Ask Stacy: Where Can I Get a Government Grant?

It’s easy to believe there’s free money out there in the form of government grants. Offers are plastered all over the Internet and on TV infomercials, and they all promise to hook you up with free government money – in exchange for a nominal fee.

But are they true? Over the years, this has been one of the most-asked questions to Money Talks News. Here’s one I got just last week…

Dear Stacy:

I’m curious to know if applying for government grants (other than just advanced schooling) is easy.

I have tried approaching the idea through search engines, and the only thing I can get to are pay per click sites that offer to see if I am eligible for government grants. Then I am bombarded by offers for more schooling. Is schooling the only way to obtain a grant?

There’s got to be a better way. I just don’t know what it is. Please help if you can.

– Tony

And here’s one I got two weeks ago…

Stacy:

how can I apply for a federal grant without getting scammed. The grant money would be used for home improvements. Thank you very much for your help.

– Jim

And here’s one I got last year…

Hi, I have a question. My name is Bonnie. My husband and I own a small business that we have put all of our savings into and now that the economy has gone south we are having a hard time. So I applied for a small business grant. I received a phone call 10/26/10 from a Mr. (redacted) from the web site (redacted) telling me we can apply for a fifty thousand dollar grant. If we give them $398 they will file the paper work and in 5 days we will know and it’s a money back guarantee. I would like to know if this is an upstanding web site. This is the second place to call me – the 1st one said I needed to give them twenty five hundred up front and three thousand at the end when we received the grant money and it sounded funny, so I declined the first call. Thank you for your time.

Are government grants real?

Like many persistent rumors, the one about government grants contains a grain of truth.

The government does hand out grant money – just not to folks like you and me. The government might give a grant to a university, for example, to explore the efficacy of an experimental drug. But money to help prop up your small business? Nope.

How do I know? Well, other than the fact that it’s completely illogical to expect taxpayer money to be given to for-profit businesses, Uncle Sam also says so in black and white.

Here’s a cut-and-paste from this page of U.S. Small Business Administration…

Grants

The federal government does NOT provide grants for starting and expanding a business.

Government grants are funded by your tax dollars and therefore require very stringent compliance and reporting measures to ensure the money is well spent. As you can imagine, grants are not given away indiscriminately.

Grants from the federal government are only available to non-commercial organizations, such as non-profits and educational institutions in areas such as, medicine, education, scientific research and technology development. The federal government also provides grants to state and local governments to assist them with economic development.

In short, there’s virtually no such thing as free money in the form of a government grant for a for-profit business or ordinary citizens. Anyone promising one in exchange for a fee is a liar and a thief.

If you’re trying to get financial help for your business, check out the SBA’s site at www.sba.gov. You won’t get free money, but you will get free information on finding funding, including government-guaranteed loans.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this post. The internet and TV are blasted with free government money blah blah blah, I even see it in the newspaper. The only ones getting money are those companies that are saying send us $200 plus dollars and we will get you a grant.

    You wanna make money post an ad like that (course it is probably illegal).

  • http://twitter.com/DLKluge Deborah Kluge

    Not quite true.  The federal government does give grants to for-profit companies engaged in various types of research and development (R&D).  These are known as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.  A brief description of these can be found on the SBA website:  
    http://archive.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/sbir/index.html

    There are also a few (not many) grants available to individuals.  These can be found by doing an “advanced search” on the grants.gov website.  The advanced search function also provides a listing of grants available for small and other businesses (including SBIR/STTR grants).  Most of these are also research-oriented.

    Deborah Kluge
    http://www.proposalwriter.com