August 6, 2010

The Truth about Grants to Businesses and Individuals: Part 1 – Grants to Individuals

The private and federal grant opportunity base primarily supports nonprofit organizations. So where does this leave the for-profit entities, such as businesses, or individuals for that matter? Are there other grants out there that will support them? This is a burning question and one that The Grant Plant is often asked. Conclusions are presented in a two-part series. The first part of this series reviews grant opportunities available to individuals.

Before we dive into the details, I must point out that the mere act of looking for grants is an art form in itself. There is an excess of resources and specialized search engines that range from free to paid, multi-tiered subscriptions. The options can be overwhelming. At The Grant Plant, we have refined our research methodology and incorporate a number of effective sources. Because of the frequency with which we receive inquiries from businesses and individuals, I looked to these sources to create an assessment regarding such grants. Details regarding grants specific to individuals are presented below.

To the individual:

A limited number of federal and private grants are available to individuals, but these grants are very particular – generally focused on certain populations with sub-qualifiers (for instance, students in a certain field of study with incomes below a defined level). There are not many national programs that support grants to individuals, and most states do not appear to have strong showings of support (New Mexico included). In general, the most frequently found grant opportunities to individuals support the following populations:

  • Students: Grants support financial aid, scholarships, fellowships, exchange programs, and even student loans.
  • Teachers: Grants support teaching enhancements, program development, and professional development.
  • Medical patients: Grants to offset medical costs, generally for highly targeted sub-populations like children, cancer patients, and the economically disadvantaged.

On a lesser frequency, individual grants were found to support:

  • Artists: Grants support the creation, performance, exhibition, or publication of art. Much of support to artists is in the form of awards.
  • Children and families in need: Grants to support basic needs, healthcare, domestic violence, homeless prevention, and support for orphans.
  • Low income individuals: Grants support energy assistance, basic needs, and housing assistance.
  • Military personnel: Grants to offset hardships due to battle.
  • Researchers: Grants primarily support medical and health research, and professors in higher academia.

Aside from the more common themes mentioned above, there is a plethora of grants to unique populations, including interesting items like these two:

  • Injured drag race drivers and crewmembers: Grants provide monetary assistance and services to those who have been injured while participating in races.
  • Motown artists of the 1960s and 1070’s: Grants provide emergency financial assistance.

In short, grants to individuals do exist, but they are hard to find, difficult to qualify for, and limited in scope and quantity.

An individual seeking a grant must first have a valid cause – it is not recommended to try and develop one in response to a grant opportunity. Grants that support the everyday individual who wants money to help buy a car, start a business, or improve their wardrobe just do not exist. There is no magic directory of “free money” that individuals can obtain by simply submitting their name. Beware of websites that claim that there are “millions of government grants that you never have to repay” and offer to help you search for a small fee. Also, be wary of websites that require you to enter personal information such as your social security number to proceed. Finally, for those seeking free money in grants, I must point out that grants are not free money at all. Grant development – the necessary writing, research and submittal processes – is work, hard and competitive work. And there are nearly always standards that must be met with the money, whether it’s a GPA for students, evidence of effectiveness for teachers, or publishing by researchers.

A good starting point is the Foundation Center, which provides trustworthy background information regarding research approaches, granting processes, proposal writing techniques, and more. Foundation Center presents a decent amount of information free of charge, but also offers an online search engine, online trainings, and publications that assist those interested in conducting specialized grant research. For example Foundation Center offers “Foundation Grants to Individuals, an online search tool exclusive to individuals for $19.95 for one month (with discounts if individuals sign up for three months or one year subscriptions), trainings such as “Grantseeking Basics for Individual” for $19.95, or publications including “Foundation Grants to Individuals” for $75.00.

It does not hurt to test the waters to see what is out there, but be forewarned that this research is guaranteed to be a time consuming and tedious process. And even if you find a grant that supports your case, you may find it difficult to meet the eligibility requirements or geographic focus area or that applications are not accepted.

Contact: Wendy McCoy, Resource Development Officer,

Please note: The Grant Plant specializes in grant seeking services for nonprofit organizations. The intention of this article is to answer questions regarding the availability of grants to individuals. For individuals who are having trouble meeting their basic living or educational expenses, resources are available and we are happy to point them toward assistance.

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