How to Get a Government Grant

Nov 29, 2023 

How to Get a Government Grant

Pearl Solutions provides grant proposal writing services and grant management and administrative services. Visit our service pages to find out more about what Pearl Solutions can offer. 

One of the most important parts of operating a nonprofit organization is securing the funds needed to carry out its mission. In addition to traditional forms of fundraising like soliciting individual donations, many nonprofit organizations operate on funds secured from grants. 

In this post, you’ll learn more about what a government grant is, why you should apply for one, a few different types of grants, the grant application process, and how to use grant funds. 

What is a Government Grant?

You want to complete a project or pursue an initiative that will help you make a bigger impact. To do that, you need funding. When you apply to receive a grant, you’re applying to receive grant funds—which is what you’ll use to fund your dream project or initiative. 

Although the concept is similar, grants are not the same as loans. If you applied for a loan, you’d be required to pay that money back to the lender. That isn’t the case with grants. When you secure a grant, you’re not expected to pay the grant money back to the funder. That’s what makes a grant such a valuable source of fundraising revenue.   

So, what is a government grant? A government grant is exactly what it sounds like: a grant that is awarded by the federal, state, or local government. 

According to Grants.gov

“A grant is a way the government funds your ideas and projects to provide public services and stimulate the economy. Grants support critical recovery initiatives, innovative research, and many other programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).”

Here is a list of federal agencies that award grants. If you want to dive deeper into federal grant policy, you can do so here.

Benefits of Applying for a Government Grant

As mentioned above, one of the biggest benefits of receiving a government grant is that you won’t be expected to pay that money back. 

Additionally, when you apply for and win a grant, you’ll have a stable source of funds dedicated to a project. That will enable you to complete a project that you may not have been able to pursue without those funds. This also makes it easier to plan for the future and better allocate other resources. 

Although grants are competitive, there are millions of dollars of grant funding available. When you apply for a government grant, you’re opening your organization up to a huge potential source of funding. If you normally rely on fundraising revenue that you receive from one-time donations or contributions from a donor-advised fund, grants will also diversify your fundraising sources.

Another benefit to applying for and winning a government grant is that this can boost your organization’s credibility. When donors see that the government or a governing body has granted an award to an organization, the donor will trust that your organization has well-rounded funding sources. 

Other Foundations may be inclined to award a grant to your organization if they see that your organization has received government grants in the past.

Types of Grants

Here’s a brief look at business grants, personal grants, education grants, and nonprofit organization grants.

Business Grants

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides grants to businesses to promote entrepreneurship. Keep in mind that the SBA doesn’t provide grants for starting or expanding a business. 

The SBA does, however, provide grants for community organizations and grants to nonprofit organizations that support entrepreneurship through counseling and training programs. 

Personal Grants

Government grants are usually reserved for organizations that work with programs and projects that are funded by the government. According to USA.gov, those organizations can include state and local governments, universities, research labs, law enforcement, nonprofit organizations, and other businesses.

The government occasionally awards personal grants. As with other grants, recipients aren’t expected to repay the funds.  

Education Grants

An education grant is a type of financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Examples of these grants include Pell Grants and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants.

You can find information on the different types of education grants—discretionary grants, grants to help students attend college, formula grants—on the U.S. Department of Education’s website

Nonprofit Organization Grants

Nonprofit organization grants are grants that are awarded to nonprofit organizations. There are many different types of classifications of nonprofit organizations so be sure to check the eligibility requirements when researching government grants. 

For example, check to see if a grant is only available to nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status. If your organization doesn’t have 501(c)(3) status, you shouldn’t pursue that grant.   

Pro Tip: Although we do not provide legal advice, we can assist you with your filings and corporate documents and help you apply for 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code. You can find more information about the services we provide here

Determining Eligibility for a Government Grant

Now that you know that you want to pursue government grant funding, it’s time to look at how to get a government grant. 

The very first thing you need to do is determine your organization’s eligibility. Why? The grant application process is complex, and it usually requires support from more than one person. If you apply for government grants that your organization isn’t eligible to receive, your organization will be immediately removed from consideration for those funds. That means you’ll have wasted all of the energy and resources you put into the application process. 

Researching Federal Agencies and Programs That Offer Financial Assistance

In order to determine which grants your organization is eligible to receive, you have to do some research. You can use an official United States government website—Grants.gov—that exists to “enable federal grant-making agencies to create funding opportunities and applicants to find and apply for these federal grants.” You can also find information through SAM.gov’s Assistance Listings.

Unfortunately, there are people who will want to take advantage of the fact that you’re searching for funds. As you research, keep an eye out for common government grant scams

Pro Tip: If the thought of researching and applying for grants is intimidating, we can help. Through our grant writing and research services, we search for grant opportunities to match your institution, register your organization in key governmental databases, and write and submit your grant applications. 

Requirements for Eligibility, Such as Age, Location, and Income Level

Each grant will have eligibility requirements, but the eligibility requirements for each grant will vary. It’s extremely important that you carefully review all of the requirements and make sure your organization meets every single one before you decide to apply for a grant. 

It’s understandable that you may be tempted to apply for as many grants as possible to increase your odds of success, but the reality is that you’re setting yourself up for an automatic disqualification if you apply to a grant your organization isn’t eligible to receive. 

To save time and increase your odds of success, narrow your search so that you only see grants that your organization is eligible to receive. You can filter by things like age, location, income level, annual fundraising revenue, staff size, service area, or tax-exemption status

The Application Process

The next step in the grant lifecycle is applying for the grant. This involves writing a compelling grant proposal and submitting a complete grant application. 

Preparing a Successful Grant Proposal

A grant proposal—also referred to as a grant application—refers to the document or collection of documents that explain why your organization should receive the government grant.

In order to prepare and submit a successful grant proposal, you need to: 

  • Understand the funder’s requirements and make sure you meet them.
  • Clarify your project goals and objectives.
  • Gather supporting documents and information.
  • Craft a detailed and compelling proposal. 
  • Prepare a budget summary and breakdown. 
  • Develop an evaluation plan for your project. 
  • Write a cover letter or executive summary for the proposal.
  • Finalize the grant proposal and submit a complete application

Pro Tip:  Be sure you understand the deadline and set up your project backing up from that date.   

Because each grant is unique, you will need to tailor your application to the specific grant you want to receive.  

Receiving Approval or Denial of the Application

After the application period closes, the funder will evaluate the applications and let applicants know if their proposals have been approved or denied. 

Evaluating Results of the Application and Required Follow-Up Steps

The funder will select the organization(s) that will receive the grant funds and reach out with information on what comes next. This includes signing the required documents and providing information the funder needs to release the grant money. 

Managing Awarded Funds

Once your organization receives the funds, it’s time to implement, monitor, and report on the project. During this time, you’ll need to provide the funder with updates on how you’re using the funds and how the project is progressing.  

In some cases, you can work with the funder to renew the grant after you complete the project. If necessary, you may also be able to work with the funder to modify the grant limitations or restrictions if something comes up and you need to change the scope of the project. 

If you’re looking for support as you seek government grants, you might be interested in our grant management services. Learn more about other services that Pearl Solutions provides here


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