Money for Ideas

Illustration by Mars Manderico
Illustration by Mars Manderico

On my onsite visits to small towns, I sometimes get asked about small grants to help get a project off the ground, to get an idea started, or to help entrepreneurs.

The biggest dilemmas are:

  • You have to be a 501c3 to apply, which most businesses are not.
  • The application process requires days of work, or you need to hire a grant writer.
  • The required paperwork before, during, and after completion is ridiculous.

That leaves out a lot of people who just want $500 to $1000 for a project, to repair something, for marketing, or to kick off an idea.

But not everything needs a grant to get started.

Funding ideas that don’t require a grant

Malvern, PA did a Soup and Hoagie fundraiser. The funds raised were for the preservation of the Grange building. You ordered ahead of time and picked up between 11 and 1.

I’ve always wanted to hold a No Pancake Pancake Breakfast. Instead of selling tickets, cooking pancakes, and eating together, there’s an easier way. What if you sold tickets and asked people to cook their own breakfast and share a photo on social media? These sales could sponsor a couple of ideas!

Enid, Oklahoma does a soup supper. It is $5, you get to hear the ideas, everyone votes and the winner gets money.

Hampton, Iowa does the 50/50 raffle a little differently. They sell only 350 one hundred dollar tickets. One winner gets $10,000. The rest of the funds are for the Main Street organization. You could mix this up and have more than one winner and have five entrepreneurs chosen to win the rest. You do have to follow the rules associated with doing raffles in your state.

Have you heard of a Penny Drive? Akron, Iowa high school students wanted to help raise funds to save their pool. So they invited all the classes to donate their pennies. It became quite the competition and kicked off a fundraising drive everyone enjoyed.

What if someone doesn’t use their winnings for the stated intended purpose?

When funding an idea, the entrepreneurs will give you information about what they are working on and how they will use the money. However, sometimes, things happen to delay their actions. Maybe they need to repair their car instead so they can keep the business going. You don’t want an entrepreneur to go belly up because they couldn’t get their car fixed.

Don’t be mad about it. Emergencies happen. Don’t kill the project! Focus on the good and keep going.

Possible Grants Under $5,000

There are some folks who provide grants under $5000. Let’s take a look.

The Awesome Foundation in Nova Scotia has now given out over $80,000 in $1,000 chunks There is cash awarded with no strings attached and a 5-question application.

There are examples of how a $1,000 has turned into thriving businesses in their community, amazing festivals/events that bring people to the communities to spend their $$$, and countless other awesome stuff that make the South Shore of Nova Scotia a more interesting place to live,” said Andrew Button of MashUp Lab.

Northeast Indiana (NEIN) has offered a $1,500 grant to entrepreneurs. The NEIN Venture Hub opened last November in response to a need expressed from across this part of Indiana for an online “entrepreneurial ecosystem” to serve the needs of new and aspiring businesses. It has over 80 resources for entrepreneurs. This grant is made possible through the Fort Wayne-based Northeast Indiana Innovation Center(NIIC).

Entergy, an electric and natural gas provider in  Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas accepts requests for up to $1,000 in all program areas: arts and culture; community improvement/enrichment; economic development, education/literacy, environment, and healthy families. The catch is only 501c3’s can apply.

The community in Grand Rapids, Michigan helps give out $5000 every month through the 5×5 night. There is no restriction on the type of idea that a creator can submit, but it is important to remember that it is all about advancing an idea. The community votes on the ideas to be presented at the event. The selected 5 creators explain a $5,000 step that will advance the idea, and they will meet people who can help.

The National Association for the Self Employed(NASE) offers grants up to $4,000. The catch is you must be a member ($120 a year) and no guarantee you’ll receive a grant. They also want a business plan. And this grant is specifically to help grow your business.

Do you have some fundraising ideas for businesses? I’d love to hear them!