May 20, 2012 in Business

BBB Tip of the Week: The truth about grants


The truth about grants: One of my best friends just won a grant. Did that sentence make you do a double-take? It should have. That tiny word “won” is the tip-off to a big scam. Grant scams are variations on the old overpayment scheme. No matter how often the BBB warns people, someone always seems to fall for it. Scammers say, “We’ll send you a check for $10,000 and you keep half and wire us $5,000 so we can release your $25,000 grant.” Or “Wire $99 to me to donate to the charity of your choice, and I’ll mail your $5,000 grant.”

Who gets grants: Here is what many folks don’t understand about grants: No matter what you’ve heard, grants are not given to individuals who are having trouble financially. Not because you paid your taxes. Not because you shopped at Target. Not because your son is in the military. Grants are given to organizations that match the mission of the people with the money. Some missions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example:

• Improve the quality of drinking water in the Third World.

• Increase high school graduation rates.

See how specific those are? I think people get confused because we all know charities help people in need by using grants. So why wouldn’t funders? Here’s the difference: The Joe Albertson Foundation isn’t going to give you a grant because you can’t afford groceries. They’re going to give it to Second Harvest, the charity, which will distribute groceries to you and other individuals in need. In addition, you won’t get a grant you didn’t apply for. Top grant writers only receive a grant around 7 percent of the time – applications are highly competitive and time-consuming; competition is stiff.

Hang up: So when you get that next call telling you the good news about your grant award, unless you’re keeping kids out of gangs or planting community gardens in abandoned rock quarries, hang up. You’ll be glad you did.

More info or report scams: Visit the BBB at Call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007. Or sign up to receive our Scam Alerts at

Holly Doering, BBB Editor

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