Free money tends to get advertised frequently in all sorts of mediums and marketing when times are tight. Many such programs typically advertise being able to get free funds from the federal government, and all that is necessary is a simple application and being in the right eligibility category. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Obtaining a federal grant is a rigorous process that involves a thick amount of paperwork, substantiation, documentation, and signing of statements swearing truth under penalty of perjury. Additionally, the work doesn’t stop once the grant is awarded. Any recipient is fully subject to audits or investigations by federal agencies to ensure the grant funds were used for their intended purpose.
So it is worth a small business’ time to even fuss with a federal grant? The answer may still be “yes” once you understand how federal grant award processes actually work. First, the federal government is not in the business of handing out free money, despite what late night infomercials and spam email may say otherwise. Grants fall under many of the same federal accounting rules and normal government programs, so the grant funds have to be spent in a manner consistent with their approval by Congress.
Second, public grants from the federal government can only be obtained by non-profit businesses and organizations. This would include organizations that work towards improving medicine, research, schools, and scientific inventions. Grants also transfer money from the federal government to local governments for a variety of public purpose reasons as well.
Business can enter into the grant world by not obtaining the grant but instead helping supply and support the recipient of a grant. Many times the recipient party obtains a federal grant to meet a certain objective. That recipient will need to hire or contract with vendors to get supplies, manpower, skills, and products. In this respect businesses can expand profit lines by being that selected vendor through government bidding and procurement.
The initial starting point for information on federal grants starts today with the federal website Grant.gov . This website aggregates all the grant information available among the various federal programs, bureaus and agencies with regards to funds they have to distribute and the related purpose details. Additionally, a business could review the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance for additional information on federal grant programs and their recipients. Finally, there are the normal channels of federal contracting and procurement such as the U.S Federal Contractor Register which lists all new contracts and procurement offerings seeking bids. Keep in mind to bid on such projects with grant funds you first need to be a registered business with Dun & Bradstreet and also with the Register. Otherwise, you won’t be recognized, period.