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Financial Advice & Assistance

Featured Article:

The Simplicity of Getting Grants

By Brenda Smith

If you have ever considered applying for a grant but were intimidated by the rather lengthy and complicated procedure, then maybe you need a little help finding a place to start. Once you get your feet on the road, you'll find the journey much easier than you imagined.

Let's go to a comparison between writing a grant proposal and remodeling your house. If you were going to remodel, lay down new carpet and reupholster the sofa-you wouldn't start by ripping
and looking under Home Improvements. This would give you a good idea which stores offer the kind of price range of these goods will be. Once you have a clear idea of what is available, you can call each store to talk to the salespeople and see if they had what you were interested in. Only after  taking this initial contact would you take the effort to drive down to the store and make a purchase.

So, like that home improvement project, receiving a grant starts with a little research. 
    1. First you'll want to determine what is available. 
    2. Then you need to make initial contact with the agency or foundation and see if your need for money fits their guidelines. Once that's done, you will find it easier to complete your proposal and obtain a grant.

The Foundation Directory is a directory of private grant foundations in the United States. Each State may also have a directory of the foundations in their state. For instance California has
Foundations & Grantmakers Directory

By reading through these listings you will find grants for every purpose you can  imagine, from education to artistic projects, scientific research to projects to help the homeless. You will also learn what kind  of funding the foundations provide to these projects-some will offer a few hundred dollars, while others will give thousands and even millions of dollars a year.

There is another Yellow Pages for government money: The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. Like the Foundation Directory, The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance lists every source of free money given away by the government, and the number of causes funded by private foundations is  dwarfed by the scope of government grants.

While looking through these grant listings, jot down the addresses and phone numbers of any  foundations or government agencies that look promising along with any other important information. Later, you will be able to access this list easily rather than having to go back through the entire book.  You can also search the internet under “grants” and find information and names of organizations.

Now you have a list of initial contacts for your grant needs, much like you would have after glancing through the Yellow Pages for your remodeling needs. Next, you need to get a little more information about the foundations on the list just as you would about the hardware stores. But how do you do that? In the case of the home improvement stores, you would pick up the phone and call them. Unfortunately, you cannot make a phone call to most grant foundations and calling government agencies is an effort which is abortive as often as it is productive, but you can write a letter to them. 

This letter, referred to as a "letter of inquiry," will be your first contact with the foundation. It is your way of reaching out and shaking hands with the foundation director and introducing yourself. In order to make a good impression, keep this letter brief and to the point. Being long winded or redundant will only start you off on a bad foot. 

Many people are rather hesitant to compose this letter even though they stand to lose nothing and given thousands of dollars. Perhaps the reason is because they are not sure exactly what should be included in the letter.

When putting your letter inquiry together, be sure to include: 
* Your name, address and phone number * A brief introduction and description of your project or need for money. * A Request for the foundation's annual report and grant application. * A request for a list of previous grant recipients, a sample grant proposal and the foundation's tax  returns form the previous year.

The annual report is sort of a prospectus for the grant foundation. Reading it, you will learn exactly what the foundation gives money away for, how extensive your proposal will need to be, how much money they give away to particular projects, and when the applicant deadline is. Although not all foundations make the information available, if you can obtain a list of past recipients and a sample successful proposal you will be ahead of the game because you will have concrete examples to guide you. Or, you can contact the past grantees and inquire what they did to set their proposal or project above the others. With this information, you can hardly go wrong when you begin to write your own proposal.

Once you have your letter ready, send it out to every grant foundation you feel you might be eligible for. By sending one letter to each foundation, you will assured of a large volume of responses.

Soon the material you requested from the foundations will begin appearing in your mail box. When you read through all of these papers, you will discover that some foundations are not what you thought they would be, while others do not fund projects exactly like yours. However, you may discover that some of them are willing to give money. In fact, it shouldn't be too long before you have a list of at least a dozen foundations that are likely grant givers. It is to these you must send your finished grant proposal.

"But I don't qualify for any of these grants!" That's one of the most common complaints uttered by grant seekers when paging through the Foundation Directory or The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, and sometimes it's very valid. After all, most grants are very specialized, and many are not available to individuals. However, it's hard to imagine, with the huge variety of grants that are available, that someone is not eligible for any of them.

There is a common misconception about nonprofit companies: Most people seem to think that they cannot engage in any activity which brings in cash. In reality, the nonprofit status simply means that the company cannot disperse its profit as bonuses among its employees. They can make money, pay regular salaries to their employees, advertise, and reinvest their profits by putting them back into the corporation. 

You may want to seek the assistance of a Grant Broker. Many first-time grant seekers imagine that a grant broker would charge a percentage of the total grant awarded. It is illegal for grant brokers to collect a  commission. instead, they must charge a set fee for their services and collect only that amount. 


If you think you have a project that might interest a corporate philanthropic program, consider all the major companies in your area. Many corporate programs are geographic in nature, that is, they may apply mainly to the region in which the company has a major base of operations. Unfold a map of your area and draw a 25-mile radius circle around your house. Then consider all the major industries that fall into all circle and start writing. If none of these attempts pan out, you can start trying other companies at progressively farther distances away. As a last resort, try large companies out of state. Exhaust all possibilities, and always remember that the money may not be where you think it is.

Most important, be honest with yourself and the grant makers about your reasons for the Grants. If you are simply seeking free money so you don't have to work, you will be wasting your time. How you spend the Grant money you receive will be under scrutiny, and if you don't use the money as you proposed, there are severe penalties and potential prison time.


 Here is a brief list of grant foundations:

Information: Money given for projects associated with research, training and other activities related to urban poverty, human rights, rural poverty, education and culture, public policy and international affairs.

    501 Fifth Ave.,
    New York, NY 10017 Contact: Eleanor C. Mark

Information: Grants given for musical study based on need and talent.

    North Carolina State University P.O. Box 7302
    Raleigh, NC 27695-7302

Contact: Financial Aid Office

Information: If your last name is Gatling and you want to attend this university, you qualify for this  grant. There is $1.2 million available in this fund.

    5045 Wilshire Boulevard  
    Los Angeles, CA 90036        Contact: Board of Advisors

Information: Scholarships for higher education to relatives of Carnation Company employees on the basis of academic merit and financial need.

    700 South Flower St., Suite 1122
    Los Angeles, CA 90017        Contact: G. Grant Gilford

Information: Financial assistance to needy Christian Scientists who are at least 65 years old and reside in Los Angels, County, Calif.

    30 Wall Street  
    New York, NY 10005        Contact: Edward W. Stack

Information: Grants for convalescent and medical care for needy individuals in the area of Upstate New York and New York City. 

    c/o First National Bank 225 South County Road
    Palm Beach, FL 33480            Contact: Program Director

Information: Relief assistance only to indigent residents of Vero Beach, Fla.


About the Author Brenda Smith, Grant Writer
Ms. Smith worked for a government agency for over 15 years and saw numerous grant applications rejected because of simple misunderstandings and omissions.  She currently works as a grant writer for a major charity foundation, securing some of those same government grants.  Although she no longer accepts new clients, she offers her expertise through Self-Investment Company, LLC, Solving the Entrepreneurial Puzzle Educational Events and products. Contact Brenda Smith-Jackley



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