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Overview and Tutorial

Government Grant Programs

There are thousands of government grant programs that support practically all facets of our society in business, cultural, health, and humanitarian disciplines. These grants are generally awarded to non-profit organizations, state and county governments (often for redistribution to individuals) universities and other organizational entities.

Some government grants are available to private individuals. When searching the government grants directory, take note of the "eligible applicants" criteria, which is designated as A, B, or C. Those grants designated C are available to private individuals, while A and B grants are available only to organizations as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Note that you may have the legal right to establish a non-profit organization of your own to perform certain beneficial functions within your community. Non-profit status would give you a tremendous advantage toward winning initial grants funding, and ongoing funding into the future. However, we do not advise forming any sort of an organization simply as a "front" or a method to get grant money. Be sure your organization has a legitimate purpose, but also remember that non-profit organizations are allowed to hire workers and pay salaries to administrators (in theory, you!) We suggest you contact an attorney for help in forming a non-profit organization within your state.

Foundation Grant Programs

Individuals seeking grants money may find their needs more suited by a grant from a private foundation. These foundations are usually associated with wealthy corporations or families, and are not bound by government restrictions. They give money to individuals who meet certain criteria and qualifications in areas which the foundation has an interest.

The application process, however, remains much the same as with government grant programs. You should first request an information and application packet, and then follow the procedure as lined out by the foundation. Use the link in the top frame (above) to locate foundation grants for many types of personal assistance. Just keep in mind that the key to obtaining grant money is based in a very simple approach. Generally, if you are an organized, detail-oriented person who can follow instructions, your chances are much better than average of being awarded the grant of your choice.

Where to Begin

Use the links in the top frame (above) to locate grants programs that are of interest to you, and for which you meet the qualifications and criteria. That information is explained in each individual grant program listing. When you find grants that suits your needs, make notations of:
* the full title of each specific grant
* the full name of the administrating agency or foundation
* all contact information including the administrator's name and title
* five-digit CFDA Number (00.000) if it is a government funded grant

Make initial contacts by either calling or writing each administrator and requesting an information and applications package. You'll want to keep these requests simple, and not ask too many questions up front. Keep in mind that written requests should be submitted on plain white paper and should be printed or typed (NEVER hand written!)

It's also important that your request letters be worded in a certain manner, and formatted as a crisp and clean business letter.

Now, if your contact tells you they cannot help you with your project, don't be discouraged, and above all, don't get angry. Just ask if you can be referred to an agency that can help. They may or may not know, but it never hurts to ask. At times, it may seem like your getting the run around. But the only way you can get anywhere with the Government is to be friendly and offer a positive and courteous attitude to everyone you talk to. When you find out that your project fits in their funding criteria, this is when you start on your proposal or letter of appeal, submit letter to as many agencies you can find. Being accepted by several agencies is not a bad thing. Please use this directory as a guideline. There will always be people and hurdles in your way. Please be patient, but persistent.

How to Write a Grants Proposal

Writing a grant proposal can be as simple as following the directions in your application packet. It will depend largely on the type of grant and the amount of money to be awarded. Be aware that larger grants will probably require more documentation.

Every agency bestowing grants has different rules for application. There is no "standard" applications form, making it even more important that you thoroughly read the information and application packet before you begin. Grants administrators are usually sticklers for details. If you can't (or won't) follow directions, your application will probably be disqualified.

There are reference sources in your local library to consult about grant proposal writing in addition to the advice given here. It's best to read as much as you can in preparation for your grant writing duties. Whatever your idea, try to enlist written support from individuals in your community who may know you and like your idea. Letters written by your local government, community and business leaders improves your chances of receiving the award. Federal grant money may actually require these letters of endorsement. Your application packet will inform you of the specific requirements.

Even if not required, support letters are encouraged. It gives further credence to your idea and may make the difference if the grant award comes down to a couple of applications and the agency is forced to choose. If you have a partner or two who have a different expertise than you, add their names and qualifications to the overall proposal. Having assistance on the project often encourages agencies who make grants available as the project's chances of completion are heightened.

Relating your idea(s) to the agency individual agents who will be considering your grant request is a sound move. Many of these employees have been there a substantial length of time and will be well-versed in the ins and outs of obtaining grants. They often appreciate that you asked their advice up front and can do wonders for you in terms of saving time and effort.

You could make it convenient, if it's a local agency you can make a personal visit to that agency to meet the individuals who will be considering your proposal. There may be pertinent reference information in the agency which can help you with your proposal.

