Talk to 'Em: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Getting a Grant (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Rita Lorraine


21 Rules of Thumb Before You Apply

Are you drooling for a grant? Who isn’t, especially in today’s economy? But to get one, you’ll have to do more than daydream. You’ll have to work hard, pray hard (that’s pray, not play), and you’ll have to do your homework.

That includes educating yourself about the different types of grants, what they’re for, who’s offering them, and what grant makers expect from you before they write that mind-boggling check and send you on your way.

I’ve won several grants in my lifetime. These Rules of Thumb were inspired by actual questions people asked about how I found these grants, who wrote them for me, and what I did with the money after it was awarded. In my experience, unless the grant maker is your dear, rich uncle, there’s no easy way to get a grant. There’s no magic formula or short cut. There’s not even a set way to apply for grants.

Every single grant has its own set of guidelines, so if you want to save yourself some grief (and paper), read this article before you apply.

Getting Started
There’s nothing to it but to do it.

Supply List
A pencil, some paper, a purpose, the Internet (or access to the local library) and a level head.

Brains and brain power, lots of humility, loads of faith…and a little common sense.
Here we go!

1. Remember that grant commercial featuring the man with the question marks on his jacket? Forget it. He’s just selling a book.

2. Understand that grants cannot and will not look for you, you must look for them. Don’t be one of those people who expect a grant to fall through the ceiling and land neatly in your lap. Be prepared to put in some serious time and effort to find the right grant for you.

3. Yes, you WILL have to read. Words. Please get used to it!

4. Yes, you WILL have to think and you WILL have to write.

5. Know the language. Following are definitions of various grants. This is not an exhaustive list!

a. GRANT – the giving of funds for a specific purpose; a monetary aid which does not have to be repaid.
b. FEDERAL GRANT – financial assistance from a federal agency to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States. ARE NOT loans, CANNOT be used to acquire property, CANNOT be used to buy groceries.
c. PRIVATE GRANTS - monetary awards that do not have to be repaid. Are more relaxed and may look at “the big picture” when they read your proposal; may be willing to take risks that the federal government will not. Make decisions more quickly, are not snowed under in bureaucracy and red tape.
d. PUBLIC CHARITY GRANTS – for charitable purposes to charitable organizations recognized as 501(c)3 by the IRS.

e. INDIVIDUAL GRANTS – Monetary or non-monetary awards bestowed upon a private individual as a type of reward or prize after meeting a specific set of criteria. Businesses, Foundations and Institutions are ineligible.
f. NON-PROFIT GRANTS – A 501(c)3 grant made to assist non-profit organizations in carrying out their specific missions. If you don’t know what “non-profit” means, don’t even think about applying for this one.
g. SPONSORSHIP GRANTS – allow individuals to apply IF they have a fiscal sponsor. The Sparkplug Foundation ( offers just such a grant. If you decide to try for this type of grant, be sure you have a sponsor with 501(c)3 status, otherwise you won’t qualify. Period.


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