We Know: How to Search For Government Grants

You can find local, state, and federal government grants for everything from starting small nonprofit programs to funding huge disease research projects. If you're starting a nonprofit or business, going to school, or searching for academic research grants, the government is one of the best places to start. The best news is that if you know where to look, the information is out there for free.

How Do I Get Grants From the Federal Government?

Every year, the federal government issues thousands of grants to tens of thousands of recipient individuals and organizations. These all tend to be highly competitive.

The best place to begin searching for federal government grants is at Grants.gov, a database covering most of the major grants administered by the federal government annually. You can search further at places like The Foundation Center.

If you're looking for educational grants, you should submit a FAFSA, a federal student aid form, to be considered for all available federal government grants.

Can I Also Get Grants from State and Local Governments?

State and local governments are actually the best places to get grants, if you're looking at relatively small projects. Many municipalities and counties have something called minigrants, which are small grants for little projects like cleaning and renovating public property, holding ethnic fairs in local neighborhoods, or even purchasing computer equipment and other necessities for neighborhood centers. You should find grants like this by going down to your local city hall or other government center and asking. Likely places to find this sort of funding include the HUD office and Social Services.

Many states have online databases similar to the federal databases for grant programs they sponsor. In some states, like Minnesota or New York, you will find extensive funding for a wide variety of programs; in smaller, poorer, and more western and southern states, you'll probably find less.

If you're starting a small business and you're hoping to get a grant for seed money, try calling the business department of your local newspapers; they often know about new programs sponsored by colleges and other public institutions. You can also try contacting your local chamber of commerce or the local office of your Small Business Administration. Many communities have economic development departments, and grants are often given to businesses locating in places denoted economically underdeveloped areas (these are usually called business or economic incentive grants).

How Can Grants Help Me Start a Nonprofit Organization?

Local governments often fund minigrants of less than $1000 for small jobs like cleaning up parks; larger governments are more likely to fund large projects like starting a homeless shelter. Minigrants generally have applications available at your city hall or county courthouse. If you want a large federal or state grant, though, you should pick up a book on grant writing, and even consider hiring a professional grant writer; it's as complicated to write a grant as to write a business plan.

For several years, the trend has been to fund nonprofits that can subsequently be self-supporting. If you are just looking for seed money to start a foundation that will support itself later with fees, donations, or other sustainable funding, you have a much better chance of receiving government grants.

What Else Can Government Grants Do For Me?

Government grants are intended to encourage people in outstanding endeavors that will improve all of us in one way or another, whether through literary works, outstanding social works, or other community improving projects. Besides straight educational grants, you can get grants for literary and visual art, performing arts, scientific and social research, and dozens of other pursuits that may not be lucrative on their own but that ultimately may prove to benefit your community in many ways.

If you think you may be able to get a grant in your area, you should look online and elsewhere for what may be available.

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