How Do I Know if a Grant Is Legitimate?

With the overwhelming volume of information available on the Internet, it can be challenging for nonprofits and businesses to sort through what is real and what is fake. Especially when it comes to searching for grants. Being taken advantage of on the internet or through social media is a common occurrence. No one wants to fall prey to these schemes, so the question remains — how do you know whether or not a grant is legitimate?

Fortunately, there are ways to determine the legitimacy of a grant opportunity. Using a well-known listing service or database, such as, is a good place to start. This reputable grant listing directory does the research for you to ensure the grant is legitimate and verified before it can be included. This saves you both the time and effort of doing it yourself. If you decide to go it on your own, you want to be sure to properly vet the grant funder.

Do not trust anyone who asks you to pay them a fee upfront in order to expedite your grant submission. Additionally, avoid those who guarantee you will receive the grant being sought. Just applying for a grant does NOT guarantee you will win the funding. Grants have specific requirements in order to apply. Once submitted, your proposal still needs to undergo a review by the funding source, in what is often a competitive process.

To help further, we have put together a checklist to follow to help when determining if a grant is legitimate.

1. Did you Apply for the Grant?

If a grant is offered to you, the first question to ask yourself is; did you (even) apply for this grant? If someone reaches out to inform you that you have ‘won’ a $10,000 grant to fix your roof, but you never applied for a grant to fix your roof in the first place, then yes, this is “too good to be true!” All grant submissions require a formal application process. Also, normally that process is fairly extensive.

With this being said, if you are applying for a large number of grants at the same time, it might be a good idea to keep a record for yourself. Make sure you keep track of the name of each grant, the funding source offering the grant, the deadline and any other important information about the grant(s). That way, if you are suddenly notified about winning a grant, you can confirm with the funding source directly about the legitimacy of that grant. GrantWatch MemberPlus+ members have access to a personal grants calendar template which allows users to organize and keep track of their grant opportunities, submissions and awards. See more about the benefits of the MemberPlus+ subscription in GrantNews Notes.

2. Did They Ask You to Pay a Fee?

Another rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you should never be asked to pay for a grant. Grants are free and awarded to you or your organization based on merit and eligibility. If someone tells you to pay a small fee for a guaranteed larger grant size (award), this is never a legit grant. Do not confuse this with paying for a grant-listing service like, where you pay a membership fee to access the full directory. However, paying this fee never guarantees you a grant. It only guarantees you access to grant-related information.

3. Is the Funding Source Well-Known?

When trying to confirm the validity of a grant, it is crucial to look at who is offering the grant. Is it a well-known, established foundation or business? Is it a government grant coming from a federal, state or local agency? If the funding source is not familiar, spend some time researching them to verify that the entity is reputable. You should find the company listed on the IRS website using the ‘search by organization name’ option. Once you locate their details, you should proceed to reach out to them and confirm that you are corresponding with the correct organization.

4. Did They Notify You via Social Media?

If you have been awarded a legitimate grant, you should receive an official letter notifying you. Especially with government grants, you will usually NOT be notified by phone or email. Keep in mind that an email can be sent from anywhere, and phone calls can easily be made by persons trying to take your money, Remember you had to apply to a funding source to receive a grant. You should not trust any grant award notification that comes from social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. You should not send any money to anyone through a cash app or wire or any form of currency to receive a grant. This is usually a tell-tale sign of a grant scam.

If you follow this checklist, you should be better able to tell which grants are legitimate and which are not!

GrantNews Notes

With close to 8,000 grants currently available, is the leading grant listing directory. Upgrade to a MemberPlus+ subscription to view the full grant details, including eligibility criteria and application information. For more information, you can also visit the GrantWatch FAQ page. To see the great value of all 20 of the top GrantWatch features, click here.

Report all grant scams or related fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, either by reaching out to them through their website or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.  You may also wish to file a report with a regional fraud reporting center, such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center ( If wish to file a complaint with a company in a country other than the United States, you can do so at

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