Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Do You Find Money for Individuals on Grants.gov?

It’s not as easy as it should be, but there are some strategies to mine grants.gov, the search engine and information center for federal grants, in order to find programs that individuals and for-profit businesses can apply for.  When you go to grants.gov, choose “find grant opportunities” in the red area on the left-hand side of the page.  When you get there, you have several choices; click “advanced search.”  At the next page, you have lots of options, but DO NOT enter a keyword in the keyword search box.  Why?  Because you cannot use it with the other search options, like “search by eligibility.” 
This last option is important to remember, because not every entity is eligible to get a grant: in every grant opportunity, it is spelled out who or what constitutes an “eligible applicant.” Most grants can only be successfully applied for by nonprofits or state or local governments. Only a relatively small fraction can be applied for directly from the federal government. So, look through the list of eligible applicants in that box: it will include state governments, Native American tribal governments, and more. Among the list are: individuals, small businesses, and for profits other than small businesses. Pick the one that applies to you, highlight it, and look at the other search boxes. Narrowing down to grants that you are eligible for will save you lots of time and frustration.

If you know what agency you want to look for, highlight that agency. If not, go to the box that says: search by funding activity. It will list broad categories, like housing, community development, business and commerce, etc. You can highlight one of these if you wish. You can choose a few boxes to highlight before you click the search button.

Here’s something to remember: you must choose if you want to search in open, closed, or archived opportunities. The default is open opportunities; that is, things that can be applied for right now. You can stay with that if you wish, but it might be worthwhile to also check the closed and archived opportunities. These are opportunities that have closed, but they are worth looking at for a couple of reasons. One is that the opportunity may periodically re-open (say, a grant opportunity that comes out once a year, each February), and you may prepare in advance for it. Another is that there may be agencies that fund grants in your field, but simply don’t have anything open now. Knowing that they provide this funding should lead you to checking out their website to see the funding chances that become available in the future.

For instance, if you choose small business eligibility, in the funding field of agriculture (not the agriculture department), you will find a handful of open opportunities. If you include closed and archived opportunities, you find many more that may re-open in the future, and in departments that you never thought of. Try it and see if it helps. And, as I said before, DON’T use keywords in the advanced search.

P.S.--These tips will mostly help private businesses and researchers.  Individuals looking for help with heat, homebuying, etc., are still most likely helped by their state and local agencies and nonprofit groups, who receive federal money and create their own programs.

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