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Arkansas State University

Grants: Getting Started

A short intro to finding and writing grants.


Grants are monetary funds given for an "authorized purpose." Funding that provides assistance directly to you for personal reasons are not grants.  These types of funds are considered assistance or benefits -- even if they're referred to as "grants."  For more information about benefits and to see what type of assistance you qualify for, please visit


Money for research

Money for a community project

Money to support a non-profit

Money for curriculum development


Assistance and Benefits

Money to go to college?  Education grants and loans

Money to start a business?  Small business grants and loans

Money for child care? Child Care Assistance Programs

Money for food? Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program


Before you even begin searching for grants, you must first sit down and take some time thinking about your needs.  This vital step will help you write a stronger grant proposal and will help you decide where to look for funding.  To begin, you need to have a basic idea of:

  • What your project / goal is
  • Who will apply
  • Who will benefit
  • How much money you need
  • What you are willing to contribute
  • Identify potential partners
  • Research current local and state projects


What your goal is, who will apply and who will benefit all dictate what type of grant and grant source you should apply to. 


There are grants for research, to provide services, upgrade technology -- you name it, a grant may cover it.  However, you can NOT get a grant just for anything, like buying a new car for yourself.  Generally, grants need to provide some sort of "overall good."  For example, you likely will not get a grant to research something just because you enjoy it.  However, you can probably find a grant if your research can positively impact society.  A new roof for your personal home?  Probably not.  A new roof for a community center?  Probably so. 

There are several different types of grants: projects, research, community outreach, curriculum development, training, demonstration and more.  Having a clear idea of what your goal is will help you find the right funding. 

Who applies and who benefits matters

Many grant opportunities are limited to particular applicants.  When you come across a grant, you will need to thoroughly read its criteria and make sure you meet their requirements.  Be forewarned: if you are an individual, some grantors and sites just will not apply to you (e.g.  But knowing in advance what catagory you're in (government, non-profit, tribal, research, community, individual), will help you narrow your potential list of grantors.



It goes without saying that if you're asking for money, you need to know how much to ask for.  Some grants give a set amount and expect you to submit a spending report or final budget at the close of the grant.  However, many grantors want to see the budget ahead of time and will only award money equal to the proposed budget. Some grantors only give small grants, others large.  Having at least an idea of your budget will help you find the right grantor.  If you find that you have a large budget, you may need to find funding from more than one source.


Before you even begin searching, you need to decide what and how much you are willing to contribute.  Some grants require matching funds - that is, you must use some of your own money towards the project in order to receive the grant.  Requirements for matching funds can vary with some as high as dollar-for-dollar.  Even if you're not willing to match funds, there is still a lot of work that goes into making a funded project successful: How much time are you willing to spend on the project?  How many people is your organization willing to let work on it?  Is your organization willing to use company space? 



To strengthen the chance of getting funded, try to find partners to support your project.  This can be a scholar, business or other organization.  What is expected from your partner depends on the project and the grant guidelines.  In many cases, you need a Letter of Support.  Sometimes the Letter of Support is just a statement saying that the project is a good idea.  Other times, the partner organization must show that they are willing to spend manpower and/or match funds to make the project successful.  The stronger your partner, the higher your chances of being funded.

Research existing funded projects

One key factor in getting your grant funded is uniqueness.  If there is a similar project to yours already funded in your area, it will greatly lower the chances of you getting funded.  Make sure you check locally and at the state-level.  If you discover that your project is truly unique, make sure you say so in your grant proposal!