The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
- About 72 percent of businesses with predominantly LGBTQ+ ownership use personal savings to fund their businesses
- Many organizations created grants specifically targeting LGBTQ+ business owners
- Grants don’t require repayment, allowing LGBTQ+ businesses to secure capital without taking on debt
The 2022 Small Business Credit Survey by the Federal Reserve Banks revealed that a staggering 72 percent of businesses with predominantly LGBTQ+ ownership dipped into their personal funds to sustain their businesses. Further, when seeking business financing from an outside source, only 42 percent of businesses managed to secure full approval.
Although many LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs encounter financial challenges funding their business ventures, they shouldn’t rule out grants. Since they don’t need to be repaid, don’t require collateral and have the potential to drive growth and expansion, grants are low risk compared to traditional financing.
Here are some popular small business grant opportunities and resources for LGBTQ+ small businesses.
Small business grants for LGBTQ+ businesses
1. The Transform Business Grant
The Transform Business Grant was created to aid entrepreneurs from historically marginalized backgrounds, including BIPOC, individuals with disabilities, formerly incarcerated individuals, and LGBTQ+ individuals, who are committed to creating a positive social impact. It offers a $1,000 microgrant and a personalized year-long business strategy and development program to each recipient.
Both individuals and teams are encouraged to apply, with preference given to those facing financial hardships. Grant applications for 2023 have already closed, but expect 2024 grant cycles to open in March and August.
2. Queer to Stay
Queer to Stay is a business initiative launched by the Human Rights Campaign and SHOWTIME. This grant was created to bolster and safeguard small businesses catering to the LGBTQ+ community. Over the past three years, this initiative has awarded grants to fifty businesses and has plans to award another 25 in 2023.
Applications for 2023 have closed, so check the website to confirm when the 2024 grant cycle opens.
Astraea supports LGBTQI+ groups worldwide, focusing on racial, economic and gender justice. They provide flexible grants of $5,000 to $30,000 annually to LGBTQI+ groups, primarily led by people of color.
The U.S. Fund centers on the liberation of LGBTQI+ people of color and challenges the criminalization of various marginalized communities. The Intersex Human Rights Fund backs intersex activists advocating for human rights and bodily autonomy. Astraea’s Global Arts Fund connects and promotes impactful LGBTQI+ art used as a tool for social change where resources are limited. Astraea’s International Fund supports LGBTQI+ communities’ projects and organizations addressing oppression related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Applications are not currently being accepted for Astraea’s grant opportunities, but you can receive more information about them by joining its mailing list.
4. Founders First National Pride Grant
Founders First National Pride Grant offers 25 grants of $25,000 each to LGBTQIA+ small businesses. Depending on the growth stage and specific needs of each business, these grants can be used to explore options for redeveloping or acquiring a site, which may involve the purchase of a physical location.
The National Pride Grant relaunches in May 2024, but pre-registration is open. The application requires business information and a one to three-minute pitch video. Eligibility includes:
- Identifying as an LGBTQIA+ business owner
- Having 2 to 50 employees
- At least one year in business
- Annual revenue under $5 million
5. National LGBT Chamber of Commerce
In collaboration with the Grubhub Community Fund, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is offering the Community Impact Grant Program, which provides businesses with financial assistance in the form of grants, with amounts ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. This grant is specifically open to LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+ ally restaurants, cafes, food-serving bars and other dining establishments.
Applications for this grant vary by region, and the final round of grant applications for 2023 closed in April 2023.
IFundWomen is an empowering platform offering grants and resources to support women entrepreneurs, including LGBTQI+ business owners. Its grants provide a financial boost for startups and established businesses, helping entrepreneurs overcome funding barriers. LGBTQI+ entrepreneurs can benefit significantly by accessing IFundWomen’s grants, as they receive financial support and invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities to grow and expand their businesses.
IFundWomen’s universal grant application process simplifies the application process for LGBTQI+ entrepreneurs. By providing your business information, the system can match you with grant opportunities and send a notification so you can apply.
7. NYC Pride Grant
Since 1984, NYC Pride has contributed over $25 million through grant programs to LGBTQIA+-serving and LGBTQIA+-affirming organizations within the New York metro area. The Heritage of Pride Small Business Grant Program, in partnership with Mastercard, empowers LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs with $10,000 grants, digital tools for online business growth and virtual mentorship sessions. Additionally, NYC Pride awards annual Community Grants to LGBTQIA+-friendly organizations, ranging from $750 to $2,500, with grant recipients participating in NYC Pride events as part of their commitment.
Applications for the Heritage of Pride Small Business Grant closed in June 2023. Applications for the Community Grant are accepted on a rolling basis and can be completed online.
8. Backing Small Businesses
Backing Small Businesses, launched by Main Street America and American Express, is an initiative to support vulnerable small business owners. In its second year, it offered 350 small businesses $5,000 grants each to support their work to enhance economic vitality and community well-being. From the 350 recipients, 25 will be chosen to receive an additional enhancement grant of $25,000.
