These days, a website is a necessity for any small business. Services like WordPress and Square Space enable even the most technically challenged business owners to launch beautiful, functional, low-cost websites. However, these "starter sites" don't necessarily offer the interactive functionalities and merchant services that today's small businesses require in order be competitive. Furthermore, with technical challenges — from mobile functionality to the growing need for companion applications ("Apps") — to consider, the world of website design can get really tricky, and really pricey — really fast.
Any politician will tell you that supporting small businesses is one of their top priorities. But the small business grants that get appropriated through Congress and state, or even local, legislative bodies are often intended to address larger social or economic challenges. Government grants often come with strings attached. Caron Beesley, writing for the U.S. Small Business Administration, puts it bluntly, saying, "Don't waste your time pursuing 'free money.' Chances are you won't find it" [source: Beesley].
Nevertheless, in some cases, a business may be able to fund its website design with funds obtained through public grants, even if the grants are intended for larger purposes. Trees Atlanta is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Atlanta's forest through planting, conservation and education. Because "education" is one of its founding principles, Trees Atlanta was able to utilize funds secured through grant writing and its capital campaign to design and develop its website and other education-related initiatives. Nonprofits and small businesses focused on goods and services of special benefit (for example, green technologies, minority-owned businesses, research and development, health care industries, etc.) may have an easier time securing public grants. Check Grants.gov to see what kinds of public funds are available and whether your business might qualify.
There are also private grant programs targeted toward for-profit small businesses. Chase Bank's "Mission Main Street" and American Express's "Corporate Social Responsibility" programs provide grant dollars to a small number of eligible small businesses each year. Though highly competitive, these private grants tend to have fewer strings attached and may be a better option for small businesses seeking grant funding for general use.
Finding grant funding for your small business website may be difficult, but it isn't completely impossible. Tenacity is the key. If you're feeling tenacious, head over to the next page for related articles and lots more information.