Finding grant money to fund educational, professional or personal pursuits is often challenging. With all the stipulations and regulations that govern grant money, it's often difficult to find the funding sources that are right for you. Additionally, you must separate legitimate sources of financial support from scams or deceptive offers that may require something in return.
Pinpoint what sort of grant you want to apply for. An obvious, but exceptionally important step is to figure out exactly what you need the money for. Whether to fund a college education, medical expenses, a small business plan or another long-term goal, it is essential that you understand from the start what you are trying to pay for. This will allow you to find official and reputable organizations that may have funding sources of their own, or may be able to point you in the right direction. Search keywords such as "women in education grants," "medical grants," "grants for women in college" to find possible organizations and groups that would be useful in your search. Government organization websites, large philanthropic organizations and national women's groups are all good sources of information.
Scour the web and consult with large, reputable organizations. The Internet is one of your greatest resources when looking for grants and other types of aid. However, it is important to remember that information can be outdated, invalid, or deceptive. There are tons of websites that gather scholarship and grant information and present long lists of potential opportunities. It's important to remember that when you find these lists, your homework isn't finished. Try to find the official websites for these grant opportunities and double check grant information on other websites. For example, if you find a grant you are interested in on a site like fundservices.com--such as the Amber Grants for Women in Business--try searching for the official site or scour the state's small business bureau for more information.
Double check your findings. Don't be shy if you feel the need to inquire further about a particular grant program. If you find some, but not all, of the information about a particular grant program, don't be afraid to call the program's official office directly and ask a few questions. Find out what the grant's requirements are, when the important due dates fall, what the decisions based upon, and whether there are any post-grant commitments.
Also, consulting websites such as Grants.gov as well as the Federal Trade Commission can also be helpful in sifting out which grants are legitimate and which ones are not. These websites also allow you to alert them of possible scams, so they can protect future grant-seekers.
Amanda Younger is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has had her work published in "The Chapel Hill Herald," "Time Out New York" and "Independent Weekly" among other publications. She is also a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism.