Are you drooling for a grant? Who isn’t, especially in today’s economy. But to get one, you’ll have to do more than daydream. You’ll have to work hard, pray hard (that’s pray, not play), and you’ll have to do your homework. That includes educating yourself about the different types of grants, what they’re for, who’s offering them, and what grant makers expect from you before they write and sign that wonderful check.
I’ve won several grants in my lifetime. (UPDATE! Just won another one. Check below for details.) These Rules of Thumb were inspired by actual questions people asked about how I did it. In my experience, unless the grant maker is your uncle, there’s no easy way to get a grant. There’s no magic formula or short cut. There’s not even a set way to apply for grants.
Every single grant has its own set of guidelines, so if you want to save yourself some grief (and paper), read this article before you apply.
There’s nothing to it but to do it.
A pencil, some paper, a purpose, and a level head.
Brains and brain power, lots of humility, loads of faith…and a little common sense.
Here we go!
1. Forget the man with the question marks on his jacket. He’s just selling a book.
2. Remember, grants can’t look for you, you must look for them. Don’t be one of those people who expect a grant to just fall into your lap. Be prepared to put in some serious time and effort to find the right grant for you.
3. Yes, you WILL have to read, so please don’t ask.
4. Yes, you WILL have to think and you WILL have to write.
5. Know your language. Following are definitions of various grants. This is not an exhaustive list!
a. GRANT – This IS NOT a benefit or entitlement, it is the giving of funds for a specific purpose; a monetary aid awarded after meeting a specific set of qualifications, which aid does not have to be repaid.
b. FEDERAL GRANT – an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States. These grants ARE NOT loans and they ARE NOT federal assistance. They cannot be used to acquire property, and there are no Federal grants that will buy you groceries.
c. PRIVATE GRANTS (from Foundations, Corporations and Agencies) – These are monetary aids awarded based on qualifications met, and which do not have to be repaid. The difference between these and Federal grants is that private grants are more relaxed. Foundations, Corporations and Agencies can look at “the big picture” when they read your proposal, and may be willing to take risks that the Federal government will not. They make decisions more quickly, as opposed to long months of waiting with Federal grants, and they are not snowed under in bureaucracy and red tape, or slaves to fixed schedules.
d. PUBLIC CHARITY GRANTS – These make grants for charitable purposes to charitable organizations recognized as 501(c)3 by the IRS.
e. INDIVIDUAL GRANTS – Monetary or non-monetary awards bestowed upon a private individual as a type of reward or prize after meeting a specific set of criteria. Businesses, Foundations and Institutions are ineligible. In some instances, collaboration between two or more individuals is permissible, but these grants are typically set aside for individuals, period.
f. NON-PROFIT GRANTS – A 501(c)3 grant is for non-profit organizations. These grants are made to assist non-profit organizations in carrying out their specific missions, and must be used for just that. If you don’t know what “non-profit” means, don’t even think about applying for this one.
g. SPONSORSHIP GRANTS – Certain grants that are earnmarked for non-profit organizations will allow individuals to apply IF they have a sponsor. This is called Fiscal Sponsorship. The Sparkplug Foundation (www.sparkplugfoundation.org) offers just such a grant. If you decide to try for this type of grant, be sure you have a sponsor with 501(c)3 status, otherwise you won’t qualify. Period.
7. STOP! DON’T GO THERE! Grant-makers aren’t about to change their rules and deadlines, not even for sweet, wonderful, creative you. It’s their way or the highway. Follow the rules exactly as they’re written.
8. Grant-makers give money based on what matters to them, not what matters to you. Make sure what you’re doing fits into their “mission,” because if it doesn’t, you’re just wasting your time, paper and ideas.
9. No one is going to write you a huge check—no questions asked—then drive off into the sunset. This is an urban myth that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. Don’t expect something for nothing. You’ll need a complete, logical, WRITTEN plan to win a grant. Remember,
a. Don’t take offense when grantmakers ask you questions (and believe me, they’ll ask plenty of questions!)
b. Don’t get upset when they tell you they expect quarterly reports of what you do with the money. It’s not personal–they do this with everyone.
c. Don’t, under any circumstances, tell them to mind their own business. THIS IS THEIR BUSINESS!
