Do Grants For Individuals Really Exist? By Chataun Denis
There are some truths about grant money and there are some myths as well. The first truth that I'd like to point out is that there is not an endless sea of free money available to the public as television and internet ads would have you to believe. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are targeting the uninformed in the name of profit. They know that people are struggling financially and would jump at the chance to receive free money to pay off debt, make repairs to their homes, or start a business.
Generally speaking, I would propose that the general public doesn't fully understand how grants work, and as a consequence, they fall prey to the attractive ads, paying hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for cds, books, and workshops that leave them just as empty handed and confused as ever before. For those of you who don't know the correct definition of a grant, a grant is free money, this is true. However, individuals who are looking for home improvement grants or a grant to finance the start up of a business are not the traditional recipients of grants.
There are two groups that qualify for grants. The first group falls under a category I like to call institutional. These are your 501c3 nonprofit businesses. Now, for those of you who don't know what a 501c3 is, it's a profit generating business that is organized for charitable purposes and can receive tax deductible gifts. In other words, it's a tax shelter for people who have money to give away in exchange for a tax write off. The second group is non-institutions. Individuals and non-501c3 civic groups fall under this category. Again, most grants are awarded to institutional groups that have Internal Revenue Service approved 501c3 tax exempt status. If you do not have a registered tax exempt business, then you would fall under the category of non-institutional.
Now we'll discuss how individuals and civic groups can go about finding grant opportunities. Although there is free money available, it is not money that can be used for anything of your choosing. As a grant applicant, you'll have to meet certain qualifications, and the qualifications are very specific and targeted to unique groups of individuals.
One example of a unique group is artists. There are numerous sources of grants for artists. Your local and state arts councils are a good place to start your search. In Georgia, there's the Fulton County Arts Council and the Georgia Council for the Arts. The Foundation Center, which is a national library resource for non-profits and individuals seeking grant information, is also another reliable source. Among these sources you will find that cash grants do exists, however, they are commonly reserved or restricted to prizes for contest winners, special artist projects, or artist residencies.