Sunday, March 21, 2010

Grants for Individuals – A Funding Sasquatch?

Non-profit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link, provides some clarity about the availability of government grants for individuals:

I get phone calls, emails, and tweets from people who need a grant for something they want to do like open a coffee shop. These contacts come from individuals, private citizens, who are not affiliated with a non profit organization. These well-intentioned folks just have an idea and need some money to implement it.

The problem is that grants for individuals are kind of like Sasquatch - Many people believe they exist, but nobody I know has ever seen or captured one. Because of this I put grants for average individuals into the “myth” category, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means I’ve haven’t seen any that give money to start a business. The two individual grants I am aware of are, 1) college grants that you apply for through a college financial aid office, and 2) grants for high level research scientists.
I know there are people who would argue with me and they’d probably take me out to their garage to show me plaster impressions of RFP’s and/or whip out a photo album with fuzzy pictures of big hairy grant checks. But until I see the beast for myself, I will remain a skeptic.
The main reason I am hesitant on this subject is that I have a suspicion the people perpetuating the myth are making money from it. I suspect these people are the unsavory characters I’ve seen on television who work hard at selling books full of free government information.
I know I am sounding a little like Simon Cowell after a weak American Idol performance, but that’s because I don’t like snake oil salesmen. It bugs me when people are misled by a false promise of easy money. Good opportunities take hard work in my experience, and they’ve only come knocking after I was well-prepared for them.
If you want to be a business owner, prepare yourself. Go to classes about being an entrepreneur, read blogs about business, read the Wall Street Journal, join the chamber of commerce, etc. And while you’re preparing, save some money so when you go and ask for help, you’ll have credibility because you have some skin in the game.
If Sasquatch is out there, it’s going to take some looking. Get online and do some research on government websites where they have free information about grants. Try where all the federal grants available are listed, go to a federal business assistance center, go to the chamber of commerce, and if all of these sources don’t turn up an individual grant for you then, write a business plan and look for investors.
Having a dream is great! Finding someone to finance the dream is almost as hard as finding Sasquatch.

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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.