10. A POP QUIZ FOR YOU! Choose the best answer:
You could be turned down for a grant…
a. Because your proposal doesn’t fall within the grantmaker’s area of interest.
b. Because it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about.
c. Because you made a couple dozen mistakes on the application.
d. Even when you did everything right on the application.
e. Because, baby…just because.
f. All of the above.
Answer? F, All of the above! Remember, no one owes you a grant—or anything else, for that matter. Apply…and hope for the best.
11. Winning a grant, then spending the money on whatever catches your eye is an urban legend. Grant-makers get your name, address, social security number and other information before they even think about cutting you a check, so follow your written plan to the letter.
12. Don’t apply for a grant just because it offers huge sums of money. Make sure you know something about the grant (and the grant-maker) before you apply. Study, study, study…and know what you’re talking about! I’ve had grant-makers tell me there’s nothing worse than getting applications from people who know nothing about their grant or its mission, but only see dollar signs.
13. There’s no such thing as getting someone else to apply for a grant for you, then splitting the money with them and going off on a shopping spree. Grantmakers can tell when something is “thrown together” just to get some money out of them.
14. Don’t be surprised if your writer-friend or teacher-friend (or whomever you ask to write a grant for you) flat-out refuses to help. Even if you’ve got begging down to a science, you’ll find that people familiar with grants and the grant-making process just aren’t chomping at the bits to take on your project…even if you do promise them half the money. They know what’s involved. The time, prayer, energy, sweat, thought, planning, networking, researching and writing it takes to win a grant cannot truly be priced, and if it could, you’d probably discover it’s cheaper to buy a new computer and do it yourself. Besides, if getting a grant was really all that easy, they could just search for their own grant, keep all the money to themselves, and politely tell you to talk to the hand.
15. Many grants are non-taxable, but some are taxed. Ask the grant-maker before you accept, or you may find yourself bumped up into a higher income bracket.
16. No, you don’t have to know how to use the Internet to find a grant…but it’s quicker if you do. If you don’t, the Public Library is always a great starting point. Ask for books on Foundations and Agencies offering grant money in your field of interest.
17. Yes, there are government grants for individuals, and you don’t have to buy the book from the man with the question marks to find them. Click on http://www.grants.gov/search/subscribeAdvanced.do
and sign up to be notified when grants are announced. You will probably have to read through several hundred notices before you find a grant you qualify for, but you would have to do the same amount of reading if you bought the book from the man with the question marks.
18. Never turn down a grant because you think it’s too small. Remember, you can list each grant you’re awarded on your resume’, which gives you more credibility when you apply for more grants.
19. Grants are everywhere! There are specific grants for women, grants for the disabled, grants for minorities, for writers, for scientists, for high school seniors. You name it, and there’s a grant for it. The problem is, most grants have formal names or titles. I remember finding the Sparkplug grant (www.sparkplugfoundation.org) while running a Google search on sparkplugs. I also found the Puffin Foundation Grant (http://www.puffinfoundation.org/grants/prospectiveapplicant.html), while searching for a picture of a puffin for a piece I was thinking about writing. So you see, if you don’t know the grant’s formal name, you won’t even know it exists. Keep a sharp eye open while you surf the net. You never know what you’ll find.
That being said, here are some suggestions to get you started:
a. (Google or Yahoo Search): Public Charities; Private Foundations.
b. Government grants: www.grants.gov. Mostly for 501(c)3’s, but there are some individual grants.
c. www.fdncenter.org. A database of foundations; this is a paying service that will provide a convenient shortcut for finding public and private foundations with documented giving.
d. www.neh.gov. National Endowment for the Humanities. Some individual, but mostly 501(c)3’s.
e. www.nea.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Some individual. Many for writers.
f. www.fundsforwriters.com. A free database of grants/opportunities for writers. Must register.
g. www.fromtheheartproductions.com. Writer and filmmaker grants.
h. www.rankinfoundation.org. Grants for women with low income.
i. www.sparkplugfoundation.org. For individuals and 501(c)3’s. Check them out.
j. www.PuffinFoundation.org. A funder for individuals and foundations.
k. http://thehavenfdn.org/. Makes grants to freelance writers and artists
l. State Arts Commission. Call your State Arts Commission and find out what’s being offered.
m. http://staff.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/3subject.htm. Individual grants; mostly academic,
categorized by subject.
