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FREE GOVERNMENT GRANTS: Fact or Fiction?

Sound familiar; eerie yet enticing? To professional grant writers these “offers” are a pernicious scam, it’s a wishing well, except rather than a penny or dime, your tossing in $19.99 or more, and you’re not getting $19.99 back, much less $1.9 million! This is not some harmless hoax. Seminar sellers and book hucksters routinely con people into shelling out hundreds of dollars to hear lectures or purchase directories that contain information readily available in any public library or on the Internet; in fact, I’ll be sharing some of those “freebie” websites with you here. Despite the grim picture I’ve painted, there are authentic government grants for businesses and individuals; the United States government does indeed award $400 billion annually through its 26 federal entities, what they don’t tell you is that they are very restrictive.  In fact, looking back at each federal grant I’ve written as a professional fundraising consultant,  I can tell you with some authority that there are in the area of 15 criteria you need to meet to even consider taking the time and spending the money to write one of these monsters (yes, monsters, imagine writing a Ph.D. dissertation).  Hey if winning grants were that easy, everyone would be rich. Right? Right. So, in order to make this monster of a process KISS — keep it simple stupid (recall that one from college marketing?), I’ll break it down for you. And then YOU count up the criteria you meet, or don’t meet, and from there make the decision to embark on the FREE GOVERNMENT GRANT! band wagon. The first question you need to ask yourself is: Who Are You? I ask because if you fit one or more of the following nine definitions you get to move on to the next six set of criteria.

1.   Female
2.   Minority
3.   Unemployed/Underemployed
4.   Disabled
5.   Recently released from prison
6.   High School Drop Out
7.   Veteran
8.   Recent Immigrant
9.    Sexual Orientation

    OK, you’ve identified who you are; now let’s look at what your business is.

    10.       Green

    11.       Community Revitalization: e.g. Under the Poverty Level, Rural Access, Urban Renewal, Business located in an economically challenged area

    12.       Job Creation

    13.       Economic development, workforce training

    14.       Service for working poor: e.g. child care centers, transportation, low income housing

    15. Innovation, social entrepreneurs, public/private partnerships

    Now, if you fit one or two of the above criteria, most likely, you’ve got a long shot at winning a grant; conversely, if you fit one or more of the 1 – 8 criteria AND one or more of the 10 – 15 criteria, you have a very good case for support for you and your business. Here’s a scenario of what it would look like to qualify for a federal grant:

    You are a female, unemployed veteran with a disability resulting from your years of service. While in the military you were trained as a chef, now home it’s been a dream of yours to start an organic farm in your rural hometown. Because of the people you served alongside you see the value of providing at risk urban youth with the opportunity to experience a rural lifestyle, so you intend to partner with an inner-city high school and have the youth work your small farm, harvest and sell your products at a local farmers market. This venture will require employees, so not only will you be offering at risk youth a positive work experience, you will hire full time and part time employees.  Due to your experience as an unemployed veteran, you have coordinated collaborations with the regional Workforce Development Office so they may help place people with the skills you need, you have also developed a partnership with the regional women’s prison. When a woman is released, and if she shows interest and has passed certain security measures, you will provide them with apprenticeships which could lead to part time or full time employment with you or with another similar operation, now that they have both experience and a work reference which you will provide.

    Last spring the USDA had a grant available which would be an excellent fit for a scenario just as described above.

    So what makes these 15 criteria so special that almost every grant requires meeting several of them? It’s pretty simple actually. Our government grants funds to organizations/businesses that will solve issues or problems facing the US, our economy, our citizens. They’ve identified at risk or hard to employ target populations and if you focus on training or hiring these populations, you are helping them solve a societal problem; making sure recently released prisoners have a fair shake and become productive members of society rather than struggling and perhaps ending up back where they came, which is an enormous cost to the government.

    If you’ve added up your criteria and you believe you may be eligible for a government grant, here are those “freebie” sites to search and see what is available right now.

    Federal Government Website www.Grants.gov

    Fundsnet Services http://www.fundsnetservices.com/searchresult.php?sbcat_id=30

    Philanthropy News Digest http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/

    Society for Nonprofit Organizations http://www.snpo.org

    Council on Foundations: Community Foundation Locator http://classic.cof.org/locator/index.cfm

    FAS Online http://www.fas.usda.gov/ICD/grants/director.html

    USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/funding.cfm

    GrantsAlert.com http://www.grantsalert.com/grants.cfm?id=4&pg=0

    Grant Wrangler http://www.grantwrangler.com/subscribe.html

    Environmental Grantmakers Association http://www.ega.org/funders/funderDirectory.php?keyword=&showAll=true

    Investor’s Circle https://angelsoft.net/angel-group/investors-circle/apply

    Funders Concerned about AIDS http://www.fcaaids.org/publications/Publications_Mapping.htm

    ScanGrants.com http://www.scangrants.com/

    For more information on federal grants give our federal grant writers at Wagner Fundraising a call. We’d love to help guide you through the process, or prepare the grant; whatever meets your needs.  More importantly, as professional fundraising consultants and grant writers we at ML Wagner Fundraising will tell you up front if it is a waste of time and money to seek government funding.

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