Grants may seem like a mysterious world, but billions of dollars are available each year to individuals, government agencies, and organizations. Grant awards are wonderful because they never have to be repaid...and you don't have to pay to apply for them. To apply for a grant you can win, however, there are several basic steps you should follow:
* Step 1: Clearly understand who and what you are. Amazingly, those who offer grants report that as many as 90% of the applications they receive are rejected almost immediately because the applicant is not even eligible for the grant. Grants are given for very specific purposes to very specific entities, so understand at the outset if you are applying as an individual, a not-for-profit organization (specifically as defined by the IRS), a government agency, a business, etc.
* Step 2: Start with the Federal Register. This is the government's official source for announcements of all kinds, including grants. It offers a fairly straightforward search tool you can use to regularly look for grants related to your keywords. (If you find the tool confusing, there are free how-to guides available.) Take a look at the summaries returned for your search and see if you find something that matches you and your purpose.
* Step 3: To further investigate potential government grants, go to individual agency websites related to your area. Many of them have sections dedicated to grants. By narrowing your focus you will have fewer results to search through. As an example, the National Science Foundation provides an extensive index of funding opportunities and also allows you to search by keyword and to browse by Program Area (e.g. Engineering, Education and Human Resources, etc.), or by Special Programs for different student levels and for Small Business.
* Step 4: Check out grants available from private foundations and corporations. You may get many leads by doing a basic web search (e.g. "foundation grants artists" or "corporate grants"). Visit your library to ask for advice and see if they carry the Foundation Center Cooperating Collection, which will include an index of funders. Also visit the website of the Common Grant Application, an excellent source for both grant seekers and grant makers. Here you can sign up and register for free, then search for grants and submit a standardized application that can be seen by many potential grant makers.
* Step 5: Once you have found a grant that looks promising, go to the website for that grant and first read through the qualifications for eligibility very carefully. Making a mistake here can cost you lots of time and effort. Be sure you are a qualified applicant -- and that you can meet all deadlines -- before you go any further!
* Step 6: With Step 5 complete, you are now ready to apply. First read through the entire grant package - regardless of how long or tedious it may appear - and follow every guideline precisely. Create an outline for your application that exactly matches the grant requirements. Follow all instructions, provide all requested data and documentation, and meet all deadlines for submission.