Nonprofit organizations benefit the world around us in tangible, measurable ways. As a culture, we embrace charity, want to do good, and like opening up opportunities for others. Substantial funding from individuals, foundations, and government entities is necessary to operate a vibrant nonprofit.
Grant funders tend to have high standards and a narrow focus for the initiatives they will support. If you are part of a nonprofit organization, you can anticipate both a complex and rewarding journey as you see out and land your first grant.
501 (c) (3) Status – Nonprofits which follow state bylaws can receive a tax-exempt status from the IRS. This status, referred to as a 501 (c)(3), is a standard requirement for receiving a nonprofit grant.
Proposal – Proposals vary somewhat from one to the next; however, they generally require some of the same reports. You can expect to be asked for project summary, needs, description, budget, and organizational information. In short, funders want to be assured that the nonprofits they support match their vision. They are looking for fiscally-sound, well-managed, stable agencies with committed volunteers. The proposal you submit will guide the funders in determining if your organization meets their expectations.
Connections – Network. Find key people. Get volunteers. Start making a difference today.
While it is possible for an upstart nonprofit to land a grant, it is more common for an established organization with a verifiable track record in the community to get funding. If you have weak spots, make strides to get the entire organization high functioning, impacting, and poised for the future before you expend the time required to seek out and apply.
The Research Process
Grants are broadly classified as public and private.
Public grants originate from the federal government. A large percentage of federal grant monies are channeled through state and local agencies. Public grants can be investigated at Grants.gov. Aside from working through a grant writer, there are few shortcuts to wading through the list of government grants to determine what your organization may qualify for. Be aware that different government departments such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and US Department of Energy offer grants.
Private foundations are funded by wealthy individuals, businesses, and corporations. Grantees are known to support either specific interests or specific localities. They may support a cause such as helping seniors to live independently in their homes, researching unidentified diseases, providing school safety, promoting renewable energy, etc. Alternately, they may be interested in developing a specific community or type of community — the south side of a city center, an endangered habitat, a pocket of poverty and disease in rural America, etc.
Once your nonprofit has established itself, you can research all types of grants and make a shortlist of your best prospect. You will want to avoid two extremes. Don’t just go for that one, $100,000 grant and neglect all of the smaller, more promising one. Also, avoid sending out 1,000 bland request letters to foundations that don’t closely match your cause.
Become well acquainted with sites such as GrantWatch.com, Enoch Pratt Free Library Grants.gov, Center for Nonprofit Advancement, and the FoundationCenter.org. Such sites offer endless content and support for grant seekers.
On the next page we will detail some of the best grant programs for nonprofits. Find the right program that supports your initiatives now.