Is it easy to apply for a grant? Yes and No. It depends on your understanding about grants, what they are and who can get them.
Unfortunately many people, influenced by political promises and false hopes, come to believe that there is some place where you can just fill out a simple form and receive thousands of dollars. But unless you win Publishers Clearinghouse or your state lottery, that’s simply not true.
The good news is that there is a lot of help out there — financial and otherwise — for people who need help just to get by or to fulfill a dream like going to college or buying a house or starting a business. It's confusing trying to find them because of the noise and misleading information that bombard our lives.
Here we help sort out the real facts about what grants and other forms of financial assistance are available and how you can go about applying for help. We give direction on how to get that help as well as realistic assessments of how easy or difficult it is to get it. You don’t have to waste your time chasing an impossible dream. But you can gather helpful data, make a plan, and go after more money to support your goals.
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If you are a nonprofit organization, a small business, or a scientist you might first want to check out the government site about all available grants. Check out that link to get some good tips about how to use the site. It can be a bit overwhelming but if you know what you're doing you can get some really good information pretty quickly. The site is regularly updated and you can search at any time according to keywords and you can filter your results so you only see those grant opportunities for which you are likely to be eligible. Don't waste your time on grants you're not eligible for! And remember – there are lots of other ways to find grants and we describe them here:
Update September 2019
If you are a nonprofit you should certainly take a look at the government site noted above. But you will probably have better luck finding grants that match your mission and goals in our article about Grants for Nonprofits. There you can find a wealth of information about how to find foundations and other grant-making companies or agencies that are specifically looking to invest in the efforts of official non-profit organizations. Likewise if you are an individual with a particular desire to study and travel abroad take a look at Travel Grants for a review of relevant opportunities. Or if you are trying to figure out how to buy a home and some property for your family without spending much money, be sure to take a look at Land Grants — yes, some do still exist!
Have you ever googled “Apply for a Grant?” If so you know that you will see lots of ads (note the little square that says “Ad” just under the headline of the search result) promising money for school, often claiming they can get you up to almost $6000 easy — as if they are the ones offering the grant. In fact this is one area where there are legitimate grants — but you don’t need to respond to an ad or pay anyone a fee to help you get them.
Education is one area in this country where eligible individuals can just fill out an application and receive grants or scholarships to help pay for their education. Pell Grants in particular are legitimate grants that you can apply for and win based only on your income (or lack thereof). And the maximum grant at this time (late 2017) is close to $6000. And it is expected that the max for the 2018-2019 academic year will be about $100 higher, or slightly over $6000. It’s easy to see if you could be eligible for the Pell Grant by taking our quick quiz in Qualify For A Pell Grant. And if you go after this grant remember that it is free to apply and the FAFSA is your first step.
We detail other ways to get help paying for school in the article Grants For College. One of those is with scholarships, an often ignored option because people don’t realize how easy winning one of them could be. You might find a treasure trove in Scholarship Contests, see where best to look for scholarships in Scholarship Information, or get a head start with Scholarships for High SchoolSeniors.
Is starting or growing a business your dream? There are grants for business but they’re not always easy to find. If you google grants for business you’ll find articles that supposedly tell you where to get them but will mislead you by implying that the SBA offers grants. The SBA (Small Business Association) does provide some great assistance and could help you find a subsidized loan — but they do not offer grants.
Some government grants offered by other departments do go to small businesses. These tend to be extremely specialized and are often related to high tech or scientific research. It’s worth checking them out by using our guide to grants.gov, the federal website that lists all current “funding opportunities” (another term for grants).
The government is not the only — or even necessarily the best — place to look for grants to help your business. Get a great overview in Business Grants. and lots more info and tips in Grants to Start a Business, Fund A Startup Business, Black Business Resources, Business Help for Women and Grants for Women Owned Business.
If you are intimidated by many of these resources because you do not have a traditional banking relationship (or just don’t like banks), or you are hesitant because you don’t have a lot of business education or experience, take a look at Microfinancing Opportunities. These lenders specialize in support for people with low incomes but high energy and determination to start and grow a business.
Fire Departments are usually funded by the local community's budget. But that's not always enough to provide top quality training and obtain the best equipment and other technology to maximize the effectiveness of the departments fire fighters. Fortunately there is additional funding available both from the government and from private organizations. Check out the latest in Fire Department Grants.
Whether you are looking to buy a house (for the first time or not) or to find a decent and affordable rental there are also lots of programs to help you. There’s a good overview in Home Grants that covers home purchases and rentals as well as paying for or getting grants or other assistance to cover home repairs and home improvements. And if you already own a home and you’d like to get some cash out of it don’t forget that the HARP program is still out there and is an incredibly good deal if you qualify. They’ve made it a lot easier to qualify and you usually don’t even need an appraisal on your home so if you’ve been turned down before this could be the time try again. Discover more in Assistance for HARP Eligibility.
Some states still offer land grants – offers of free property in exchange for moving to a specific town and building a home. Of course the locations are typically pretty rural and not heavily populated – but that could appeal to a lot of folks. So if you've had it with the busy urban lifestyle with sky high housing costs you might want to check out what's available in Land Grants.
This is a key area where people can be misled to believe that one simple application could get you lots of money. There is a lot of financial aid out there: over $600 billion awarded annually. We spell out what and where it is in Federal Assistance in the United States. And there are applications for different kinds of benefits. There is even a questionnaire you can fill out to discover what benefits and other sorts of aid you could qualify for, along with information on how to apply. Discover details in our review of benefits.gov.
If your needs are urgent be sure to check out I Need Help to find local resources offering assistance. Single moms can get some tips in Grants for Single Moms, Grants for Kids and Assistance for Child Care.
And if you’d just like the lowdown on what “real money” actually exists — and where you might find and apply for it — check out Free Money as well as our annual updates in Free Money 2015, Free Money 2016 and Free Money 2017 and Free Money 2018.