The Wonderful World of Grants

I have been exploring what grants are out there on a federal level, and I will tell you there are many. The federal government funds all kinds of stuff. I have seen grants to fix things in foreign countries and to fund research for all kinds of things.

The other day I came upon a grant for people to drill wells, it goes like this:

The Rural Utilities Service will make grants to qualified private non-profit organizations to establish lending programs for household water wells. The approved organizations must set up a revolving loan program and provide low-interest loans to eligible individuals who own or will own and occupy an existing home that uses a private well system. The applicant organizations must contribute at least ten percent of the HWWS grant to capitalize the revolving loan fund. In-kind contributions will not be considered.

So okay… I see this announcement. What is not to like about giving low interest loans to a guy who needs to fix his well. I lived in DuBois, PA one time and had a well problem. I know all about the “rotating shower schedule.” Along with a ten percent match requirement, the program is a gift.

However, as you read further down in the announcement you will see that:

An applicant organization must have DUNS number and an active registration with current information in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database. The organization must demonstrate that it has (a) the legal capacity and authority to carry out the grant purpose and (b) sufficient expertise and experience in lending activities.

By now, you are wondering what is all of this? It is the reason many people that need a grant cannot get a grant. There will need to be a local agency willing to take on the project. The local agency will also have to have a DUNS number and have a CCR. The DUNS number is easy, perhaps a phone call away. The CCR will take a little bit of time. 

If you do not have both of those, ready to go, the grant deadline might slip away before you even realize it is gone.

There are criteria for the grant and say, your area meets all the criteria, you still have to have an agency apply for the grant. A couple of things come up for an agency: (1) is it within the mission of the organization and (2) who will administer the program? Many times the agencies pass on an opportunity for funding based upon no administration money and it is just more work for no dollar amount.

If it is a stretch for an organization, rarely will they apply. If you have someone who has a career rather than a job there, is an opportunity to move forward no matter how heavy the workload. 

There would be a need to do outreach for this program to enable a case statement for the need of the money to be spent in a particular location. There is a need for someone to administratively write the grant to ensure it is funded. These real costs associated with these tasks may take away from the mission of the organization, or add to it, depending upon your perspective. 

Then there is the real wild card, the people who will benefit. This grant is liberal, it eventually will provide for a 20-year loan at one percent interest for people at 100 percent of median income. This is a “no rich guys” grant because it includes everyone else. 

This is a general population grant, which not many people have as their target population. When you deal with the general population, there are all kinds of skill levels and all kinds of opinions. The question is how do you find the people and how are they going to act.

I did façade grants in a number of communities and know that “after the fact” funding is a no-no. Many times people who have done work in the past want to be reimbursed for past improvements completed sometimes years before. There are times people will not take no for an answer and cause a problem for the agency.

In these days, I could easily imagine a hate campaign developing via Facebook or some on line rag that lives off controversy. Perilous waters could lurk ahead. There could be such a demand that you cannot fill all of the requests. There could be issues with people who do not get the grant money. It is really a chance to have everything go wrong just by trying to do the right thing.

If a community can get past all of that and they have good people doing good things, it could be a real win for the community. The winner of the grant will be one of ten or so across the United States who enjoy the opportunity to engage and help their client base.

So many things can go awry, that grants like this sometimes just pass by no matter what the upside of the grant may offer.

To learn more about the grants available, visit me at