So many people are looking for “free grants.” Often the term is confused with other words and phrases that have more to do with financial aid. So the searches can be very frustrating, especially since some take advantage of those hoping to get something for nothing — or for not much.
We need to start with the definition of a grant because “free grants” is a peculiar - though appealing - phrase. Peculiar because a grant by its very definition is in fact free. Please remember this if you ever get a call from someone saying you have won a grant (which you never even applied for) and you just need to provide some information - and a couple hundred dollars or so — to receive it. That is most assuredly a scam.
Free Grants are definitely available from thousands of different government agencies, businesses, non-profits and educational institutions. Technically grants are financial awards that are provided by organizations for a very specific purpose. They must be applied for. The applicant must be eligible according to the grant’s rules and must use the funds for the specific purpose of the grant-giver. Confused? We explain:
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So grants are by definition free — and that means they are truly free money. Though they are “free” in terms of fees and repayment effort must be put into finding, applying for and winning them. Other than that you are not charged a fee for real grants and you never have to repay the money to the giver.
As we have noted, the term “grant” is often used as a synonym for terms like federal aid, federal assistance, benefits and more. Those may be what you are actually in need of. If so just click on the links and get better information about what they are, where to find them, and how to find out if you are eligible for them. There is a lot of public assistance available in the United States (like hundreds of billions of dollars!).
Update March 2018 Our most recent article about grants and other programs is Help for Addiction. It is one of our most frequently requested topics and we have put together an overview of grants, loans, and other programs available to help those fighting addictions of any kind. Some of from the government, others from private sources. The good news is there are ways to find the right program for you or your loved one and to do so in a professional and totally anonymous way. And there are free and low cost services available as well the paid programs. If you or someone you know is suffering (and probably making others suffer as well) do take a look and maybe change your life…
Update June 2017 Be extra careful about scams that claim that you have been awarded a grant — and you just have to send a fee or give out your personal banking information in order to receive it. They might have a come on saying something like you’ve won a sizable amount — like more than $10,000 — a a reward for diligently paying your taxes on time. Pretty tempting to want to believe that! However, they will take your fee and you will never see a penny of any “reward” money, seriously. The government never contacts you in this way, and they never ask you for your bank account information. The scammers can be very persuasive and will even pressure you to give out your bank account number by saying you will get a refund if you’re not satisfied with the results. Don’t, don’t, don’t fall for this. A grant you have to pay for is not a “free grant.”
Update February 2017 We have told you before about the phone call scams some folks fall prey to. A caller identifies him or herself as being from a government agency and congratulate you about the grant you have won. Often the amount makes you think you won the lottery, like $7000 or more. And to receive the grant you just have to pay an initial fee. That is NEVER true for a government grant, or any other kind of grant for that matter. The government is aware of these scams and has issued warnings about it, now it’s up to you to be aware.
Do real government grants exist? They do, and they too are awarded in the billions each year. But they mostly go to government agencies and individual states rather than to individual people. Some of that money then goes to non-profits and local agencies and eventually to individuals. Otherwise the money is used for projects and purposes for “the public good” in one way or another. Examples would include projects funded by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate the economy, scientific research, state projects to clean up the environment or provide assistance to citizens, promote the arts and more. A big part of that “more” is the huge chunk of money that goes to provide help to students trying to pay for college or for trade schools. And a major part of that chunk does go to genuine grants for individuals in the form of grants. They are called Pell Grants and they are well known throughout the country.
Pell Grants are unique both in that they go to individuals directly from the government, and because you do not have to compete to win them. Most “normal” grants from the government or private institutions go through a major cycle (known as the “grants process”) and require an often extensive application. There are typically a limited number of grants available and just a few applicants will win. Pell Grants are awarded strictly on the basis of financial need. Financial need is determined by an application form it only takes about half an hour to fill out. And it doesn’t go strictly by your family income. It takes into consideration the number of people in the household, how many kids there are, how many are attending college or school at the same time. So it’s worth applying via the FAFSA (Federal Application for Free Student Aid) even if you think your family income might be too high. In fact in recent years the Department of Education reports that billions of dollars have been left unclaimed because people simply haven’t applied. Don’t let that be you! If you’re interested you can take a super quick Pell Grant eligibility quiz to see if you might qualify.
Federal Government Grants What about all the other grants that individuals could apply for? With regard to grants from the federal government, there is one place to go to get information about current grant offerings. It is a huge site covering thousands of programs from all government agencies. You can search for grants according to key word and according to eligibility — so you can check just the category “Individuals” to see if any exist for your keyword(s).
There aren’t many but there are some — and it never hurts to look. There are more government grants available for qualified small businesses and for non-profits (these must usually be officially designated as 501c3 organizations by the IRS). You can get an excellent overview and specific search instructions in our review of grants.gov.
Free Grants From States:
States also award free grants to residents. Many of these have to do with education but there are lots more. It all depends on the state. Most have at least some in categories like Business, Education, Community Development, and the Arts. To learn more just go to the official website of your state and look for a grants category or search for the term grants. You can also check out our reviews of grants available in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.
There are thousands of private foundations, non-profits, schools, businesses and more that award grants to assist efforts that match their vision and goals. Learn about Grants for Churches, Grants for Non-Profits, Grants for Kids and Grants for Farms to get some ideas about finding free grants. In fact you can learn quite a bit just by looking at the “Recent Updates” and “Site Index” at the bottom of each page on this website.
And don’t forget scholarsips! We know they’re not grants but they are pretty much the same since they are financial rewards given out for a specific purpose and the never need to be paid back. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to be a star student to get one. There are scholarships for just about everyone …even some you can win by luck, just for taking the time to enter. There are others that are very intriguing — we highlight some and alert you to new options on a regular basis in Scholarship Information. And you can learn more about contests and drawings to win scholarships in Scholarship Contests.