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Grants are monetary gifts which do not have to be repaid. These are generally given to non-profit organizations or individuals that meet specific guidelines and have a demonstrated financial need. Donors, also called grantors, can be governmental entities, corporations or private foundations. Community grants are gifts which are intended to be used by the recipient for a specific purpose that will enhance the local community.
Community grants may address certain geographic regions, such as rural areas which operate from a much smaller tax base than do large cities. Grants for rural libraries, school improvements, or equipment for volunteer emergency services are examples. In some countries, rural grants may be designed to provide wells and water purification in under-served areas. Funds may also be available to areas that have been affected by a natural disaster.
Other community grants target specific demographic segments of the population. There are foundations and government grants which sponsor programs offering youth mentoring, sports, homelessness, literacy and job training in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Professional sports teams often sponsor community youth sports, and some corporations give small grants to a wide variety of worthy projects throughout the community. Some grantors will only work with public agencies, while others wish only to support religious or private outreaches. In most cases, however, community grants are only given to non-profit entities.
Applying for community grants is a formal process, and the grantors usually have specific application guidelines which must be followed. In the case of a government grant, a request for proposal (RFP) is published with extremely detailed directions, and no variation is tolerated. For example, if the guidelines state that the side and bottom margins must be one inch (2.5 cm), and a grant request arrives with a three-quarters inch (1.9 cm) margin, it will be disallowed. It is also crucial that submittal deadlines be met, since governmental entities are generally not allowed to give extensions.
In most cases, private foundations and companies have less stringent application requirements, but it is still important to follow the applicable grant guidelines in order to be considered for funding. The initial step in the community grants research process is to find grantors whose funding priorities match the mission of the applicant's program. If the foundation donates to youth sports, it will not be interested in an application requesting funds to build a community playground. Next, the applicant must be able to concisely present his mission, goals, intended beneficiaries, expected outcomes, budget, and any additional funding sources.
Most organizations will expect a documented report showing how the money was used. If a grant is donated to help construct a school playground, then it is not acceptable to use those funds to fix a bathroom. In the case of larger community grants or grants designated to run certain programs, the documentation may be very extensive, especially if the grantor is a governmental entity. Since tax money is usually the source for government grants, the government owes a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to make certain public funds are not misused.