Government Grants 101

Getting Financial Assistance Awards

Government Grants 101
September 30, 2021

We hear about the U.S. government handing over grant money to projects all the time. Could government grant money help you in your quest? How do you go about getting it? Is it possible that the government will help you finally to develop your garage invention into a viable product?

Free Government Grants?

Despite what you may hear from scam artists about free grants, the U.S. government does not typically give grant money to individuals. They do offer loans to individuals, including federal student loans and government-backed mortgage or home-improvement loans, but these are funds that need to be repaid at a future date.

Grants that do not require repayment generally go to organizations ranging from state and local governments to non-profits, universities and small businesses. However, there are a few specialized listings available for individuals.

The first step is to look over the available grants and see which ones fit into your expertise and goals. You can apply for any grant you want, but it is futile to do so unless the government thinks that you have a reasonable chance of success in meeting the goal of the grants. All of the grants have milestones and objectives designed to meet some government-authorized purpose.

The list of government grants available at any particular time can be found within Grants.gov. As of this writing, there are 1,484 grants available across the entire U.S. government, 575 cooperative agreements, 43 procurement contracts, and 50 other opportunities.

Begin by narrowing down the eligibility requirements. A drop-down menu on the side allows you to select the eligibility requirement that best fits your situation. While most are directed at businesses, educational institutions, and state and local governments, some allow for individual submissions. The 21 individual grants available at this time include the Public Scholar Program from the National Endowment from the Humanities and the Coastal Program – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

You can search for specific criteria by keyword if you have a particular area of focus (for example, "solar panels" or "cancer research") or select from the broader criteria such as 'Energy", "Housing," or "Transportation." Start with a relatively broad search and narrow it down as you review your options.

Clicking on the link for any grant will bring up a synopsis of the funding opportunity, the range for potential award amounts, submission dates and deadlines, detailed descriptions, and links to any useful supplementary information. This will direct you to all the information you need to create your proposal.

An alternate search site is available at the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). On this site, you can checkmark the projects of your interest and download them to an Excel file.

Your job is now to write the grant proposal that will lead to your selection from among all the participants — and most of the grant categories will have many entrants. The agency writer responsible for the project will lay out their expectations for the submission including general milestones to be met and the format to use. Be sure to follow these instructions precisely. Do not give the reviewers any reason to reject your proposal.

If your idea is approved, great! It's time to get to work. Otherwise, review your submission with a critical eye to look for areas of improvement, and keep in mind that even excellent proposals get trumped by other submissions. Do not forget to seek a broader perspective view, because perhaps the world is just not ready for what you are proposing to do.


Photo ©iStock.com/Denisfilm

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