16 Grants for LGBTQ+ Owned Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Emily Starbuck Gerson
Emily Starbuck Gerson

Published:

Welcome to Breaking the Blueprint — a blog series that dives into the unique business challenges and opportunities of underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn how they’ve grown or scaled their businesses, explored entrepreneurial ventures within their companies, or created side hustles, and how their stories can inspire and inform your own success.

grants for lbgtq+ business owners

Small businesses are the lifeblood of America, and those owned by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs make a hugely positive impact. According to a 2022 report by the NLGCC, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, LGBTQ-owned businesses contribute over $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy and support over 33,000 jobs annually.

But as any entrepreneur knows, starting and growing a small business is not just hard work, but it can be expensive. Startup and growth costs are especially challenging for business owners in marginalized populations, such as the LGBTQ+ community, who face higher levels of financial insecurity and fewer resources than their peers.

Fortunately, LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs can apply for grants specific to their community, or grants that are known to be inclusive of them. If you want to fund your LGBTQ+ small business with a grant, check out the list below.

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Grants for LGBTQ+ Owned Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Small business owners commonly fund their ventures with loans, credit cards, lines of credit, and/or investors, but all require repayment, potentially with steep interest fees. While grants are harder to obtain, they’re coveted since the money is gifted and doesn’t have to be repaid.

Grants are offered by a range of entities, including the government, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic foundations, and corporations. They each have their criteria for awarding grants to a select number of businesses or organizations.

1. StartOut

While not quite a typical grant, this membership organization is for LGBTQ entrepreneurs. They offer exclusive networking opportunities, skills training, and mentorship. Members also get access to an investor portal with over 500 investors looking to help finance LGBTQ business owners.

Start Out also has a growth lab, described as the country’s only dedicated LGBTQ accelerator program. StartOut hosts many events, online and in person, and their annual Equity Summit features sessions on funding your business with grants.

Due Date: June 30th, 2023

2. TRANSFORM Business Grant

The TRANSFORM Business grant supports individuals in systematically oppressed groups making a social impact. It’s a microgrant of $1,000 and also includes a customized, year-long business strategy and development program, and preference is given to those in financial need.

Due Date: July - August 2023

3. Queer to Stay

Queer to Stay uplifts LGBTQ+ small businesses and provides the resources they need to operate and continue making an impact. It offers 65+ grants to small, LGBTQ+-owned businesses across the U.S.

Due Date: August 31st, 2023

4. Astraea Foundation

Most grants this foundation awards focus on supporting non-profit and community organizations created by lesbian, trans, intersex, and LGBTQI groups.

Its U.S. fund is a yearly program that supports projects that further the liberation of LGBTQ+ individuals. It accepts proposals from organizations supporting climate justice and disaster resilience for queer, trans, and intersex communities in the U.S. and organizations looking to create long-term, affordable, and sustainable housing for BIPOC LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. South.

Due Date: Accepting proposals as of June 2023

5. Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation gives out around 1,500 grants annually to support social justice and address inequality in all forms, including a focus area on gender, racial, and ethnic justice.

The foundation identifies most recipients themselves, but they do welcome proposals. A quick search for “LGBTQ” under their recent grantees shows many recipients working in the community, and their website emphasizes supporting the LGBTQ+ population. It's currently running two grants programs:

  • JustFilms: Supports film and media storytelling projects that explore different aspects of inequality.
  • Good Neighbor Committee: Supports New York-based organizations that contribute to improving and uplifting local communities.

Due Date: Accepting proposals as of June 2023

6. National Pride Grant

Founders First CDC, which doles out various grants, launched its inaugural Pride Grant for LGBTQIA+ Small Businesses in 2023 to increase businesses led by diverse founders; the grant will give $25,000 in grant packages each to 25 LGBTQ-led US businesses.

Due Date: Check back for the 2024 deadline

7. NLGCC Community Impact Grant Program

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce partners with food delivery business Grubhub for an annual grant program. It offers grants between $10,000 to $25,000 for LGBTQ-owned or allied businesses in the food and beverage industry. 

Due Date: Check back for the 2024 deadline

8. Borealis Philanthropy

Borealis Philanthropy manages several funds that give grants, two geared toward the LGBTQ+ community. The Fund for Trans Generations supports leaders and organizations working to improve all aspects of life for trans and nonbinary people, and funding is available year-round. It also has the Emerging LGBTQ+ Leaders of Color grant, which funds queer and trans leaders of color under age 40 in inclusivity and social justice work.

Due Date: Check back for the 2024 deadline

9. SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant

Black business founders who self-identify as women or non-binary can apply for these grants to remove barriers to capital. Grants range between $5,000 and $10,000 and are given to legally registered businesses to help them scale. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Due Date: Check back for the 2024 deadline

General Business Grants

There are loads of other small business grants available that aren’t exclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, but may be a good fit. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Grants.gov is the central hub for federal grants. Thousands of grant programs are listed in the website’s database, and you can search by keyword. You’ll be able to find grants specifically for those in minority communities, or those that are open to anyone but put a preference on minority applicants. Make sure when searching grants that you check eligibility requirements carefully, as some are only for non-profit or government organizations.
  • The Comcast Rise Grant program originally focused on small business owners of color or women in designated US cities. It’s now open to all small businesses, but their emphasis remains on supporting diversity, equity and inclusion, so LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs — especially those with intersectionalities in other minority groups — may have a better shot.
  • Women Who Tech gives out grants to female-founded or women-focused startups. They have several programs and challenges that grant funding for innovation in technology, so LGBTQ+ business owners who identify as female may want to apply for their grants.

Many businesses are also dedicated to helping LGTBQ+ business owners find the capital they need. Here are some examples:

  • iFundWomen offers coaching, networking, and training. It also offers crowdfunding focused on queer-owned businesses and their campaigns.
  • Pipeline Angels is an angel investor firm that supports transgender women, cisgender women, nonbinary, two-spirit, and GNC founders.
  • Loud Capital is a venture capital firm of diverse founders that invests in businesses owned by diverse founders.
  • Gaingels facilitates venture capital investing through an ecosystem of investors who offer capital to startups and companies run by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

Over to You

Starting and scaling a successful small business can be incredibly rewarding, but the reality is that it’s often exhausting and expensive — especially for LGBTQ entrepreneurs, who already face challenges such as discrimination and wage gaps. As you explore your funding options, make sure to include grants in the mix — the fact that they don’t require repayment can save you heaps of money.

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