Grants as a source of funding

Access to capital is one of the greatest challenges for both small business owners and small non-profits and NGOs. Knowing where to look and how to sift through grant information that applies specifically to your business can be laborious. But, it can also be very rewarding.

Grant writing is a very specialized discipline and requires strong compliance, research, and writing skills. The relationship between grant makers and grant seekers is governed by specific grant protocol, which refers to the rules and requirements governing the provision and award of grant funding. Protocols are grant-specific.

Grant makers include foundations, nonprofits, businesses, corporations, clubs, and professional organizations. Grants are also provided by state, local, and federal governmental agencies.

State, local, and federal government grants are driven by legislation. Every year, the U.S. government awards $400 billion in grants. Private grant funding sources include foundations, nonprofits, businesses, corporations, clubs, and professional organizations. Information on private grants can be found on the Grantsmanship Center website (tgci.com). The website provides information on top grant making foundations, community foundations, corporate giving programs, and state government grant opportunities by state.

Information on independent, corporate, and community foundation funding sources are also available on the Foundation Center website (foundationcenter.org) and the Council on Foundations (cof.org). The Foundation Center provides grant seekers with information on philanthropy opportunities, proposal writing, research, and training. The Council on Foundations provides grant makers (foundations, corporations, and philanthropic entities) with foundation management services.

Foundations and corporate giving programs offer two types of grants: general purpose or program development. General purpose grant awards can be used to fund operating expenses and special programs. Program development grant awards are restricted to funding specific projects.

Bottom line, the quality and completeness of your grant proposal has a tremendous impact on whether or not your project is selected for funding. It behooves those seeking grants to build a relationship with the grant maker to validate the grant proposal approach, if possible. If a face-to-face meeting is not feasible, a letter of introduction and a conference call is the next best option.

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