Remember, this list just gets you started. There’s a sea of grants out there. Keep looking!
20. You’ll never win a grant if you don’t try for one.
21. Good things come to those who wait…and to those who prepare themselves accordingly.
UPDATE – 4/1/2009: I have just been awarded a grant from the gracious and generous people at The Haven Foundation. The Haven Foundation makes grants to freelance writers and artists experiencing career-threatening illnesses, accidents, natural disasters, etc. Their full grant is $25,000. I wasn’t awarded anywhere near that much, but I was awarded something…and buddy, I’m grateful. Hey, we’re in a recession, people; the fact that any foundation has money to disburse in this horrible economy is a miracle in and of itself. Just wanted to share this with you. Check them out: http://thehavenfdn.org/.
UPDATE – 1/28/2011: I have just been nominated for a $5000 business award from a very generous and very forward-thinking organization called Civic Ventures, and their First Annual Launch Pad Competition. Here’s the link: http://launchpad.encore.org/finals/
Please stop by, VOTE FOR ME, and check out this innovative organization. They have many business and financial opportunities for people age 45 and older. By the way, that’s the first time I haven’t minded telling folks I’m over 45!
UPDATE – 8/2012 – I didn’t win that grant. Hey, that’s what I’ve been saying in this article…you can’t win ’em all! But I did make some good contacts, and I gained even more experience with the grantmaking process. So there. 😀
COMMENTS FROM THE KNOL WEBSITE!
As you probably know by now, the Knol site is no more. But I received so many great comments, I just couldn’t let them fade away. Enjoy!
I need to write a grant proposal. Can you help me? I do not mind paying you for it. Please let me know. Thanks
Extremely helpful. THANK YOU!
This knol was very helpful. The author of the knol, Rita Hubbard, has blessed me beyond measure with her knowledge of grants. I had no knowledge regarding the foundation of applying for grants. I am so thankful that I found this site and her knol. Please keep up the good work. I think I will write a knol of my own to help someone who is struggling in my area of expertise.
Grant Central USA
Grant Writing Online Course and Additional Resources
Hi Rita! Thank you for the great information you offered and for clarifying some of the misconceptions about grant writing. We offer some grant writing resources including articles, tips, videos, blogs, and various courses for those serious about learning to write grant proposals at www.GrantWritingOnlineCourse.com along with a free e-course.
Rita, this was well written and right on time. As a stay at home mom and recent online school enroller, this information is something that I’ve looked for for a while. I’m also a published author/writer who could use some help while striving to become a household name. Thank you for sharing this vital information and much continued success in your endeavors.
This is very beneficial information on grants. Thank you for this information.
Well versed and Constructed
Just finally found how to find grants…..with the thought, good things come to those who wait and prepare themselves accordingly. Amen that was so helpfully.
This knol is great for individuals and of course, writers who are looking to seek grants without the assistance of a grant writer or company. I once held a position as a grant writer’s assistant and learned many tricks to grant writing and getting them approved…you have pointed out some of those tricks…Great job!
P V Ariel
This knol is loaded with lot of info for the people who are seeking for a grant in different areas. The illustrations, and photographs too were well selected. But unfortunately the picture and ill. credit is not given! is it your own creations? if so pl mention it at the bottom of the knol. Congrats for obtaining a place at Peter’s knol of Top 50 list. Keep writing more at this place.
I appreciate an easy to the point read, with personality….great info, thank you!
But I like the guy with the question marks!
Just kidding. I don’t have a need for any grants at this time, but I started reading the article and couldn’t stop. It was great. It would be nice to do some charitable work. Now when I finally get the courage to do so I know where to start looking for help.