1.) You get randomly selected via email, in the mail, or by phone.
2.) It’s a “government grant” – nothing more specific than that.
3.) There is an upfront fee of thousands of dollars to apply or to claim it.
4.) It’s because you paid your taxes, shopped at WalMart, or need money to fix up your house or go on vacation.
The truth is: Grants are not given by funders for these reasons, in this way. The above are red flags of a scam.
With that in mind, here is a website that federal agencies do go through to solicit grant applications: Grants.gov. Please note that a typical grant application would be to a very specific PART of the government, such as the US Department of Education, Pell Foundation, not just “the government.” There would be intense competition for the grant and a complicated application process.
You can also seek private foundations through The Foundation Center. Here you will find very specific funders as well (like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) with very specific missions. If you can assist the Gates Foundation in bringing clean drinking water to the third world, for example, or improving educational opportunities for high school sophomores in King County, they’re looking for you.
Searching for a grant for your business? Try the Small Business Administration in your town. This is a government agency. I hear it is more likely to point you to loans than grants, but definitely find out what resources they can offer.
Remember: Grants are not given because you are in need. Grants are given because you can help the funder accomplish a very specific mission, like planting a community garden or keeping kids out of gangs. Grants may occasionally be given to individuals; as you can imagine, the competition is stiff. Grants to individuals require advance program approval by the IRS.
If you are in need of money to fix your house, pay your electric bill, buy groceries etc. you would apply to a non-profit organization that has received a grant to distribute to people in your situation. You yourself would not receive a grant. InSpokane, people having trouble staying warm during the winter can contact Avista, our local electric company. Free groceries are available through the charity Second Harvest. Home repairs can be arranged by your Area Agency on Aging office and a few others if you qualify.