How do you find grant opportunities? People ask me all the time about how could they go about getting a grant. Normally there are not too many grants for individuals, but there are some. Most of the time grants are for non-profit organizations. Any non-profit advocating for a public purpose, as defined by the IRS, is eligible for a grant. There are grants available to help individuals in the arts, as well as grants for categories and classes of people who have been underserved in the past. Most times, it is good for an individual to partner with a non-profit to enable the funding source to be secure in the way the money is being disbursed.
There are a number of different kinds of grants. There are government grants, foundation grants, and corporation grants, available for groups and individuals. Arts and humanity grants for individuals are probably the most available grants. There are grants for twins as well as left-handed people. Foundations offering these kinds of grants are a little quirky in their selection process, so everyone would seem to have a shot… Google those kinds of grants and follow your heart.
The government grants are a little confusing, but if you pay attention to the announcement of when the grants are offered, it is not really that hard to understand. There are four main levels of government, and mostly all of them give out grants. The federal government gives money through the states, sometimes the counties and sometimes directly to municipalities. So when you hear about a county grant in conversation, you could ask if it is local money (county), or is it federal pass through money (federal)? Federal money, many times, takes a long time to use. The amount of regulations sometimes makes the use of the money prohibitive. State money is somewhat easier to use than the federal money, but it comes with another set of regulations. The easiest to use is the county and the municipal money. That money is given out by local people and in many cases, these grants are more reasonable concerning the regulations.
I go through grants every day at the federal government grant website, www.grants.gov, and I try to figure out what is applicable to the common man and municipalities. Sometimes you have to read them very carefully, because the awards are intended for one entity, and it is not competitive.
The State grants are a little different. There is a notice that goes out to municipalities that announces grant opportunities, and the window stays open for much of the year. Many times grants are awarded a couple of times a year, or as the projects are presented.
Economic development projects normally are approved as long as the dollars are available, it is a good application, and the grant makes sense. County grants normally are for parks and some economic development or open space. There normally is a definitive deadline for the grant on the local level. Most times the counties will hold hearings for people to hear about the opportunity, and answer questions relating to the process and the purpose of the grant. There are few municipal grants, but on occasion, they are available.
Cities, like Philadelphia, give grants all the time, but those kinds of grants are an anomaly when it comes to the suburbs. I have tried to compile grant notices in a web publication I update regularly (http://grantfundingjournal.blogspot.com), which provides up to date information concerning what I think is important. I try to cover the full spectrum, but I realized that some grants are available all the time. How do you list those? Once a week? Once a month? Once? So it is a little difficult even listing them, let alone trying to find the right grant.
I would think that the best way to find a grant is to call someone who knows about grants. If you are looking to do something with the environment, the Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) would be a good starting point. Why the state level you as? Well that is the easiest place to get a straight answer. Calling the federal government would be folly, as it is too big and you never will get the information you need because everyone is an expert in what they do … not many generalists. That is not to say you will never get an answer contacting the federal government about a grant. It is just easier to call the state.
Grants are not an easy thing to write. You have to be familiar with the jargon, but largely everyone is on equal footing if you follow the guidelines. Remember that people reviewing the grant most likely do it as part of their job. Some reviewers will be very particular, and some not as particular. It is a matter of preference and style. Reviewers try to work with grass roots organizations and always encourage the applications from underserved populations. In many cases, the worse the area is, the better it will score with grants. If you go to the murder capitol of a district, expect to see funding available more readily than a low-crime neighborhood if you are applying for anti-crime funds, and that may be reversed when talking about grants to plant flowers. Know where you are and know your strong points. The only thing to remember is that no question is too stupid. Ask the questions; get the answers … even if the answer is obvious. Grants are mysterious but they are not impossible to understand.
To learn more about the grants available, visit me at www.grantfundingjournal.blogspot.com.