While there is no such thing as free money in business, if you operate a registered non-profit, you might be eligible for a government grant. In this case, you will need to get to know—Grants.gov
Grants.gov is a freely available, government-operated online portal that helps eligible organizations find, apply for and access funding from more than 1,000 federal grant programs (valued at $500 billion annually).
What is a Government Grant?
Government grants are widely misunderstood. Much of the misunderstanding is due to less than truthful late-night commercials and spammy emails that tout free government money for individuals and businesses.
Truth be told, government grants are generally not available to start-ups or for-profit businesses. However, the federal government does provide grants to non-profits, educational institutions, and associations as this article explains. Exceptions occur to these rules if you are a business engaged in certain federal research and development areas. Read more about who is eligible here on Grants.gov.
Finding Government Grants for your Non-Profit
Government grants cover a wide range of activities, from agriculture production to zoological research. Eligibility for a grant varies according to its purpose and use.
But whatever the mission of your non-profit, you can search for available funds from 21 agencies using the Find Grant Opportunities tool. Search by basic key word, topical categories, agency name, or any combination of criteria using the advanced grant search tool.
Applying for a Grant With Grants.gov
In order to apply for a grant, you will first need to register with Grants.gov. This process can take several days if not weeks of approvals, so be sure to plan your application strategy in advance.
Registration requires more than just simple contact information. You will need to get a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) Number as well as register with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), a government-wide registry for vendors doing business with the federal government. Check out the Organization Registration Guide and Checklist (PDFs) on the Grants.gov registration page for information on how to go about doing this.
Once your registration is approved (allow several days for this process) you can then proceed to apply for a grant and track the status of your application.
If you are applying for more than one grant, make sure to cater your application to that particular funding agency's specifications. If you intend to become a frequent applicant for government grants for your non-profit, you might want to take advantage of an automated tool—the Applicant System-to-System—which streamlines the application process and eliminates the need to re-enter the same data each time.
Self-Service Tools to Help You Navigate the Grant Process
Grants.gov also offers a variety of self-service and assistance tools that help you navigate the grant application process. Launched in July 2010, the Grants.gov iPortal gives you 24 hour access to self-help tools, including the top ten requested help topics, a searchable knowledge base (400 answers to common issues), self-service help ticket generation, live one-on-one help via web chat as well as alerts and updates.
For more information on non-profit fundraising and other sources of episodic and ongoing funds, read these earlier posts: