Here at The Secret Cocktail® it is our goal to help our clients make informed decisions when it comes to establishing and operating CNA schools. The process of establishing a CNA school in and of itself is a complicated one. There are multiple levels of government oversight which results in complicated paperwork, not to mention that the program build itself takes time and expertise. If you have been searching for information on how to get grant funding for a CNA school, you are no doubt finding that endeavor is equally as complicated. In this article we will shed light as to why that is and give you resources and strategies that you can use to pursue grant funding if you decide it is the best option for you. Pour some coffee, because this is going to be a long one.
*It is important to clarify that the following is our interpretation of publicly available information. We here at The Secret Cocktail® are not grant experts, nor do we provide any kind of grant writing services. We have made the utmost effort to source the information from reputable sources, and provided links to them so that you can investigate for yourself.
CNA Schools are Businesses
Before jumping into grants it is important that we clarify one fact about CNA schools. A CNA school is a business. You may already be aware of this fact or you may be thinking “But my schools mission and purpose is to educate. My school is an educational institution, not a business.” Its important that everyone reading this article understands that even if your state requires that you get licensed as a post-secondary school, your CNA school likely does not meet the legal definition of an “Institutions of Higher Education” as it pertains to grants. When it comes to grants, your CNA school is considered a small business.
This distinction is important because the federal government does NOT give grants for the purpose of starting a small business. If that seems at odds with what you have read online or in TV ads, you can read it for yourself on both USA.gov (the Official US website for Government Information and Services) and SBA.gov (the official website of the U.S. Small Business Administration). This is why you probably haven’t found a legitimate federal grant to start your CNA school. Now if you are joining us from our other article, How to Get Funding to Start a CNA School, you are probably wondering how we have seen someone get a grant to start their CNA school first hand if that is the case. For that answer, lets take a closer look at grants and how they work.
Grants are awards of money that are gifted to the recipient with an obligation to fulfill a purpose. They follow a “lifecycle” that has many phases starting with planning the award and ending with reporting and award closeout. Firstly, Grantmakers will plan an award and post an announcement for the funding opportunity. Applicants will then search for opportunities and apply. This process can take weeks depending on a particular grants requirements. The grant making agency will review the applications which can also be quite time consuming. Once the review is complete, the Grantmaking agency will send out a notice to applicants of their decision. If funds are awarded the grantee will need to provide detailed reports of how the funds are used and may even be audited. Finally, the grant making agency will review the reports to ensure the obligations of the grant have been fulfilled before considering the award closed. Grants may come from the Federal, State, or event your local government. Grant funding may also come from foundations or even private companies who wish to devote funds to a specific cause or a community in which they are stakeholders.
Federal Grant funding is awarded by the government to programs/projects that benefit the public. Because federal grants are funded by tax dollars, they are governed by many laws. The majority of federal grant money is actually awarded to state and local entities who then, in turn, will use and distribute the funds where their community need lies. You can see this on USASpending.gov. There are opportunities that businesses are eligible to receive, but they can be a challenge to win. Federal Grants have very specific application requirements, and require detailed reporting on how those funds were spent as well as how effective they were. Additionally, the grantor will conduct a risk assessment on applicants before awarding funds, so businesses that receive grant funds usually need to be able to show an established track record of success. You can search for federal grant opportunities on Grants.gov and on the Assistance Listings on Sam.gov. These are highly competitive, and unlikely to be attainable as a for-profit entity. I have included a few exceptions below that you can assess on your own in the “Potential Grant Funding Sources” section.
State & Local
Grants at this level is where we have seen clients have success. You can read a first hand account in our article Starting a CNA School With Grant Funding in Maryland. As mentioned above, state entities receive grant funds that they may use for their own operation or award to grantees as a “pass-through entity” that support the initiative of the program. You may be eligible for a grant from the state departments who serve the same populations that you do. As a CNA school you help to improve the care of nursing home residents and other members of the aging population by training the skilled workers needed for that care. Conveniently, this is usually the same entity that you will be required to apply for approval through. For example, here in Georgia CNA schools are approved by the Department of Community Health, and they have an entire page of their website devoted to grant opportunities. Another group that you serve is your students. As a CNA school you provide career training to adults that can be attained quickly, and lead to higher wages as well as improve the workforce. The Workforce Innovation And Opportunity Act is a federal legislation that distributes funds to the states to “help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services.” Each state has their own regulations for how they distribute these funds, but in many states CNA schools are eligible to receive funds to help students cover tuition. You would just need to find the department responsible in your state and review the requirements. A quick online search of “WIOA your state name” should get you to the right place. There are also possible opportunities at the county and city level, so check with the economic development agency or chamber of commerce where your school is going to be located to see what kind of opportunities are available.
Currently, there is a lot of funding being put towards COVID-19 relief. As a CNA school you are training valuable healthcare employees. We have seen multiple individuals receive grants from these initiatives. Federal funds are distributed to the states, wherein each state enacts their own spending plans. You should check with your state to see if there are are COVID-19 relief grants that your school is eligible to receive.
As with federal grants, grants from your state or local governments will be regulated by laws. The will have specific eligibility, application, and reporting requirements. You should be prepared for a significant investment of time to search for, review, and apply to grants you may be eligible for. Additionally, you must plan for how you will fulfill the reporting obligations of the grant and be prepared to enact the plans should you be awarded funds.
