How to Find State Grants - dummies

By Beverly A. Browning

How do you find state grant opportunities? Washington, DC, is a funding epicenter for U.S.-based government grant seekers. All the country’s money seems to flow toward the capitol, and then Congress votes to activate the trickle-down process to your state capitol. (Note that there are plentiful opportunities for nonprofits to apply directly to a federal funding agency for a grant.)

Federal dollars trickle down in three forms:

  • Formula: This money is paid based on a preset head-count (enrollments and population) formula.

  • Entitlement: State agencies get these monies because federal legislation entitles them to receive it every fiscal year.

    An entitlement grant is one in which funds are provided to specific grantees on the basis of a formula, prescribed in legislation or regulation, rather than on the basis of an individual project. The formula is usually based on such factors as population, enrollment, per-capita income, or a specific need. Entitlement grants often result in pass-through grants to municipalities and nonprofits.

  • Competitive grant or cooperative agreement awards: The state, municipality, nonprofit, or other grant applicant with the best grant applications wins this money.

Some states post all the state funding and re-granting announcement links on one website. (Re-granting refers to grants made from the monies a state has received from the federal government.) In addition, some states develop their own grant programs funded entirely through state dollars. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a state that does so, check out the relevant website for a mailing list.

You may be able to sign up for e-mail grant notice alerts. However, most states don’t post these announcements, so you have to be a really great Internet detective to find the monies in your state (not to mention in Washington). You need to surf a bit each day to catch all the new postings for grant-funding opportunities.

Most state grants usually award less money and require just as much paperwork as federal grants. But the odds of winning a grant are better at the state level than at the federal level. It’s a no-brainer: The main reason you face better odds is that fewer grant applicants are competing for the state-level monies.

Figuring out where the money is in your state

To find grant opportunities at the state level:

  • Visit your state government’s website. Use a search engine, such as Yahoo! or Google, if you need help locating the address. If you search the state site and can’t find a listing of all the state’s grant opportunities, call the governor’s office and ask to be directed to the various agencies that give grants.

  • E-mail or call each appropriate state agency. Contact the agencies responsible for carrying out legislative funding mandates relevant to your own funding needs and be sure to get on their mailing lists for grant-funding opportunity alerts.

When you receive an alert about a state grant-funding opportunity you’re interested in applying for, look for the website link that connects you to the grant application summary and download. Download the complete grant application (including guidelines) and look for the following information:

  • Type of application: For example, the application may be a hard-copy typed submission or an online electronic submission (e-grant).

  • Due date: Make sure the due date is manageable and gives you enough time to collect topic-related information and write the application.

  • Who’s eligible to apply: Every grant competition has a section listing the types of grant applicants eligible to apply for funds. If your organization’s forming structure (local education agency, nonprofit, and so forth) isn’t listed, consider partnering with an eligible applicant. ( You may also want to contact the funding agency to clarify any non-published eligible applicants because your organization may be eligible to apply after all.

  • The number of grants to be awarded: You may have to call the funding agency’s contact person to find out the number of available grants; this information often isn’t included in state grant application guidelines.

    Unless you’re the only organization delivering highly specialized services/programs and have no competitors, don’t apply for competitive grant funds where fewer than three awards will be made statewide. The fewer the number of grant awards, the worse the odds are for winning an award.

All grant applicants have a fair chance of winning a state agency grant award if a sufficient number of awards are available.

Seeking local government re-granting dollars

At the local government level (county, town, village, township, hamlet, and city), look for public monies at the County Board of Commissioners, local Area Agencies on Aging, the Mayor’s Office on Neighborhoods, regional housing authorities (they subgrant for neighborhood-based services), your county-based department of social services, and more. All these agencies receive direct funding from state agencies and federal pass-through funding for re-granting purposes at the local level.

Because not all funding opportunities are posted on websites, you want to develop connections with agency representatives to find out the inside scoop. Also, ask questions of local elected officials and track down these publically available grant funds. Be aggressive in asking questions about what funds are available, who can apply, and who the contract person is for the agency re-granting the monies.