The Truth About Grants

I don’t know about you, but hardly a day goes by I don’t receive spam emails about grants. Spam that absolutely promises me I can buy a book and get a $30,000 grant, just for being alive on the planet. Spam that assures me there are grants available to pay my credit card bills, start any kind of business, or buy a shiny new car.

To some degree, those spam emails are why I established a website devoted to grants. Because I have been a grants consultant for thirty years, I know the truth about grants, and I want to share that truth with you.

The truth about grants is a good news/bad news proposition. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first:

Nobody is going to award you a grant of $20,000 or $30,000 to spend at Saks or pay your bills. Nobody is going to give you cash to start a network marketing business. Nobody is going to buy you a new Mercedes to drive around the neighborhood.

But really, in your heart of hearts, you already knew that – right?

Now for the good news about grants…and there is some very, very good news indeed:

Every year in the United States alone, $360 billion is available in grant funding for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. This is the real thing, money that is genuinely available from solid, dependable funding organizations.

There are grants for college, grants to pay for medical care and drugs, and grants to support research and study projects. There are some government grants available to certain established businesses, and a very limited number of grants to start new businesses.

There are grants for women and for minorities, grants to buy homes, grants to acquire and repair rental properties, and grants to develop new products that will help the environment. There are grants to fund a virtually unlimited number of community projects. If you have a project that offers some social value, there is probably a funder who has a grant for which you can apply.

Government agencies, foundations, and corporations all make grants. Almost universally, grants do not need to be repaid, and grants are tax-free.

Are you beginning to see the scope of this?

To help people understand just how much potential there is in grants, I often describe grant funding as a “parallel economy”. There is the standard economy, where goods and services are bought and sold, and taxes are paid. Then there is the parallel economy of grants, where gifts are requested and received.

Not just a few gifts. Three hundred sixty billion dollars in gifts.

So is there a trick involved in getting grants? No. But, as is true in any situation in life, there is a framework within which the successful grantseeker must operate. If you want to profit from grants, you must put forth the time and effort to learn how this parallel economy operates, and how to play by its rules.

First, grants are all about purpose. Every grant is offered and awarded in order to accomplish a specific purpose. Every funding agency has a mission it wants to carry out, and grants are given to further that mission. So if you want to start a children’s orchestra in your town, you must find a funder who considers musical programs for children part of its mission. If you have invented a better trash compactor, then you are looking for a funder with an environmental mission.

Second, there are a host of resources for finding and identifying grants. You must learn about the types of grants, who is making them, and how to locate them. You must learn how to tailor your project to potential funders.

Third, there is a specific format for requesting grants, called a grant proposal. Although there are many different types of grants, the basic grant proposal format can be adapted to all of them. You must learn how to write a good proposal, and assemble all the information a funder will want to see.

This all sounds a bit more complicated than just buying a book, right? So the question becomes, is it worth the effort?

Well, I’ve raised millions of dollars in grant funds for my clients, and for myself. I bought an apartment complex free and clear, without a penny of my own money, with a grant. I absolutely believe it’s worth the time and effort involved. Where else but in the parallel economy of grants, can you ask for what you need, and receive it as a gift?


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