In order to find grants and other “free money” programs you will qualify for, it is first important to understand exactly what a grant is, where the money comes from, how much is available, and what sorts of things you can use the money for. Grants are sums of “free money” which you can receive and spend and you do not have to pay the money back (accept in rare situations where the organization that gives you the grant decides that you misused the money, or did not use it as intended).
Let me get this out of the way: When I say “grants, free money and other benefits” the other benefits I’m talking about are things like free career training, free business counseling, social security (a return on money you pay into the system, but still a form of financial assistance), free medical services, college financial aid, etc. It is important to keep in mind that the term “grants” only refers to one type of free money. There are many types of financial assistance and you should not limit yourself to just grants if you want to take advantage of everything available to you.
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Grants are given to people from all walks of life… men, women, ordinary citizens, students, small businesses, large businesses, non-profits, etc. The application and approval process is not based on your credit history because the money doesn’t have to be repaid, however some grants do have income qualifications. What usually matters the most is who you are (a person, business, non-profit, etc.) and what you want to use the money for (to go to school, start a community project, buy a home, etc.). Then what matters is whether or not you can find a government agency or private organization that can provide funding for your cause.
There is a lot of money out there. In fact every year over 30 million American citizens and businesses receive over 450 billion dollars in grants and other forms of free money. Federal and State governments are required by law to issue grants and other forms of financial assistance for many diverse needs of the population. The influx of grant money into the economy creates better communities and more jobs and spending, which in turn creates more tax revenue and actually reduces society’s dependency on government subsistence programs in the long term.
Because so much money is available, it would not be unreasonable to assume that it is easy to find grants you qualify for, however, that is not the case. There are a handful of reasons for this. First of all, the U.S. government and all of its departments, agencies and sectors is absolutely enormous. There are literally thousands of agencies and departments nationwide, all with their own employees and rules, thousands of different phone numbers and websites… you get the picture. There is no single website or database that has all the information you are looking for. There is no office where you can give your name, age, income, etc. and they will give you a list of grants you qualify for. You will have to do more work than that. But don’t worry – it’s not impossible to find grants, free money programs, cash benefits and other financial assistance programs you qualify for. Millions of people do it every year. And rest assured – no matter who you are – you do qualify for many of these programs – ones you probably never knew existed. No one will qualify for everything but everyone qualifies for something.
One way – the easiest and fastest way – to learn about financial assistance programs is to purchase an information/application package from a private company – as long as it’s an honest, established company with respectable products and services. The following section of this page contains our recommendations on which companies to go through.
If you choose to order from a different website, we respect your rights as a consumer to make your own buying decisions, just be careful who you order from. Ever since a well known publisher made millions selling free grant money books with TV infomercials, a plethora of unethical imitators and scam websites have sprung up selling information that is outdated, poorly organized and basically useless. The main problem with these other companies is that their advertising is misleading and many of these companies provide very little value in terms of product quality and customer service.
You can tell that a website or company is one of the bad ones if they over-hype how easy it is to receive grant money, or if they claim you can use the money to purchase luxurious personal items, or to pay off your credit cards. There are a few government grants that are easy to receive – but most are quite difficult – and there are restrictions placed on what you can use the money for. Huckster advertisers make it sound like the government is practically begging to give free money away and that you will be able to use it for any purpose. That is an exaggeration – a distortion of a small grain of truth – and these advertisers are praying on people’s hopes and dreams in order to make a buck. Grant money has to be used for specific, good causes such as buying a home, removing health and safety hazards from your home, furthering your education, starting a business, leading a project to help solve a problem in your community, developing new technology that will benefit society, etc. But the notion that a person can fill out a grant application, send it to a “secret source of free money” and then receive thousands of dollars to pay off their credit cards is a joke.
If your bubble just burst, don’t let this talk about refunds and misleading advertisers deter you from finding the real grants and other financial programs you can benefit from. If you live in America you deserve your share and these programs are real – just not as flexible or easy to get as some advertisers claim. The truth is that over 30 million people in the United States receive free grant money each year. But because everyone is different and wants money for different purposes you will have to sift through a lot of information to find what you’re looking for. Legitimate organizations will charge you from $50 to $100 if all you need is the Federal grants and State grants. If you also want a current and complete list of local government grants, non-profit organizations and private foundations it can get more expensive quickly – up to several hundred dollars or more. This info usually comes on a CD-ROM or you get access to the member’s area of a website.
