Making the Grant Process Simple

Have you ever had a big project you needed to start, but didn't know what to do first? Perhaps it is something which required a lot of labor, like landscaping your yard or remodeling your house. When you undertake a project of this magnitude, it's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the amount of work which needs to be done. But once you find a starting spot and get things going, it seems all to fall in place.

That's just the way you need to think about a grant proposal.

If you have ever considered applying for a grant but were intimidated by the rather lengthily and complicated procedure, then maybe you need a little help finding a place to start. Once you get your feet on the road, you'll find the journey much easier than you imagined.

Let's go back to the comparison between writing a grant proposal and remodeling your house. If you were going to remodel, lay down new carpet and reupholster the sofa-you wouldn't start by ripping up the old carpet. Nor would you begin by slapping a new coat of paint on the walls or tearing down the old drapes. In fact, you would probably begin the project by searching the web for Home Improvements. This would give you a good idea which stores offer the kind of price range of these goods will be. Once you have a clear idea of what is available, you can call each store to talk to the salespeople and see if they had what you were interested in. Only after making this initial contact would you take the effort to drive down to the store and make a purchase.

So, like that home improvement project, receiving a grant starts with a little research. First you'll want to determine what is available. Then you need to make initial contact with the agency or foundation and see if your need for money fits their guidelines. Once that's done, you will find it easier to complete your proposal and obtain a grant.

There are many grant-related sites the web. By reading through these sites, you will find grants for every purpose you can imagine, from education to artistic projects, scientific research to projects to help the homeless. You will also learn what kind of funding the foundations provide to these projects--some will offer a few hundred dollars, while others will give thousands and even millions of dollars a year. A great start might be the Foundation Center. The Foundation Center is the world's leading source of information on philanthropy, fundraising, and grant programs.

Lending a Helping Hand

"But I don't qualify for any of these grants!" That's one of the most common complaints uttered by grant seekers when paging through the Foundation Directory Online or The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, and sometimes it's very valid. After all, most grants are very specialized, and many are not available to individuals. However, it's hard to imagine, with the huge variety of grants that are available, that someone is not eligible for any of them.

Most likely is the situation where, after receiving a grant, an individual might want to find another method to cash in on the process. It seems a shame to let all of that experience and research go to waste on a single grant.

So, rather than worrying about the fact that you have used up all your time and energy on one grant just for yourself, perhaps you should look into becoming a grant broker. Working as a grant broker, you will be acting as a middleman for nonprofit agencies looking for funding, and for government and/or private grant sources which have money to give away.

There is a common misconception about nonprofit companies: Most people seem to think that they cannot engage in any activity which brings in cash. In reality, the nonprofit status simply means that the company cannot disperse its profit as bonuses among its employees. They can make money, pay regular salaries to their employees, advertise, and reinvest their profits by putting them back into the corporation.

The first thing to understand about being a grant broker is how to make money. Many first-time grant seekers imagine that a grant broker would do well charging a commission, or a percentage of the total grant awarded. This is true. So true, in fact. that it is illegal for grant brokers to collect a commission. instead, they must charge a set fee for their services and collect only that amount. While this may seem somewhat limiting, it has one advantage: You will be paid whether or not you secure a grant for your nonprofit company.

You already know about your grant sources, so you'll need to research the other half of the equation: the nonprofit organizations in your area. There are two basic types of nonprofit groups which you will be able to help with your grant-seeking efforts-charities and social action organizations. charities are any group whose main goal is to help human beings (the homeless, the poor, the handicapped) with their efforts. Social action organizations are groups involved with issues like animal rights, political decisions, the environment, etc.

As a grant broker, you must contact several of the nonprofit groups in your area and convince them that you can assist them in efforts by securing grant funds for them. The first contact can be made by simply using your free money letter; they will send you information about the organization and you will be able to determine if you are interested in finding financing for them. Or, if you are more confident about your grant-winning ability, you can introduce yourself and your service in the letter.

Once you have attracted the interest of the nonprofit group. you can either collect a small "finder's fee" for giving them a list of grants that they are eligible for and let them apply for the money themselves, or you can charge a bit more and write the grant proposal for the group yourself. Many nonprofit groups will insist on you doing this.

Remember, when approaching the nonprofit group, your grant experience is your resume. If you have secured a grant for yourself, tell them about it. If not, tell them that you have spent time researching grant sources and the application process. Once you have successfully secured grants for a few nonprofit groups, you will find that others will be much more receptive to your brokerage business. Some may actually seek you out and treat you very obsequiously. Your knowledge and experience are very important to them.

One Final Word of Advice

If traditional sources of grant money haven't been working out, a final possibility might be corporations. Large companies often give money for public projects. Many of these companies already have their own foundations (i.e. the Ford Foundation), but others may have programs which are not specifically mentioned in the Foundation Directory Online.

If you think you have a project which might interest a corporate philanthropic program, consider all the major companies in your area. Many corporate programs are geographic in nature, that is, they may apply mainly to the region in which the company has a major base of operations. Unfold a map of your area and draw a 25-mile radius circle around your house. Then consider all the major industries which fall into all circle and start writing. If none of these attempts pan out, you can start trying other companies at progressively farther distances away. As a last resort, try large companies out of state. Exhaust all possibilities, and always remember that the money may not be where you think it is.

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