowdfunding platform, Republic is part of a family of startup platforms together with AngelList, but they allow you to raise up to $1 million from 250,000+ people while increasing product sales, growing your brand, and engaging your community.
While they’re not specifically directed towards the LGBT community like AngelList is, they are focused on diverse companies and investors. Because talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. And they want to be that great equalizer of opportunity.
They also have a specific division devoted to cryptocurrency capital raising, if you’re into that.
To apply to raise your own capital, fill out this form.
Trying to create a cool business idea, but want to partner with a company who specifically wants to champion LGBT+ people? I’d recommend approaching Gaingels. Their mission is to add C-suite LGBT+ talent to the business world and they do that through investing money in platforms that matter to them.
They started investing in January of 2015, and since then, have invested over $20 million in LGBT+ companies.
In order to work with them, you need to have a strong proposal that meets four out of five of these categories. Founder(s) experience, Market size, Investor leadership, Traction, and Deal terms. So make sure you do your homework before reaching out. But if you think you have a strong pitch, you can reach out to them and set up a meeting or send in a video.