You've probably seen the ads: "Free Money! Never Repay Cash Grants for Personal Needs, Medical Bills, Education, Business, Debt Consolidation and more." Sounds too good to be true? Solicitations like this one have been appearing in consumers' email boxes recently. These ads claim that "foundations can be a better source for finance than banks" and "anyone can get an interest free cash grant." The emails encourage consumers to send an application fee of $20 to $50, with the promise that their financial needs and requirements will be matched with the most suitable private foundations. Or, they may promise to provide a list of available grants.
If you decide to respond to these ads, be aware that your name and information may never reach reputable foundations. Generally, obtaining a grant is a complicated process, requiring documentation and research. Although there may exist private foundations whose requirements are based on an individual's personal preference, the vast majority of grant-making foundations require that applicants for funds meet very specific guidelines that the foundation has established, and that the funds be used for specific projects that the foundation wishes to support.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice:
- Watch out for phrases like "free grant money." Grants do not have to be repaid; thus there is no need to use the word "free."
- Organizations do not usually give out grants for personal debt consolidation, or to pay for other personal needs. Grants are usually given only to serve a social good, such as bringing jobs to an area, training under-employed youth, preserving a bit of history, etc.
- Always remember to check out any company you plan to do business with by contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Also check with a regional or state economic development office to see if they know of grant programs for which you might qualify.
- Visit your public library. Ask a librarian to help you find reference books describing foundations and the criteria they use in awarding grants.
- Be wary if you are asked to provide money up-front to an unknown company before the company will provide the services promised.
- If you are having financial problems, there are local non-profit credit counseling services who may be able to assist you with your problem at no charge.