Getting Grant Funding: Dollars in your Backyard

Are you worn out by trying to raise money for a good cause with bake sales, car washes and raffles?  There’s another way to go about raising money for a good cause, which is to find free grant money.

Free Grant Money

What is grant money?
Grant money is funding provided by a federal, state, local group or funding provided by a private, charitable or civic organization. Most often grant money is distributed to non-profit groups such as health care organizations, schools, arts programs, and service agencies. Grant funding is available to help underwrite the costs of various projects ranging from providing food and shelter to the homeless to funding art programs for disabled adults to underwriting the cost of computers for a classroom.

How do you learn about the availability of grant funds?
While there are government funds, including federal and state grant funds available, it often helps to look closer to home for a source of grant funds. Local funding is less likely to have administrative and regulatory mandates and is most often the easiest type of grant funding to secure.

Who gives away grant funds?
Think about the organizations in your community which raise funds for good causes. The Elks Club, Women’s Club, Rotary, Kiwanis and other civic or fraternal clubs are good sources for grant funding. Grant funding is sometimes available from local businesses especially the local division of a national firm such as Wal-Mart or Blue Cross Blue Shield.

How do you learn who gives away grant money?
It’s helpful to start talking to people in your community who do fundraising professionally. They can be great resources in helping you locate sources of grant funding. In many communities, there is a professional network of fundraising professionals. Many public libraries provide detailed reference material giving information about funding availability, how to apply and levels of funding that may be available.

What’s the trick to getting grant funds?
Typically, the group or business giving away the grant funding has very specific requirements. The availability of grant funds might be limited to charitable programs serving a specific geographic area or a certain population of people. Grant funds might be available to support visual arts but are not to be used for theatre programs. Some grant funds will cover the costs of salaries and general operating expenses while some grants are available only for capital expenses. The trick is to obtain a copy of the grant application as well as any written guidelines to ensure that your group and project qualify for the grant. It can be extremely helpful to contact a representative directly to learn if grant requirements have been changed or if new requirements have been added.

If your project fits within the stated goals of the grant-making program, then applying for a grant can be a very fruitful effort in terms of raising needed dollars. Be prepared to spend considerable time in research, evaluation and preparation of the grant. Expect that you will wait 3 months to 16 months before being awarded grant monies. Many funding sources will also require an evaluation of your project along with a report about how the grant funds were expended.

Is it worth it to go looking for grant dollars?
If you are working on a long-term project and desire to build financial sustainability for your cause, then grant writing can bring needed dollars through the door. Once you’ve gone through the hard work of writing one grant, you’ll have done much of the work required by any other grant source. Getting grant funding adds another dimension to your fundraising efforts and will help individual donors to see that the work your agency is doing is being supported by larger institutions thereby giving your organization a new level of credibility in the eyes of donors.

What’s the toughest thing about getting grant funding?
Probably the toughest thing about getting grant funding is locating the source of the funds. There are literally thousands of grants available. Grants can be tough to find. But with some research, investigation and networking, you’ll find grant dollars are not only available but likely available from local groups who would love to support your good cause if only asked to do so!

Categories Personal Finance

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