by Cameron Macht
With his loud question mark-adorned suits and even louder voice, Matthew Lesko became famous by leading people to believe that the government was handing out “free money” for a wide variety of things – ranging from college to health care to retirement. While critics including the New York Consumer Protection Board say that he misrepresented the claims made in his advertisements, no one can argue that he wasn't very effective at getting his message out.
Many people learned about the availability of government grants from his infomercials and books, but it’s hard to know how many actually received any government funding. As many grant writers know, and even Lesko himself admitted in a Washington Post interview, “You don’t just buy a book and make a phone call and get a check next Tuesday. There’s money available, but it takes some effort.”
Although most organizations that offer grant funding make their applications as easy to use as possible, applying for grants can be a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process. To help applicants, the Minnesota Department of Administration’s Office of Grants Management is working to “standardize, streamline, and improve state grant-making practices, as well as to increase public information about state grant opportunities.”
Both the Office of Grants Management (www.grants.state.mn.us/public/) and more specifically DEED have a broad and changing list (mn.gov/deed/about/contracts/) of grant and contract opportunities available online for organizations to search through and apply for.
Although every grant is different, many grants typically require a statement of need and pertinent background information explaining why the applicant is applying, as well as a list of goals, activities, assessment plans, related experience, and a proposed budget.
For DEED-provided and other grants, research and data experts at DEED are available to help organizations find relevant and timely data on the economy and labor market in Minnesota as well as at the regional, county, and even city level. We also have the characteristics of our population and labor force, as well as unemployed and workforce program customers. DEED staff are available to assist with reasonable data requests, custom reports, and analysis at no cost to the organizations responding to RFPs and grant proposals.
To help aim people in the right direction, DEED has published a brief list of resources and data assistance available online (mn.gov/deed/assets/data-assistance-rfps-grants_tcm1045-186654.pdf). This includes a list of DEED staff contacts and their related areas of expertise, which organizations can use to get in contact with someone who can assist them quickly.