Each grant cycle focuses on awarding business owners of different demographics. For example, Cycle 4 recently awarded small business owners identifying as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, immigrants, refugees or forcibly displaced or LGTBQ+. Cycle 3 awarded small business owners identifying as women, nonbinary people or veterans.
Cycle 4 closed in April 2023. To be notified of future grant cycles, join Main Street America’s mailing list.
Additional resources for LGBTQ+ business owners
LGBTBE Certification from NGLCC
The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) offers an LGBTBE Certification, which recognizes LGBTQ+-owned businesses to boost engagement with NGLCC Corporate Partners. Certified firms access a wide network of corporate contacts, fostering strategic relationships and event participation. They also qualify for scholarships, mentorship, leadership training and business development resources.
The SBA offers various programs and resources to assist all types of business owners in growing and sustaining their businesses. Its Network for LGBTQ+ Businesses promotes economic empowerment within the LGBTQ+ business community. It offers access to SBA programs and services, with a local assistance tool to locate nearby offices and resources. Business owners can also receive counseling on the suitability of SBA loans, specifically the 8(a) loan.
Queer Business Alliance
The Queer Business Alliance is a nonprofit organization that serves LGBTQ+ business owners. Launched in 2018, the organization has worked to equip LGBTQ+ business owners to start, expand and thrive in business. By joining the network, members get access to workshops, mentorship and other resources to help them become successful business owners.
Chambers of Commerce
Several states have established LGBTQ+ Chambers of Commerce to offer local support and networking opportunities for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. For example, in California, there’s the Los Angeles LGBT Chamber of Commerce. In New York, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce New York connects LGBTQ+-owned businesses, and Texas is home to the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce. These chambers provide a supportive community, access to resources and opportunities for LGBTQ+ business owners to network, grow and thrive in their respective regions.
StartOut is considered the leading nonprofit committed to empowering the LGBTQ+ community economically. Its mission is to level the playing field for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs by addressing disparities in access to resources and ensuring equal opportunities. The organization has connected 26,000 individuals, supported 1,270 companies and raised $1.27 billion in funding since its founding. By joining StartOut, members get access to events, mentorship, programs and more.
SCORE is a nonprofit organization that supports small businesses by providing free mentoring, resources, online courses and workshops. Their network of experienced business professionals helps entrepreneurs in building successful ventures.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s LGBTQ Inclusion Hub
Created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the LGBTQ Inclusion Hub for Small Businesses is an online platform providing resources to small business owners seeking to create inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ+ individuals. This platform is a one-stop shop for guidance, solutions and expert assistance, making it easier for small businesses to access information and build LGBTQ+-inclusive environments. It’s particularly beneficial for smaller employers who may lack the time and resources to develop their own inclusion programs.
Grants.gov is a government portal offering information on federal grants, including those that may benefit LGBTQ+ business owners. It streamlines the grant application process, making it easier for organizations to find and apply for government grants.
Alternatives to small business grants
While grants are excellent funding options, there are various alternatives to consider, such as:
- Business loans: Traditional small business loans from banks, credit unions and alternative lenders provide a secured or unsecured funding option. Terms, interest rates and loan amounts will vary depending on the lender you choose.
- Business credit cards: Businesses looking for a more flexible lending experience may find business credit cards to be the answer. You get access to a revolving credit line to use as needed, and your purchases won’t accrue interest if the balance is paid in full monthly.
- SBA loans: These government-backed loans have set interest rate maximums and extended repayment periods of up to 25 years. They’re designed to support small business owners who have exhausted all other financing options.
- Crowdfunding: A way to raise money for business ventures through donations. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo enable you to present your business idea or project for individuals to contribute funds, typically in exchange for products or other goods.
- Angel investors/venture capital: These types of investors provide capital in exchange for equity. They tend to provide financial backing to startups and small businesses.
Angel investors and venture capital firms like Backstage Capital and Pipeline Angels provide financial support to startups. Both support diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, but Backstage Capital focuses on underrepresented founders, while Pipeline Angels empowers women and non-binary investors to back innovative startups.
The bottom line
Support and resources for LGBTQ+ business owners are growing. Through grants, many corporations, organizations and government agencies create opportunities for innovation, growth and social impact. Exploring grants is a great way to fund your business venture without using personal funds or taking on debt, but they can be competitive. Before committing to any type of funding, review all your options and your business’s needs.
Frequently asked questions
An LGBTQ+-owned business is one that is owned and operated by individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.
Grants are financial awards provided by organizations, governments, or institutions to support businesses. Similar to a loan, they may require an application; however, they do not require repayment and are typically awarded based on criteria set by the grant provider.
You can secure funds to start a business through various sources, including personal savings, loans, grants and crowdfunding.