Grant money from private foundations or companies are not funded by tax dollars, and may have less complicated applications and reporting requirements when compared to government grants, but more often than not they are awarded to non-profit organizations because of the tax implications. There are many private sources available. You would want to find a foundation whose mission aligns with your own. For example a foundation that provides funds to improve senior care in the community or educate adults. You yourself may be a member of a population a private foundation serves and could potentially receive funds that way as well. For example, there are many foundations that help historically underfunded entrepreneurs such as women or minority groups. Potential sources are listed below in the “Potential Grant Funding Sources” section.
For-Profit or Nonprofit
The way you structure your business will affect what grant funds you are eligible for. There are many more grant opportunities for nonprofit organizations than there are for for-profit organizations. If you have not yet chosen a business structure you can check out the different options on SBA.gov. You can check out our video, “Can you make money with a nonprofit CNA school? Non-profit or For-Profit?,” which goes over some of the advantages of both when it comes to CNA schools. We would highly reccomend you assess the funding opportunities available to you before committing to a particular business structure. If you decide that you would like to structure your business as a nonprofit, the IRS has a completely free 10 session, online, self-paced workshop were you can learn about becoming and remaining compliant as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Potential Grant Funding Sources
If you are trying to open a school in a rural area (based on federal standards) you may consider looking into the RISE Grant Program. It awards grantees with a minimum of $500,000 over a 4 year period to “improve the ability of rural communities to create high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of rural businesses, and strengthen regional economies.” The current application close date is April 19th, 2022.
Another grant meant to benefit rural areas that may be worth looking into is the Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program. There is no minimum or ceiling award amount for this grant. The purpose is to support “healthcare job development, training and placement in rural and tribal communities.” The full announcement states that funds can be used for training/certification programs for community healthcare workers (CHWs), in which they specifically include medical assistants (if you offer that program) and also say that CHWs are defined “broadly to include additional disciplines,” so you may be able to get consideration for your CNA training program if you meet the other requirements and can show it supports the purpose of the grant. The current application closes on March 18th, 2022.
State Level Grants
Each state will have its own specific grant opportunities. Going into all of them unfortunately is beyond the scope of this article, but we have touched on some in the states where many of our clients are located below. For other states, you can use the strategies mentioned in the State & Local info section above to find grant opportunities.
Georgia: Georgia Department of Community Health may have grant opportunities available. It is possible to access WIOA funds for CNA training programs in Georgia but would require that you take an additional step after the approval by DCH and be licensed through the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission as well. WIOA funds are distributed by the Office of Workforce Development. There are multiple local offices, you would need to work with the one that is responsible for the area your school is located in.
Florida: The Florida Department of State has a website for grant postings. The Florida Department of Health also has a page for grant opportunities. WIOA funds are handled by the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Illinois: The Illinois Department of Public Health has a grant portal. The Illinois Department of Human Services has many grant postings available. WIOA funds are handled by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Candid provides a list of RFPs from private grant making entities for nonprofits that is free to search.
Regional organizations may be more likely to award funds to your cause. Find regional associations of Grantmakers on United Philanthropy Forum’s website or Council on Foundation’s website. You can then check with the member’s websites for grant opportunities. Access to this information varies between the associations.
State Farm offers the Good Neighbor Citizenship Community Grant® that is eligible to educational institutions as well as non-profits. Since this is not a government grant they may have a less stringent definition of “educational institution” and post-secondary school licensure may be acceptable. Check with the grant maker for their limitations.
SoGal offers a Black Founder Start Up Grant to help black women entrepreneurs or non-binary black entrepreneurs by providing awards of either $5,000 or $10,000. You can read more about the requirements on their website.
WomensNet offers the Amber Grant to help women entrepreneurs. They award a grants every month. If you are woman entrepreneur you can apply on their site.
Other Grant Resources
The National Community Development Association has some local COVID-19 initial flyers uploaded on their site.
The Writing Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has an article with Tips for Grant Writing.
Candid provides free training for nonprofit entities. You can check out their full catalog on their website.
NonprofitReady.org has free online training for nonprofit professionals. You can learn the basics all the way up to complex topics like accounting. If your CNA school is structured as a nonprofit this is a great resource.
The Health Resources & Services Administration has a program called the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program that CNA schools are eligible to receive. At the time this article was written the application period was closed for 2021, but the site states that when funding is available it will be posted on Grants.gov, so this could be one to keep an eye out for future opportunities. Additionally, HRSA has free training materials that you can use to help educate your students on patients with dementia, so its is a valuable resource to check out.
Your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) may be able to direct you to local initiatives you could take advantage of. Additionally, it is worth mentioning here because they are funded by grant money. They will not provide you with funds directly, but they provide valuable support to small businesses often at no, or very little cost saving you money that you might otherwise have needed to spend on business consulting.
You may also be able to take advantage of your local Minority Business Development Agency. As with the local SBDCs, they will not provide funds directly to you, but will provide you even more counseling and resources if you are an African American, Asian American, Hasidic Jew, Hispanic American, Native American, or Pacific Islander.
In our client’s first hand account Starting a CNA School With Grant Funding in Maryland they note how integral they felt their business plan was to being awarded their grant. We offer