The Easy Approach: Applying for Grants
One of the first things you have to before you apply for any grants is realize how grants work. In many cases grants are managed by entities who then disburse the funds to individuals, but in some cases you can get individual grants straight from the government. Grants are funds that are allocated by government entities for specific purposes. They do not have to be paid back, but they do sometimes require matching funds.
Hire a Grant Specialist
Obviously, the easiest way to apply for grants is to hire someone to do it for you. Don’t hire one of your friends or someone who doesn’t have a proven track record with grant applications, but do consider hiring someone who has an extensive track record both finding and writing grants because writing a grant proposal can be more difficult that writing a college thesis. Remember, you are dealing with the government, which means plenty of red tape. One small mistake that has nothing to do with your actual qualifications for a grant could result in you losing the grant. This is not the most likely route for you to take, being a single mother and probably already low on funds, so you may need to do your own research and grant writing.
Start with Government Entities
Bar none, the easiest grants to apply for are the ones involving SNAP and financial aid for school. SNAP is managed by the state, but combines federal and state grants to fund the program. Head to your local Division of Family and Children to apply for assistance through these grants, but make sure you apply for everything. The worst thing they can do is say no and since there are grants for food, cash assistance, and even child care assistance, you may as well apply for all of them. You only fill out one form and simply check a few more boxes, so it doesn’t involve anything more than you are already doing.
Educational grants are provided using state and federal funds, and are managed through your school’s financial aid office. Essentially, when you fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) you are applying for all of the grants that are available to your school. The FAFSA costs nothing to fill out and is the core document used to assess your eligibility for financial aid. Almost everyone qualifies for the PELL grants, and if you fill out your FAFSA before March 10, you may also be eligible for funds from your state. Note that there are enrollment requirements to meet in order to qualify for grants. The more hours you are enrolled for, the more funds you qualify for. To get started, go to the FAFSA site and start filling out your application. Keep in mind that you don’t actually have to have your taxes done to fill this out as you can go back and readjust your application any time.
Even the Unemployment Office gets grants to manage. In some areas these offices offer grants in the way of funds to provide gas money for those who are seeking to improve their positions. For example, if you are currently a CNA and you want to go back to school to get your RN, you may qualify for a gas card that gets refilled every week on top of the funds that are administered by your school because these are entirely separate grants. Some Unemployment Offices also offer free training that is apid for through these grants.
Contact Non-Profit Organizations
Many of the grants available are managed through different types of non-profit organizations. Some of the funds these organization manage are not advertised and you may not even realize they come from grants. Start by contacting the local office that offers support for low income families, given different names in each area. In some areas these offices are call Community Services or something similar. They manage funds such as those from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The LIHEAP program is federal funds that are managed by non-profit organization to help low income families pay their heat, and sometimes cooling bills. You can only apply through the local organization that manages these funds rather than applying directly to the government for them. You can ask about this program and also ask about any other grants the agency might manage or know about.
Search Out Your Own Grants
One of the hardest ways to get grants is to search them out on your own and apply directly to the government, but if you have a specific goal in mind, this can also be the best way to move forward with your goal. Grants are listed at Grants.gov, so you can browse through all available ones. Narrow your search for grants for individuals, or you can even search out grants for others and offer to apply for the grant as long as you get to participate in the program you are applying about and receive some kind of compensation for your efforts.
There are also several sites that can help you find grants using terminology you can easily understand, since some of the grants, of not all, are written in terminology best understood by the people who regularly work with grants and their applications. However, these sites do charge for their services, so you are really best off to purchase the service on a limited basis and devote your time to it while you have it.
The easiest way to get a grant really is to go through an entity that manages them, but you will have to meet the requirements for the grant terms to do so. It is much simpler than it sounds when done this way. In fact, you have probably received grants for single moms without even realizing that you were using a grant. Even if you are feeling a moment of panic right now, try prioritizing your efforts so that you can reach funds that can help you immediately while also planning for future funds.