Grant money by definition is free. Free grants are not loans and do not need to be paid back. However, getting a grant may have a cost in terms of time and building the capacity to get a grant.
The Search for Free Grants
There are billions of dollars in government, foundation, and corporate grant money. Many of the resources to find grants are free. Government grant information is by law free and available to the public. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance publishes every grant opportunity in the United States. Foundations and corporations have information on their web sites. Also, there are web sites that collect information about foundations such as Foundation Center and Guidestar.
Finding information on free grants takes digging, but is accomplished with a web browser and a reliable Internet connection. Some large libraries have databases about grant opportunities.
Narrowing the Search for Free Grants
The federal government has over 1,000 grant opportunities and private funders have thousands more. The search can be frustrating and exhausting if you don’t narrow down your search. The search can be narrowed in different ways to make the list smaller.
Geographic searches are effective because most free grants are given to specific states, cities, or regions. Doing a search within one’s own state or city is a good strategy. Most funders give to their local area. An organization in Wisconsin is likely not eligible for a grant from a government or private funder in Ohio.
Individual grant seekers are best served to do searches for individual grants. The vast majority of free grants are for non-profits, schools, and other organizations. There are dozens of grant directories for individual seeking education, research, and other grants and fellowships.
Applying for Free Grants
Once viable opportunities are found, the grant application process is straightforward. Follow the directions and submit on time. However, there is a profession for grant writing for a reason. The application process is time consuming and can be daunting. Government applications have many legal requirements and can be hard to understand. The number of acronyms is dizzying.
Increasing Your Chances
The best way to increase your chance is apply only if there is a perfect match between what the funder wants and what you can offer. It is tempting to apply in a scattershot approach, but less is more. It is better to apply to one grant opportunity and put together an excellent application, than to cut and post to multiple funders.
Another way to increase your chances is to call or e-mail the funder and ask if you are eligible. Government grants often have “pre-proposal” or “bidders” conferences where you can hear about how best to apply. These conferences will give you important information that you must include in your application. Conferences are usually posted on the cover or inside the Request for Proposals.