Understanding Federal Grants (Part 1)
Let me start off by asking you this question. How would you like free money that you will never have to pay back, from the federal government? Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, the simple truth is that you can get it if the government decides to award you a federal grant.
But what is a federal grant?
Basically it is financial assistance given from one of the 26 federal agencies. When it is given, it is suppose to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States government.
Project grants are aimed for the arts, education, health care, scientific research, social services and technology development. Formula grants on the other hand are mandated by law and there are various levels for this type of grant including; categorical, block and earmark grants.
Categorical grants have a narrowly defined purpose and recipients must have the same amount of money needed to take part of this program. They also carry more strict and specific provisions on the way the grant money is to be spent.
A block grant on the other hand is a large sum of money granted by the national government to a regional government with only
general provisions as to the way it is to be spent. To get a block grant, you don’t need to produce a certain amount of capital.
Of the three, earmarks grants are the most controversial, because lobbyists not ordinary people are the ones involved in securing it. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines earmarks as “namely specified funds for projects, activities, or institutions not requested by the executive, or add-ons to requested funds which Congress directs for specific activities.” Basically meaning that an earmark is simply any spending on any project that is not explicitly in the President’s budget.
But how do you apply for a federal grant?
Just like with anything else. If you want a grant you have to apply for it and it isn’t always an easy process. But if you win the grant your efforts will be well rewarded. To apply for any grant you have to fill out an application form and then attach specified documents to it. The most important of which happens to be your proposal. Your proposal should not only have a nice cover letter. It must have something worth reading from beginning to end.
While introductions are nice, those reviewing your proposal want to know more specifically about the problems your proposal plans to address, your objectives, how you propose to reach your goals, how much money you will need, the length of time of the project will take and a summary of what you are proposing.
When it comes to applying for a grant there is a bit of a learning curve and you must be prepared to do you research and submit a good proposal. Before you send out your proposal for the grant, write it one or two times and then have this checked by an outside party. If you are not happy with the proposal, rewrite it again because everything should be clear and concise.
When the final draft has been made, bind everything together using either clamps or hard covers. To insure that your proposal
gets the attention it deserves it is a good idea to contact the Federal agency you are writing to and ask them which type of
binding they prefer. You will also want to send your proposal by registered mail.
Aside from federal grants, there are grants offered by private non-profit organizations such as foundations, not-for-profit
corporations or charitable trusts which are all collectively referred to as charities. So don’t lose hope if your application for a federal grant was given to someone else.
Federal grants are one way that the government gives back some of the money that it gets from taxpayers and if after careful
review the grant committee sees that your proposal will benefit your community or even a greater number of its citizens, there is little doubt that you will be awarded the money for your project.
As I mentioned earlier there is a learning curve when it comes to applying for grants, but don’t let that stop you. There is plenty of help available and even people that will write your proposal for you. So, if you really want a grant or you need funding for a special project don’t get discouraged. Sometimes you will have to go through the same process several times before you see results.