Finding Out Who Awards Grants to Individuals and For What Purposes

By Beverly A. Browning

According to the website for the Foundation Center, the nation’s leading print and online authority on philanthropy, roughly 10,000 grant makers help with paying off education or artistic or research projects. To make this vast database work for you, you first need to get acquainted with the various types of grants available for individuals.

Commonly awarded grants for individuals include the following:

  • College scholarships and student loans: The former category doesn’t require repayment, but the latter does. Both college scholarships and student loans are awarded to specific financial institutions in the individual’s name. Take a look at the College Board’s Search for Scholarships website for resources. Take your time, take notes, and take advantage of this highly credible website with safe links.
  • Fellowships: This grant type requires no repayment and may be taxable. However, fellowships are often restricted to specific institutions or fields of study. Some foundations award fellowships directly to individuals; others award them to specific colleges or universities. Type fellowships directory into your favorite Internet search engine to find industry-specific resources.
  • Specific funder-directed assistance grants: These grants are available for patient-access programs, discount prescription medication programs, global humanitarian support, and more. For example, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance has an extensive list of assistance programs; just click the Get Prescription Help button on the right-hand side of the page to access the list of participating programs.
  • Research grants: This grant type is reserved for educational and scientific research projects. Research grants are awarded by both government and private sector funders. In the health arena, for example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the foremost federal funder of research grants to individuals. For an example of a private sector funder, take a look at the website for the Foundation for the Future.
  • First-time homebuyer grants: Just about every state offers these grants, which are earmarked to help eligible individuals and families purchase a first home with a reduced down payment. Most often, these monies originate from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and are passed down through your state’s housing authority or agency. That agency then subgrants these monies to regional and local housing assistance programs. To find HUD-funding homebuyer grants and resources in your state, review the list of organizations and agencies to find the contacts in your state.

The easiest and fastest way to search for individual grants is to use the Internet because you can print out your search results and sort them from most likely matches to long shots. Then you can start the process of contacting each funder to obtain specific guidelines and due dates. Use this search string: Individuals can apply for this grant. You can also change the search string to something like this: Individual artists can apply. Either way, be prepared to read and screen all the results to find what you’re looking for.

Competition for individual grants is heavy, so start your search at least one year before you need the funds. This is especially true for fellowships and research grants. Contact the funders for qualification details that may not be posted on their websites. Then be sure to fill out all the required forms completely and accurately.