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A grant is a sum of money which is made available to an individual or institution in order to advance the goals and purposes of the organization making the money available. While it does not need to be paid back, there are often very strict reporting requirements. The grantor will generally require thorough accounting for how the money was spent as well as documentation of outcomes.
In general, grants come from three sources: 1) government agencies, 2) private foundations, 3) corporate giving programs. Government agencies grant money mainly to organizations that can assist it to realize the objectives for which the agency was created. (For example, the Department of Agriculture makes money available to strengthen the rural economy.) Private foundations are established by wealthy individuals for charitable purposes. (For example, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds medical programs to help people in Third World countries. It also makes information technology available to communities that lack access to computers and the Internet.) And finally, corporations sometimes establish their own charitable foundations or community outreach programs.
The availability of government grants to individuals for the purpose of starting a small business has been exaggerated. The Small Business Development Center at Northeast Texas Community College advises, "Contrary to popular belief, grants of cash for businesses are virtually nonexistent. There are rare instances where a cash grant has been given for some highly specialized type of business or for some unusual situation, but for the great majority of business situations, there are no cash grants." Robert Longley, a subject specialist at About.com is similarly skeptical. His article, Federal Grants: No Free Lunch, offers a realistic overview, noting that "Most federal grants are awarded to organizations planning major projects of benefit to their community."
The US General Services Administration publishes a comprehensive directory of all federal grants, called the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Note that the CFDA site is sometimes slow to appear in your web browser; be patient. An annual, printed edition is available at the Service Desk on the 6th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. Note that this information is freely available online. You don't need to pay for it. For more information browse the Small Business Guide to Government Grants and Loans.
New federal grants programs are announced in the Federal Register. To search the online version, choose the advance search, limit your search to "notices" and search for "grants" or "notification of funding opportunities". It is also available in printed form on the 6th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. Or, sign up for the free Federal Grants Notification Service at www.grants.gov.
Please note the following truisms about government grants:
The Small Business Administration website states: "At this time, Congress has not set aside any monies for grants to start and/or expand a small business. The U.S. Government does have grants that meet other purposes not related to business needs. The following website contains some of those resources: http://www.sba.gov/financing/basics/grants.html."
There are many sources of advice and assistance available to small businesses. Please see our pathfinder called, Starting a Small Business in Dallas: A Resource Guide. It also includes information about sources of funding.
In addition to the CFDA, there are several commercially published titles available for browsing from the Service Desk in the Government Publications on the 6th floor of the Dallas Public Library.
In order to learn about government grants available for those wishing to further their education, we recommend you visit the History & Social Sciences unit located on the 8th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. This floor is home to an excellent collection of scholarship directories. In addition, we suggest you visit the financial aid office of the institution where you hope to attend school. The discussion below is mainly limited to government programs and a few area nonprofits.
AGENCIES, PROGRAMS & ORGANIZATIONS
The US Department of Education has established a network of Educational Opportunity Centers around the country. Educational Opportunity Centers primarily serve displaced or underemployed workers from families with incomes under $24,000. These Centers help people choose a college and a suitable financial aid program. They can also help you to get into a vocational training program or trade school. Some programs are targeted especially to veterans of the armed services.
The government has programs that let you earn college tuition while doing some form of community service:
Dallas is home to the League of United Latin American Citizens' National Education Center, which has information about scholarships for individuals of Hispanic background. For African-Americans, there is the United Negro College Fund. Women may be interested in scholarships offered by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
To find library books, we suggest browsing by subject.
Click on the link below, to view catalog records for the newest books in our collection.
Although there are a number of government grant programs available to help artists, they tend to be very competitive. Some cities, including Dallas, sponsor and fund public arts programs.
Agencies & Organizations
To find local arts organizations, search our Community Information Database using the subject headings art, arts and crafts, books or literary interest, dance, historical preservation, photography, theater or visual arts.
Programs aimed at assisting the needy, elderly or disabled with fixing up their houses or providing adaptive aids (e.g. wheelchair ramps or grab-bars) are listed below. Some groups also help with short-term utility assistance (which you can find in our Community Information Database -keyword search "utility assistance") or provide help to make your home more weather tight, which can reduce your utility bill. (You may be interested in our affordable housing pathfinder.)
Agencies, Programs & Organizations
Be aware that unscrupulous individuals often prey upon homeowners in the wake of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. The Federal Trade Commission has published an informative online alert, After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home, which explains how to avoid getting ripped off.
Grant money for nonprofit organizations is available through foundations, corporate giving offices and government agencies. Please refer to the Dallas Public Library's Grants Information Service and to the Federal government's nonprofit portal for further information. Of particular interest to many nonprofits is the Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives.
There are a number of interesting programs hosted by nonprofit associations as well as programs funded by local, state and federal government agencies. The links below offer only a sampling of the programs that currently exist to fund community-based projects. Many foundations are willing to fund this kind of program. Please refer to the Dallas Public Library's Grants Information Service, for further ideas and resources.
Many corporations give back to the communities where they do business, by making small grants to nonprofits and/or by encouraging their employees to volunteer.
Public and private schools can also qualify for small grants that will pay for establishing a program that teaches about gardening or about wildlife habititat.
In some instances, charities will assist nonprofit organizations, schools, or people with certain disabilities to acquire computing technology and software. Several are listed below, along with programs that collect used computer equipment donated for charitable purposes. We are not aware of any government programs that provide computers to individuals.
Application requirements for federal grants are spelled out in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. Many but not all, use the Standard Form 424, Application for Federal Assistance. The OMB Grants Management Page also has a selection of forms related to grants.
Women- or minority-owned small businesses wishing to contract with municipal, state or federal government agencies, may wish to investigate programs that encourage government agencies to contract with HUBs (Historically Underutilized Businesses). Relevant resources are listed below.
There are several online tools that provide a portal to government benefits information, including the following: