Need money to support the work of your volunteer group? A grant might be the answer.

©iStockphoto/Joel Carillet

Grants by definition are given to volunteers. The idea is to provide financial help to those who are trying to make a positive impact on society. Charity-based grants aren't handed out to individuals as personal loans [source: Grants]. Keeping that in mind, if you're trying to volunteer and you would like to apply for a grant, there's probably one out there that's appropriate.

Here's what you need to know. If you're applying for a grant as an individual, you will only be eligible for grants that are offered to individuals. That might seem like common sense but it's important. Most grants are available only to groups and organizations. If you're working alone, don't waste your time applying for any of these -- apply only for grants available to individuals. There's nothing more frustrating than writing a grant proposal only to find out that you weren't eligible in the first place. Do yourself a favor by carefully researching it before hand. The fact that you're reading this article means you're already on the right track.

To find a grant that's right for you, use a Web site like grants.gov. Grants.gov allows you to search a large database of grants that are currently available. Once you've found something that's up your alley, you can work through the application process or contact the funding agency directly to find out how to proceed.

Applying for a grant can be an arduous and competitive process. It requires a good amount of time and preparation. It's likely that many people will be applying for the same grant as you. So in the end, your proposal needs to stand out. One of the most effective ways to do this also happens to be one of the simplest. Write concisely and know what to ask for. Know your goals, how you would like to achieve them and what resources you'll need to do so. If you want to be successful, make sure your need is convincing. Also be sure to present a clear way you plan to address that need [source: NPGuides]. Remember, you're selling them on your idea and its objectives.

When it comes to writing a grant proposal, the less words you use, the better. State what you want clearly and simply. Another key to getting a grant is not limiting yourself by focusing on just one or two grants. Most likely, there will be a number of available grants that could help your cause. So do the research and apply for everything you can. Remember to tailor each proposal to the funding agent. While the idea you're presenting will remain the same, the language you use to present it can be written to match the specific goals and interests of each grant-offering group.

And don't forget to follow up on your proposal. Don't wait to hear from the funding agent -- show initiative by checking on the status of your grant proposal. Finally, if your request is denied, try to find out why so that you can use the critique to go back and improve your proposal for the next time you submit it [source: CPB].

For more information, visit the links on the next page.