Grants in Tennessee

News March 2019

This is even better than grants, if you can imagine that. The University of Tennessee has announced that tuition for low income students will now be free! Their definition of “low income” is a family income of less than $50,000 – a pretty wide net. Students must be in-state to qualify. Campuses where this will apply include Knoxville, Chatanooga, and Martin. It does not include the Memphis-based medical school. The program is called UT Promise. Participating students will each have a mentor. They will be required to do some volunteer service and to finish some specific service learning requirements.

Tennessee brings to mind first and foremost the whole country music scene, of which Nashville - its capital - is the heart! Here’s where you’ll find the Grand Ole Opry as well as the Country Music hall of Fame and Museum. There’s plenty of honky-tonk music and dancin’ going on as well! And of course Memphis is an important city too: home of Elvis Presley’s Graceland and more.

Tennessee is a land-locked state (bordered by eight states!), and is the 36th largest state in the U.S. And — perhaps a surprise to some — it's the 16th most populous state in the country! What some also may not know is that Tennessee is home to a very wide array of grants for its communities and citizens. Grants are awarded by specific state agencies; each has its own staff and grant management procedures. Those interested in grants are directed to contact state agencies directly for information, which can change frequently.

Here are some categories of grant funding opportunities and selected grants offered by agencies to individuals, non-profits and businesses. Further information on each of 19 agencies is available on the General Services section of the Tennessee website. We begin our review with the Film, Entertainment and Music Commission and grants for its thriving film and television industry:

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Tennessee Grants

Update August 2019

So these are not personal grants but it’s uplifting to note that Tennessee has earmarked 35 million dollars for improvements to the safety safety to all school districts in the state. A review of current safety status has been completed and all school districts have made assessments and applied for part of these financial awards. If you are a contractor operating in any school security areas you might want to take a look at Tennessee’s site to see where awards have been made and what types of projects are being contracted for. Funding is included in the governor’s 2019 budget.

News September 2018 Are you looking for a grant to make improvements for your library in Tennessee? A number of grants are available based on funds the state receives from the federal government specifically for improvements to libraries and library services. The amount of funds states receive is based on their population. The money can be used for a wide variety of library-related activities. On the state’s website you can find information about Construction Grants and Technology Grants along with applications for those grants. There is also contact information for the appropriate person to get in touch with to get more information.

Update April 2018:

Business Grants

Launch Tennessee has a grants program called “Discover Entrepreneurship Grants” that includes opportunities for both youth and adults. While the applications for 2018 are closed they encourage those interested to check back to see what opportunities will be coming up for 2019. They have strategic areas of focus for their grants which include a Women’s Advantage Program to help women start and grow businesses, and “Entrpreneurial Minds Online Training Platform, and a variety of events with activities like entrepreneur-specific workshops, Pitch Competitions to hone your “elevator pictch” , weekends that focus on startups and Meetup groups. They also publish a blog that provides ongoing news, ideas and inspiration.

Film, Entertainment and Music Commission

Are you a business that spends at least $200,000 on your project(s) in Tennessee on a project or per episode basis? If so you can qualify for a cash rebate that comes in the form of a 25% grant. Your costs must be incurred in the state and can include pre-production and post-production expenses. They must also be expenses paid to a Tennessee vendor or resident. The state appears to disdain red tape and provides Production Incentive Guidelines to guide candidates, and applications are submitted online.

Arts Commission

If that’s a bit out of your league, consider grants offered by the Tennessee Arts Commission. In the past five years they have awarded over 6,450 grants worth over $30 million! These grants go to qualifying non-profit organizations in the arts and in other fields, local community governments and individual artists, arts administrators and educators in the state. The Commission conducts several grants workshop and, to increase the convenience of applicants, there is an online workshop that can be accessed any time. It provides a clear explanation of requirements and procedures for applying for and winning grants. All applications are submitted online.

Though the Arts Commission focuses mainly on organizations there are some grant opportunities for individuals. These applicants must be at least 18 years old and be legal residents of the state when applying. Awards available include Individual Artist Fellowships and Professional Development Support Grants and, for arts administrators, Professional Development Support and Arts Education Teacher Incentive grants. Individual contact information (telephone and email) for each specific type of grants in specific areas (e.g. Music, Theatre and Dance; Visual Arts, Craft and Media; etc) are provided on the Arts Commission website. Individual Artist Fellowships go to artists who are compensated for their work and pretty much make their living with their art. Fellowships are $5000 and up to two are awarded in each category.

Similar (extensive) information is provided for different types of organizations that are eligible for grants. Those who are applying are also required to contact the Commission directly before submitting an application to review their proposed project. Grant categories include Operation Support Grants, Project Grants and Arts Education Grants.


Like many states Tennessee has a grant program to encourage and enhance the competitiveness of its “specialty crops.” These are crops that include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, which includes floriculture. So it’s pretty broad-based. The grants are available to organizations including cooperative, producers, universities, and community or industry-based organizations. They are particularly interested din applications which show forward-thinking and will provide a sustainable impact on the agriculture of the state. They are funding awards for a little over $60 million. Applications are available on and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number is 10.170.

Tennessee Housing Development Agency

This is the agency which, among other things, provides mortgages with fixed rates for those buying homes for the first time. They also provide the “Emergency Solutions Grant.” This grant is funded by the federal government and helps with the number and quality of shelters available for the homeless. These grants are provided to qualifying non-profits and community government agencies. Approximately $2.9 million was awarded in 2017. Those applying for these grants have to have at least two years experience in providing housing solutions. There is a powerpoint Application Workshop available at

Education Grants

The Tennessee HOPE Access Grant is available to students in families with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $36,000 or less on their IRS tax forms. The grants are for public or private colleges and universities in Tennessee. Those entering as freshmen mush have at least a 2.75 GpA and 18-20 ACT (not including the essay and optional subject area battery tests).

The Dual Enrollment Grant is funded by proceeds from the Tennessee State Lottery. It is awarded to students enrolled in high school and also taking college courses at qualifying institutions and receiving college credits for those courses. Students must have completed 10th grade and be an 11th grader at their high school. Additional details about eligibility and enrollment are available on the website of the Higher Education Commission & Student Assistance Corporation on the Note that there are also special requirements for Home School Students.

The Helping Heroes Grant goes to veterans who have been honorably discharged from service in the U.S. armed service or the Tennessee National Guard who was called into active military duty. Recipients must also have been awarded one of several military medals detailed along with other requirements on the same website noted int he preceding paragraph.

These and several other Tennessee education grants are available to those who have filled out and submitted their FAFSA!

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