By all means, stay in contact with these people, especially if they work in the agency to whom you will be submitting your bid(s). Even if you don't get a positive response on the first grant proposal, keep in touch! They can often tip you off to what future projects have a chance of being funded. If it's in your area of expertise, you have an inside track to the next funds availability.

You will likely not be the only one writing for grant money, so you have to do a better job of it than your competitor. By making sure that there is:
* a need for your idea or project
* sufficient research done on your part to satisfy the grantors
* no question that you are the best candidate to receive the grant
* time for you to spend reviewing the application process and preparing your grant proposal
Then you will be ready to write your first draft proposal.

Here are the essential parts of a good grant proposal:

1. Summary. This generally outlines the proposed idea or project and is naturally slotted for the opening paragraph. Keep it both brief and interesting. It will be the first impression the grantor(s) will have of you and your abilities, so work hard on this part of the document. Poorly written, this opener could end your chances immediately. Conversely, well-written beginnings are encouraging to the reader(s) and improve on your chances. Be sure only your key points are in this portion. Don't oversell it with too much detail. Make this part easy to read, but informative.
2. About You (and your organization). The next section summarizes your qualifications and those of any others that will be working with you. You may want to include up to date biographies of all involved. Let the grantor(s) know about your recent work and success, especially if you've been successful with any other grant program.
3. Problem Statement. This is where you summarize the need for this project or idea. You will need to note your idea's purpose, who will benefit, how they will benefit, what social-economic area will be affected, hard data supporting the nature of the problem, what is currently being done (or not done) about the problem, what will happen if your idea is not funded and implemented and how you intend to solve the problem. This may be the longest part of your proposal.
Get any supporting documents you need from local community and government organizations. Be sure you can defend all your thoughts contained in this section. It's the what, why and how of the grant proposal.
4. Objectives. These are the actual means by which you will solve the problem you outlined in step #3. Outline them in detail, provide cost analyses of each to support your funding request and lay them out in logical, sequential order. The agency will periodically review the progress of your project or idea once the grant is given and it will likely be these actual objective points that will be used to measure your work.
5. Detailed Objectives. While step #4 provided a summary of your objectives, all of the activities relating to accomplishing these objectives will be laid out in detail here. This could include dates, resources needed, staff needed, progress checkpoints, relevant diagrams, charts or drawings and all relevant detail. Highlight any innovative work that will be used to help accomplish your objectives. Provide any reference material necessary to back up your details.
6. Evaluation. Here, you will need to identify the results that will come from the project. You briefly stated these in your opening, but more specifics will be needed here. The only way to evaluate the project may be from seeing if it meets the results expected. You are solving a problem, after all, so your results should be your solutions and their resulting benefits. Some agencies have standard evaluation techniques, so be sure you reference those here if that is the case.
7. Future Funding. What will happen to the idea or project once finished? If it is self-completing, say so. If further maintenance will have to be done to keep the problem at bay, record how this is to be funded. You might be able to arrange for local support once the initial funding is depleted and the problem solved if it is something that requires ongoing work.
8. Budget. While it would be nice to see the grant money fund the full cost of your idea or project, current federal budget cuts may not make that feasible. If you are securing other funding or have a plan for money to pick up the additional expenses of the project, let the agency know that. Write out a detailed budget listing (and justifying) the assorted expenses.

You may receive all of the funding you need from the one grant, but you really shouldn't count on it. It's often easier to secure government funding if you have also tapped into other sources to help cover the costs, even if it's a small investment on your (and, if applicable, your partner's) part.

While these are the key elements of a proposal you will write, get as much help as you need depending on the size of the project. Obtain as much input from area experts as you need before writing the proposal. They might have excellent suggestions and could play a role in helping you to complete the various activities associated with accomplishing your stated objectives. They might even be helpful in writing certain aspects of the proposal, especially the details of the work and tasks necessary to meet your objectives.

Do a first draft. Then get feedback. Give it to people who have helped you, or whom you trust to be properly judgmental about it. This would hopefully be a professional associate or someone you know from the business or legal world - and not just your cousin or the next door neighbor.

The best writing is done during the rewriting phase, so it's important to have people take a critical look at your first draft. You are too close to be thoroughly objective. That's O.K.! Just know that you should get others to help you analyze your initial work in preparation for a second draft.

Go through the same process with your second draft. This should be shorter and less feedback should come in if you elicited enough comments the first time around.

Make any changes necessary and get it to final draft form. Then have it proofread and bound into a booklet for submission purposes. You're ready to submit!

Remember that the grant should be written after you've obtained the agency's application and grant guideline forms. There are many places to contact for potential grant information, and your decision should be closely allied with your skills and interests. The following list should help get you started isolating the agencies you fell are best possibilities for you.