Overview & Purpose

Grants are not "free" money. Usually, grants are money or equipment awarded to the college to perform certain activities or services to provide a unique solution to a distinctive problem, in an individual entity within the college.

There are several types of grants available including; Federal Grants, State Grants, Foundation Grants, and Corporate Grants.


Federal Grants
A federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States. The federal government awards $400B in grants every year through 1,000+ grant programs through 26 federal grant-making agencies with an average size $300K to $500K.

Kinds of Federal Grants
  • Project grants are awarded competitively. Project grants are the most common form of grant and a majority are awarded for scientific research, technology development, education (such as Federal Pell Grants), social services, the arts and health care.
  • Formula Grants provide funds as dictated by a law and are generally noncompetitive. EXAMPLES: Education Technology State Grants, National School Lunch Program, Safe and Drug Free Schools
  • Categorical grants may be spent only for narrowly defined purposes and recipients often must match a portion of the federal funds. 33% of categorical grants are considered to be formula grants.
  • Block grants combine categorical grants into a single program. Recipients of block grants have more leeway in using funds than recipients of individual categorical grants. All block grants are considered to be formula grants.
Federal grants have the following characteristics
  • Major projects that will benefit specific sectors of the population such as students
  • Detailed program goals that must be completed
  • Strict reporting and oversight
  • Detailed government performance standards
  • Rigorous restrictions
  • Significant obligations
  • Subject to detailed audits
  • Require a great deal of grant writing expertise, use of a professional grantwriter and a lot of time and potentially a lot of money up front with no guarantee of success.

State Grants
State level departments administer funds from federal programs and programs appropriated through the state legislature. Most State Grants vary in amount and purpose, are often "pass-through" of federal funds, are specific to California and California sets priorities and requirements.

Examples of California State Grants:
  • California Community College Chancellors Office: Grants
  • Economic and Workforce Development
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Nursing Education
  • Career Pathways

Foundation Grants
There are several different types of Foundations including: private and/or family foundations that are established by individuals, families, companies, or groups of people interested in common causes, and public, non-profit organizations that support a variety of causes in or near specific communities across the country. The financial operations of foundations are closely regulated and monitored by the US Internal Revenue System and must follow IRS guidelines when they make grants how they manage their internal operations. IRS regulations are different for foundations that are public charities (501C-3 organizations) and those that are private/family/corporate foundations and this difference sometimes affects the amount that must be granted out, how it is granted, and the amount available each year.

All foundations require the submission of either a proposal or some description of what the money you are requesting will fund, objectives to be accomplished, the amount of money needed to support each request, timeframes for the project, and a contact person. You must carefully read the descriptions of what each foundation is willing to consider prior to submitting an application/proposal as not doing so would not be advantageous when competing with the other people asking for the very limited amounts of money usually available.

Each foundation has a set of priorities or “giving criteria” that they use when determining the opportunities they consider each year when making grants.  Most foundations support program-related causes (children, health, the arts, education, animals, religious causes, etc.) or give to specific communities and regions.  Very few foundations make contributions for funding general expenses or overhead costs.  Many foundations have “funding cycles” or specific times each year they will accept proposals or letters of request for grants. Make sure you read the foundation website or talk with a program officer before submitting any requests,


Corporate Grants
  • Separate entities organized as nonprofit organizations
  • Often set aside 5%+ of profits for grants
  • Philosophy of giving back to the community
  • 1,300+ corporate-sponsored foundations in the U.S.
  • Most corporations follow a concept of "profitable philanthropy". They want to know how your project will benefit them.
  • Most corporations have a very unstructured application process.


Top of page October 25, 2011