Certainly, the term "minority" automatically conjures up the image a small, restricted group of people, but for federal grants, it is actually a fairly broad term. In fact, more than half of United States residents can technically qualify for a number of small business, education, or other grants that are targeted directly towards America's minorities.
With that in mind, new applicants who are just beginning to search through the nearly 3,000 federal grants available shouldn't automatically discount grants that are designated towards minorities, and instead see if these programs can fit in with their qualifications and ultimate needs.
A minority can be defined by ethnicity or race, certainly, including Hispanic Americans, African American, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. (In fact, a large number of grants are strictly reserved for Native Americans and indigenous North Americans who may live within reservations.) However, the term "minority" may also apply to women, especially in the realm of scholarships, and small business funding and loans.
Grants directed to minorities can take an endless number of forms, from sociological or scientific studies to community projects and outreach programs, but arguably the biggest concentration of minority federal grants is for scholarships and college education loans or funds. Federal and state government agencies commonly dole out money or low interest loans for education, and potential and current students will find a lot of options in this genre, such as the Pell Grant Program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or the National SMART Grant. While minorities often have a leg up in the application process, a true financial need is equally if not more important, as many education based grants are distributed to candidates who need the extra money and / or assistance the most.
Potential applicants who are starting up or expanding a small business should not automatically assume that a federal grant is always equal to "free money." A number of grants directed to minority-owned small businesses are in fact low interest loans, however in the initial stages of starting a company, these funds are typically just as appreciated as free cash hand-outs. Several federal departments that distribute minority small business grants, like the USDA's Rural Business Opportunity Grant, target a specific action or region, while other grantors, specifically the Small Business Administration (SBA) or the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency, have broader criteria that make it easy for women and minorities of all business interests, and from all walks of life, to apply and start a successful business.
Minority applicants who are just starting the process may find that it's easiest to search for grants by Government Agency, (like the SBA or U.S. Department of Commerce), for a thorough overview of ongoing grants available.
In federal grant terms, the definition of an eligible "minority" is clearly extensive, and can range from gender to ethnicity. Applicants who may fit within this realm are advised to explore all options when searching for potential applicable grants, to ensure that no stone is unturned, and no opportunity is overlooked.