An Insider's Guide to Grant Money

7/17/2013

Overview

We read nearly every day about government spending, but many of us do not realize that we might be eligible to receive some of the money the government gives away every year. There are thousands of grant programs for established businesses and newcomers. Whether it's to develop a unique invention, continue or change your career path through education, work at your artistic vocation or simply obtaining help with living expenses, there are numerous sources out there for you to tap.

But how to identify them? This is the bigger stumbling block to those that even think they might qualify for government funds in some way. But the key to obtaining grant money is not a big secret. Generally, if you are an organized, detail-oriented person who can follow instructions, chances are you could qualify for a grant.

There is even a bimonthly magazine you can subscribe to called Humanities, which is published by the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 410, Washington, D.C. 20506, phone number (202) 606- 8443. This publication features listings of recent grants by discipline, a calendar detailing application grant deadlines and guide sections for those who are thinking of applying for a National Endowment of the Humanities grant - - and there are many! This magazine can give you tips to help you qualify!

Grant money can provide you with the independence you need to start your own business or launch you on a new career destination. These dollars can help you acquire schooling you've either lacked or need to change course.

All it takes is organizational skill, the ability to write a proper grant proposal and knowing who to write to for applications. This booklet will be your guide and can improve your chances of securing grant money dramatically!

How to Write Your Proposal

Writing a grant proposal can be as simple as following the directions in your application packet. Add a little flare and your grant application can stand out, making your chances of selection better.

Every agency bestowing grants has different rules for application which is why reading the packet you receive thoroughly is so important. The government is a stickler for details, so if you can't follow directions or make just one small mistake, your application will be disqualified.

There are reference sources in your library to consult about grant proposal writing in addition to the advice given here. It's best to read as much as you can in preparation for your grant writing duties.

If you are requesting a grant for a specific idea or project, contact the agency after you receive the packet to see if they have recently awarded any grants for this type of work. If they have, it may be that no further grant money is available for that project. You will then have to come up with another idea to obtain your dollars.

Whatever your idea, try to enlist written support from individuals in your community who may know you and like your idea. Grant applications backed by letters from local government, community and business leaders improves your chances of receiving the award. Federal grant money may actually require these letters of endorsement. Your application packet will inform you of the specific requirements.

Even if not required, support letters are encouraged. It gives further credence to your idea and may make the difference if the grant award comes down to a couple of applications and the agency is forced to choose.

If you have a partner or two who have a different expertise than you, add their names and qualifications to the overall proposal. Having assistance on the project often encourages agencies who make grants available as the project's chances of completion are heightened.

Bouncing your idea(s) off the agency individuals who will be considering your grant request is a sound move. Many of these employees have been there a substantial length of time and will be well-versed in the ins and outs of grant obtainment. They often appreciate that you asked their advice up front and can do wonders for you in terms of saving time and effort in heading down the wrong track.

You could make, if convenient, a personal visit to the specific agency to meet the individuals who will be considering your proposal. There may be pertinent reference information in the agency which can help you with your proposal. It always helps to put a name to a face and a professional look will help you in their estimation.

By all means, stay in contact with these people, especially if they work in the agency to whom you will be submitting your bid(s). Even if you don't get a positive response on the first grant proposal, keep in touch! They can often tip you off to what future projects have a chance of being funded. If it's in your area of expertise, you have an inside track to the next fund availability.

You will likely not be the only one writing for grant money, so you have to do a better job of it than your competitor. By making sure that there is:

Then you will be ready to write your first proposal draft.

Here are the essential parts of a grant proposal:

  1. Summary. This generally outlines the proposed idea or project and is naturally slotted for the opening paragraph. Keep it both brief and interesting. It will be the first impression the grantor(s) will have of you and your abilities, so work hard on this part of the document. Poorly written, this opener could end your chances immediately. Conversely, well-written beginnings are encouraging to the reader(s) and improve on your chances. Be sure only your key points are in this portion. Don't oversell it with too much detail. Make this part easy to read, but informative.

