How to Get Funding for Your LGBTQ-Led Business

By Heather Petty

Grants, loans and special funding programs for small businesses are nothing new. Just last month, Verizon’s Small Business Digital Ready closed a round of grant funding that offered $10,000 to help business owners with digital marketing strategies. But that kind of funding isn’t always available to everyone.

According to a 2022 report released by the Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR) and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), while businesses led by LGBTQ owners are just as likely to apply for small business funding as any other business, they are less likely to receive it. Even Covid-19 relief was granted at a far lower rate to LGBTQ-owned businesses than others.

But there are lenders out there committed to offering financing to marginalized business owners, some even specifically looking to work with LGBT owners.

For starters, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers LGBT Business Enterprise certification that gives owners special access to corporate partners looking to fund businesses that serve the LGBT community. SBA also provides a network of programs and services as well as a tool to find local funding opportunities.

The non-profit StartOut is focused on providing funding and resources to LGBTQ entrepreneurs. And venture capital firms like Diversity VCBackstage Capital and LGBT Capital provide funding and connections to invest directly.

You can also seek out grant opportunities, providing free capital that you never have to pay back, all designed to help you keep your business afloat or to expand it so you can reach more people. There are quite a few grants available, including:

  • The David Bohnett Foundation, which provides funding for businesses and organizations focused on LGBT rights and protection.
  • Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, which offers grants to nonprofits working on social justice and climate change.
  • Queer to Stay, a joint grant program between the Human Rights Campaign and the Showtime television network that supports businesses owned by LGBTQ+ people of color, women and the transgender community, especially those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Transform Business Grant offers $1,000 and a personalized business development and strategy plan to its awardees.
  • The Coca-Cola Foundation awards grants to businesses that provide community-based philanthropy. You pitch your charity program, and the foundation decides whether to fund it.
  • The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant not only provides $5,000 and $10,000 in grant funding to black women and nonbinary entrepreneurs, but also advice and assistance to find additional venture capital funding.

Most of these are national opportunities, but local grants and resources can be less competitive, giving you a better chance in the end. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce and local community banks and credit unions for funding. And don’t limit yourself to LGBTQ-specific loans and programs. Comparing small business lenders could help you find the best financing for your business.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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