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April 17, 2020

In mid-March, Facebook announced its $100 million grant program for small businesses across 30+ countries where Facebook employees live and work. 

Screenshot via Facebook

Further updates on April 2 revealed that $40 million of this program will be given in cash grants and ad credits to U.S. small businesses across 34 cities. Facebook will work in collaboration with a third-party small business partner, Ureeka, to distribute these grants and also invest in eligible minority- and women-owned small businesses. 

How does the program help small businesses? 

Facebook hopes to help small businesses who need it the most so that they can stay open, support their employees, and continue serving their communities. The cash and ad credits granted by the program will serve to sustain work forces, contribute to rent costs, connect businesses with more customers, and cover operational costs. Applicants must include their plans for using the grant in their application for the program.

Who is eligible for the program?

While it is not required that businesses be on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp to apply, they must meet these qualifications

  • Have between 2 and 50 employees 
  • Have been in business for at least one year 
  • Have experienced challenges resulting from COVID-19
  • Be in or near a location where Facebook operates (34 cities in the U.S.)

To put the need for assistance into perspective, Goldman Sachs conducted a survey of 1,500 small businesses, 96 percent of which say they have already been affected by COVID-19. However, it is unclear what demonstrates sufficient impact from the crisis to be eligible, or exactly how close these businesses must be to eligible locations. 

Despite Facebook’s messaging around eligibility, we still have some questions left about how and why Facebook has constructed this program, and what you can do with these grants if you receive them. 

Why is it required that businesses be located in a location where Facebook operates? 

If it is not required for small businesses to be on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp to apply, why do they need to be located in an area where Facebook operates? Is it to help support Facebook employees simultaneously by investing money in their own communities? Does it have something to do with implementing the ad credit grants? Maybe it is purely for convenience or efficient use of resources?

The truth is, we don’t know. Facebook says the company is working to increase availability of the program, and that small business owners should sign up for email updates on the topic.

Can the grant be used to advertise to audiences outside of the community where the business is based? 

Does this location requirement come with advertising restrictions? Expanding on the speculation that Facebook could be trying to provide this support in specific communities, that could mean that advertising efforts might be more limited than usual.

If a small business is located in Pittsburgh, PA—one of the cities with current availability—can it use these ad credits to advertise to audiences in Philadelphia? This falls under the category of “connecting businesses with more customers,” but are there restrictions on this? Though we haven’t found a clear answer, since applicants have to explain how they would use the grant money, it’s possible that these questions will be addressed in the review process.

What other resources is Facebook offering? 

For any small businesses who are not eligible to apply for these grants, Facebook has been rolling out other resources available to all.

Screenshot via Facebook

There will be placements on Facebook to promote digital gift cards for businesses, create fundraisers, and announce temporary service changes. Facebook has also built their Business Resource Hub specifically for helping businesses survive through the COVID-19 crisis. Resources include tips, tailored industry guides, tool kits and more. 

While there are some remaining questions, it is nice to see giants like Facebook stepping up, and this program could help keep the lights on for a great many small businesses. The best thing for your small business to do now is sign up to receive information and be prepared when Facebook opens applications in your area. 

About the Author

Katie Hagar

Katie joined ChatterBlast Media as Strategy and Project Coordinator, where she feels she found the perfect opportunity to combine her two areas of study: communications and digital media trends and analytics. Outside of the digital space, Katie’s first passion, beginning at age seven, is horseback riding. She currently spends most of her spare time training a young horse named Oliver in Chester Springs, PA.

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