  2. About You (and your Business). The next section deals summarizes your qualifications and those of any others that will be working with you. You may want to include up to date biographies of all involved. Let the grantor(s) know about your recent work and success, especially if you've been successful with any other grant program.

  3. Problem Statement. This is where you summarize the need for this project or idea. You will need to note your idea's purpose, who will benefit, how they will benefit, what socio-economic area will be affected, hard data supporting the nature of the problem, what is currently being done (or not done) about the problem, what will happen if your idea is not funded and implemented and how you intend to solve the problem. This may be the longest part of your proposal. Get any supporting documents you need from local community and government organizations. Be sure you can defend all your thoughts contained in this section. It's the what, why and how of the grant proposal.

  4. Objectives. These are the actual means by which you will solve the problem you outlined in step #3. Outline them in detail, provide cost analyses of each to support your funding request and lay them out in logical, sequential order. The agency will periodically review the progress of your project or idea once the grant is given and it will likely be these actual objective points that will be used to measure your work.

  5. Detailed Objectives. While step #4 provided a summary of your objectives, all of the activities relating to accomplishing these objectives will be laid out in detail here. This could include dates, resources needed, staff needed, progress checkpoints, relevant diagrams, charts or drawings and all relevant detail. Highlight any innovative work that will be used to help accomplish your objectives. Provide any reference material necessary to back up your details.

  6. Evaluation. Here, you will need to identify the results that will come from the project. You briefly stated these in your opening, but more specifics will be needed here. The only way to evaluate the project may be from seeing if it meets the results expected. You are solving a problem, after all, so your results should be your solutions and their resulting benefits. Some agencies have standard evaluation techniques, so be sure you reference those here if that is the case.

  7. Future Funding. What will happen to the idea or project once finished? If it is self-completing, say so. If further maintenance will have to be done to keep the problem at bay, record how this is to be funded. You might be able to arrange for local support once the initial funding is depleted and the problem solved if it is something that requires ongoing work.

  8. Budget. While it would be nice to see the grant money fund the full cost of your idea or project, current federal budget cuts may not make that feasible. If you are securing other funding or have a plan for money to pick up the additional expenses of the project, let the agency know that. Write out a detailed budget listing (and justifying) the assorted expenses. You may receive all of the funding you need from the one grant, but you really shouldn't count on it. It's often easier to secure government funding if you have also tapped into other sources to help cover the costs, even if it's a small investment on your (and, if applicable, your partner's part.

While these are the key elements of a proposal you will write, get as much help as you need depending on the size of the project. Obtain as much input from area experts as you need before writing the proposal. They might have excellent suggestions and could play a role in helping you to complete the various activities associated with accomplishing your stated objectives. They might even be helpful in writing certain aspects of the proposal, especially the details of the work and tasks necessary to meet your objectives.

Do a first draft. Then -- get feedback! Give it to people who have helped you, or whom you trust to be properly judgmental about it. The best writing is done during the rewriting phase, so it's important to have people take a critical look at your first draft. You're too close to be thoroughly objective. That's O.K.! Just know that you should get others to help you analyze your initial work in preparation for a second draft.

Go through the same process with your second draft. This should be shorter and less feedback should come in if you elicited enough comments the first time around.

Make any changes necessary and get it to final draft form. Then have it proofread and bound into a booklet for submission purposes. You're ready to submit!

Remember that the grant should be written after you've obtained the agency's application and grant guideline forms. There are many places to contact for potential grant information, and your decision should be closely allied with your skills and interests. The following list should help get you started isolating the agencies you fell are best possibilities for you.

Conclusion

Securing a grant is no easy task. But for the dedicated and persistent, it's there for the asking. Government budgets are set up to spend all the cash they are allocated. People like yourself are awarded these funds all the time. This time next year -- it could be you on the receiving end of this money -- and on your way to a new career!

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