What are Government Grants?
According to the government, the definition for government grants is "an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law in the United States." Organizations can apply for grants from twenty-six different federal agencies. They offer over 1000 grants in several areas of concern. That is the simple explanation of what a government grant is. The government requires that the organization that receives the grant must use the money for the stated purposes. And the government requires strict accounting of all funds.
Who is it for?
The majority of government grants go to public or private organizations for a specified purpose. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, state governments, county agencies, town councils, water conservation agencies, and local commerce groups. The idea of the grants is to provide a benefit to the community or for a certain segment of the population. For example, a city might receive a grant to revitalize certain properties in a depressed business district. Another example would include providing funds to prevent flooding in a neighborhood. With so many grants available in so many categories, there are innumerable possibilities for how these funds can benefit a community.
Who is eligible?
Each grant program has its own criteria for eligibility. And the agency responsible for awarding the grants has strict guidelines that applicants must meet before they become eligible for those particular government grants. These guidelines often determine which groups are eligible to apply. A number of programs have narrow guidelines for a particular grant program. For example, every year the National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers research grants to tribal colleges. Eligible applicants must be on the 1994 list of Land-Grant Institutions. Colleges that do not meet that criterion will automatically not be eligible for this grant.
Other government grants are not as tightly restricted on which groups are eligible. For example, the Agency for International Development offers a grant program for strengthening health outcomes through private sector endeavors. This program has a wide pool of potential eligible applicants. These include public and private institutions of higher learning, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations that do not meet the definition of small businesses. While the number of applicant pools is wide, this program has a relatively narrow focus on how the organization can use the funds. That is often the tradeoff in the eligibility requirements.
There are a few government grants available to individuals. Most of these grants have a focus on developing specific skills or providing funding for fellowships in specific academic areas. Some provide individual funding to help with ongoing research efforts in various areas of concern. Like all the grant programs, each individual must meet the guidelines put forth by the agency in order to qualify for the grant. This may include specific work in a field or experience in performing a specific type of research. The individual must meet the same accounting and overview structure as all others who apply for and receive grants.
How to apply for Government Grants?
The process for applying for government grants requires patience and an eye for detail. The most obvious step you need to take is to find a program which offers the funding for which you or your organizations is looking. You can use the online search engine at Grants.gov to find all government grant opportunities. You can search based on any number of criteria including keywords, agency, category, eligibility, and funding instrument type. Once you find a potential grant program, you need to read through the description and make sure you or your organization is eligible. There may be other critical information on the grant outline that you need as well.
The first step requires you or your organization to register with the Central Contractor Registration through Grants.gov. This allows you and the government to better track your application. It also helps reduce paperwork on both ends. For organizations, the process involves getting a DUNS number and then registering with the Central Contractor Registration. You provide basic information on the organization, and then setup a user name and password. At that point, the CCR must approve the account. For individuals, it is a bit more straightforward. When you have a grant program in mind, you register as an individual interested in that program. You fill out a basic form and then submit.
Once the individual or organization has registered, the next step is to download the Grant Application Program. This is an online application. You fill it out and then it goes to the appropriate agency for review. All government grants have a slightly different application due to the differences in programs and eligibility. When you have your grant in mind, you can access the grant's application through the announcement page for the grant on the Grants.gov site. The application downloads certain files to your computer.
After downloading the application, the next step is to complete the application. Each application is a bit different because almost all government grants are a bit different. In general, you will need to provide complete identification information for you or your organization. You will also need to provide details on what you want the grant funds for and what outcomes you hope to achieve. You may also have to provide financial information about you or your organization in order to qualify for some grants. Some applications are more detailed than others are.
Before you can submit the application, all required fields must be complete. After you have the application complete, you need to connect your computer to the internet and then submit the application to the government. You will receive a tracking number for the application. After submitting, you can track the application through Grants.gov to see the status. Each agency takes a different amount of time in reviewing and making decisions on grant applications. And each program within an agency may have different lengths of review time as well.
For more information on government grants, you can find information on the following sites:
Grant Application Guides and Resources
It is always free to apply for government grants. However the process may be very complex depending on the funding opportunity you are applying for. Below are some of the published guides that have been helpful to past recipients: