Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How To Learn What Federal, State, Local, or Tribal Grants Are Available, & How To Apply for Them

You might have heard that applying for a grant offered by a government, any government, is "a different animal" compared to applying for a grant offered by a foundation.  It is true.  Applying for a government grant, especially a federal grant, can be arduous.  Having said this, it shouldn't inhibit any organization ready to apply for grants from researching which grants are available from governments, in addition to researching what foundations offer grants related to the organization and its work.  Grants offered by governments are opportunities to raise funds, as well. 

Often, applying for government grants all year round but especially at the end of the calendar year (which can coincide with the end of the fiscal year for some government agencies), is a also really good way to raise yet another large single donation (a grant), just like applying for a grant from any other type of grant donor (i.e. foundations).  Why is the end of the year an especially good time to apply?  Again, applying for government grants at any time of year is fine, as stated, but sometimes governments will have surplus in budgets that must be spent down or zeroed-out before the year end in order for their accounting to meet previously set annual budget goals, yet nonprofit grant writers are not always actively submitting grant applications during the final quarter of the year because a lot of people assume that (especially during poor economies) government coffers are empty (and sometimes, indeed, they are, of course).  So, some governments in the position of still being flush, during their fourth quarter, and due to the lack of incoming grant applications, sometimes even have to look for nonprofits (or other eligible potential recipients) to ask them to apply for the funds to be certain the money will likely be donated per the requisite due diligence (i.e. their grant application process), by year end (or whenever they are required to be spent down by).  So, don't assume anything when seeking grants, and instead, call someone at the appropriate agency's office (if they allow phone calls about their grants) and ask where their budget is and whether applying for a grant is warranted.  A call like this can lead to a great large and unexpected donation at the end of the year.

I've compiled the best free resources that teach what governments' grants are (again, from the federal and also state, local, and even Tribal governments), where to research what government grants are available, what the process is to apply for them, and more.  See...

The free and user-friendly portal for all federal grants is Grants.gov and the link takes you to their page explaining: what a grant is, what federal grants are available, and how to research and apply for federal grants (see their links in their left hand margin as well as their new free user training, iPortal (discussed at the July 22, 2010 heading).

To learn about and find out what other governments' grants are available, such as the U.S. states' governments' grant offerings and also what those states' local governments' grant offerings are (i.e. boroughs,  townships, parishes, counties, cities, towns, etc.), and finally, also what the Tribes' grant offerings are, go to the free USA.gov site to find your state and nearest cities' governments, click through to them, and learn and research there.

The Foundation Center provides these free additional government grant resources (if you click the link), as well.

My final comment on government grants is this: they can often be, when won, extremely large injections of cash for the recipient nonprofit, but with that comes the responsibility of recording and having official (as stated by the government that donated the grant) documentation to back up where each and every penny of that government grant is spent.  This makes sense.  It is public money awarded to your organization, after all.  It is worth the management effort to oversee grants in this manner (whether given by a government or not) but often the government grant management is a tad more intensive.  It's doable.  Just be aware of this.  As stated, it's likely worth it and a process that should already be in place for good grant stewardship and to maintain good relations with any entity that donates a grant to your organization - but it's good to be aware of the major differences between applying for and managing received grants from foundations compared to governments.

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