If you are a grant seeker new to the game, it can become overwhelming knowing where to start. You’ll quickly discover new words, such as RFP or LOI, and realize that writing a grant application is not as easy as you think. So before diving in with GrantWatch.com, here is some key advice from our experienced team.
1. Who Can Apply For Grants?
Grants are mainly for programs, projects, activities or services that benefit the community. Historically, most funding is for nonprofits; 501(c)3 organizations, municipalities, government agencies, townships, schools and IHES (institutes of higher education).
However, since COVID, more grants are available for small businesses – usually referred to as for-profits. Generally, as a rule of thumb, you should start seeking grants once you have been operating for at least two years. Grants are not for debt. If you are a for-profit startup, or your business has been in operation for less than two years, locating grants you qualify for can be harder to find.
There are also grants available to individuals. Individual grants are mainly for researchers, scientists, teachers, and artists – again, referring back to projects that benefit the community. Also, you can find grantl for low-income families, as well as financial assistance for residents in eligible areas. If you are an individual seeking financial assistance, you could also visit benefits.gov, contact your local ministry, create a crowdfunding campaign or call 211 on your phone to discover assistance programs available in your area.
Pro Tip: Always choose your location to match the same state as your tax return address or tax-exempt status, regardless of if you service outside your state.
2. Meeting the Eligibility Criteria
No two grants are the same. Each grant has its own eligibility criteria. Grants can be very specific when it comes to the industry, location, and program, they are willing to fund. To put it simply – if you do not qualify, do not apply. By far, the most frequent reasons that funders reject proposals include the request falls outside of the funder’s giving interests or the applicant didn’t follow the application guidelines.
Pro Tip: 75% of grant applicants reported that they received awards from private foundations. However, up to 90% of foundations don’t publicly list their grants! Thankfully, over 70% of the grants listed on GrantWatch.com are from foundation funders.
3. Understanding Grant Language
You’ll come across many phrases and words that may be unfamiliar. Luckily, GrantWatch.com does offer free resources such as a glossary of terms. The most common acronym you’ll come across is ‘RFP’, known as the Request for Proposal – the proper grant term for the application.
So why don’t they use the word ‘application’? An application gives the illusion that you fill out paperwork or a questionnaire, similar to applying for a loan. However, this is usually not the case when it comes to grants. You are required to write a proposal to the funder – including explaining how you propose to utilize the funding, as outlined by their guidelines. It is not unusual for this to be over 20 pages in length and must be detailed as per the funder’s request.
Pro Tip: Need some insight? Did you know that you can view RFPs of expired grants in the GrantWatch Archives?
4. Hiring a Grant Writer
If do not feel comfortable completing the RFP on your own, you can hire a grant writer. Grant writers can complete a range of tasks – from locating grants you may be eligible for, to completing and submitting the RFP. Typically, hiring a grant writer starts from $500. However, there is no guarantee of being awarded a grant, but your chances of being awarded increases when hiring a grant writer.
Grant writers will never work on a contingency basis or success fee. This is not only unethical but goes against the state, federal and foundation funding guidelines. If a funder were to ever find out that the grant writer was paid a percentage of the grant award, at the very least, the grant would be rescinded, and at worst, there could be legal consequences.
5. Difficulties Finding Grants
If you are having difficulties locating grants, sometimes it can just come down to timing. New grants are constantly being released. As mentioned earlier, grants can be very specific, but on the other hand, there are some grants which can be broad in their description. Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre and be creative when searching. Become familiar with the grant listing directory and how best to navigate the site.
Pro Tip: Bookmark relevant grant listing pages and check back on a regular basis to view the latest additions.
In conclusion, finding grants can be just as tedious as the grant application itself. While thousands of grants are available, it can be time-consuming to locate grants you actually qualify for. Furthermore, if you are confident in your writing skills and can follow the directions outlined by the funder, you can complete the RFP on your own. Otherwise, you can hire an experienced grant writer, but just ensure you have the budget set aside before proceeding.