If there is a phone number on a website it’s a good sign. Call it before you purchase anything. If you get a live person it’s a very good sign.
Don’t ever believe that you are “pre-approved” or guaranteed to receive any grant. This is impossible because you always have to complete an official application to apply for a grant or any other benefit BEFORE you can be approved. Even if you meet the qualifications listed in the program description you can still be denied.
Many companies guarantee that if you order their product and you are NOT approved for a grant you can receive a refund for the fee you paid. That is perfectly reasonable. Just remember that they are only guaranteeing you a refund and there is no such thing as a guaranteed grant no matter how much money you pay.
Find out what the company’s return policy is and exactly what is required on your part in order to get a refund.
Before spending any money you can learn quite a bit for free by filling out your Government Benefits Questionnaire. This is one of those online resources everyone should know about and very few people do. If you fill out the questionnaire it will give you a personalized list of Federal grants, State grants, loans, and other government benefits you may qualify for based on how you answer the multiple choice questions. Doing this will NOT provide you with a complete list of grants and other free money programs you qualify for. The database it uses does not include financial programs offered by private foundations, corporations, non-profits, etc. It only includes government programs. However, filling out the questionnaire is free, takes only 10 minutes and is a good starting point.
If you take the Government Benefits Questionnaire keep in mind that at the bottom of each page, after answering the questions, be sure to click on the “Continue” button until there are no questions left. Then you will be given a list of 20 to 40 government financial assistance programs that you should qualify for. When you click on the links provided for each program you will bring up the more detailed descriptions and application/contact info.To begin, click the following link or copy and paste it into a new browser window:
After completing the questions and reviewing the results you may say to yourself, “Well, the list it gave me sure isn’t very exciting.” If this is the case it means you probably need to do some of your own more localized research in order to find the kind of grants you’re looking for. There are many small, local government agencies providing grants and other financial services to their communities and many of these programs are not included in the Government Benefits Questionnaire database. State and county agencies receive money from the Federal government and then disperse it to people and organizations in their local communities. Private corporations like Wall-Mart, Microsoft, charitable foundations, non-profits, and other non-government agencies are also large providers of grant money and other financial services. Many non-profits end up with surplus income, which they have to give away in order to maintain their tax exempt status. If you want to find all of the grants and options available to you you will have to seek out these sources as well.
Here are some search strategies:
Again, the easiest way to do this is to purchase the information from one of the sources we recommend. But if you’re on a very tight budget, then Internet search engines can actually be a good tool if you use them properly. Try doing a several searches using the terms “grant” and also your State, city and county as some of the keywords. This will filter out a lot of the search results that don’t apply to your area. You can also get more specific results by including the type of grants you’re looking for. For example you might go to your favorite search engine and do a search for “small business grant los angeles california” or “housing repair grant dallas texas” or “non profit grant santa cruz county” or “college education grant corvallis oregon”. Click on the organic, non-sponsored search results if you want the most free information. The sponsored results that appear in bold on the top and right side of search results pages are usually commercial websites charging fees for products and services. It may be worth your time to do several dozen searches using different combinations of keywords in several different search engines.
Despite what many publishers would like to have you believe, the government does have several free websites you can use to find and apply for grants, loan guarantees, benefits, mortgage insurance and other types of government financial assistance you qualify for. The problem most people have with these websites is the lack of user friendliness and the language used – much of it is difficult to understand. But on a positive note, the larger websites like the ones listed below are kept current and contain phone numbers you can use to reach real people in the offices you may need to deal with. The more people you talk to the more you will learn to navigate the system. Always be polite on the phone and you’ll get a lot more help. Remember the people on the other end of the phone get paid whether they help you or not, so be friendly. Grants.gov and CFDA.gov are Federal sites and only cover Federal programs. However Benefits.gov also covers many State programs.
In summary, grant money is out there and it’s only hard to find because you must sift through an enormous amount of information in order to find the grants you qualify for and that are perfect for you. The government doesn’t spend money promoting their grants and free money programs to the general public. There are a few exceptions to this, such as education grants and student financial aid programs, which you see posters for on public transportation. But for the most part when you get a grant it’s because you either purchased the right information from the right company, or you’re a patient and resourceful person who’s willing to do your own research.