Find Grants for your Nonprofit
Find Grants for your Nonprofit
Finding grant opportunities for your nonprofit may seem like an overwhelming task as it takes time to find all of the options available, and then you'll need to evaluate each one to see if they are even worth going after. But grants are a fantastic way to get your organization off the ground, or give it that revenue bump for that expansion you've always dreamed of.
There are a lot of different types of grants and they all differ as far as the amount of funding and what can be done with the funding if you're awarded the grant. In addition, some come earmarked for specific expenses or can only be used for specific services or even in specific geolacations. But no matter the size or use, grants are a great opportunity at some free money, and sometimes really big money! They just take a bit of work and perseverance to obtain, but as we will see, the effort is worth the hassle.
What is a Nonprofit Grant?
A nonprofit grant is a type of funding or financial contribution any nonprofit can apply for and typically comes from a government agency, foundation, corporation, or from wealthy individuals directly. Nonprofit organizations, also known as 501(c)(3) organizations in the United States, are the only type of organization that can apply for these types of grants and each grant is different and may used for different purposes within their respected charities.
It should be no surprise that these grants are highly competitive are there are thousands of nonprofits in the United States alone. Often it takes a lot of work and getting a grant can be a long drawn out process. But if your organization can secure a grant, it can literally change your entire organization and keep you funded for years to come.
What Are the Different Types of Grants and Funding?
There are many types of grants available to all nonprofits, and each has their own stipulations on the application process and how the contribution can be used if your awarded the grant. Just be sure when starting out that the types of grants you're going after actually align with your charity's mission and goals. Applications that don't follow this rule are often immediately thrown into the trash bin. So don't waste valuable resources going after the wrong type of grant for your specific cause.
Here is a list of different types of nonprofit grants that may be available for your charity:
- Project Grants: These types of grants provide funds for specific projects or programs undertaken by a nonprofit organization. Funding is often tied to reaching very specific goals or outcomes within your organization.
- General Operating Grants: General operating grants are the best type of grant to get as they don’t have any restrictions on them as far as how they may be used and are perfect for day-to-day operational expenses like salaries, rent, utilities, and administrative costs.
- Capacity-Building Grants: These types of grants are meant to help with building the infrastructure of your nonprofit and can be used for internal expenses like IT resources or training programs for your staff and volunteers.
- Seed Grants: Seed grants are meant for charity start-ups or some sort of new initiative you are planning. These types of grants usually require feedback on how the money was spent and what results were accomplished through the grant.
- Matching Grants: In a matching grant scenario, your funding depends upon your own sources of fundraising as well as the grant. Your beneficiary will match the donations raised with an equal amount for a specific time frame. These grants are often created by individuals as well as other agencies.
- Capital Grants: Capital grants are another infrastructure sort of grant as they are used for construction, renovation, or expansion of physical facilities and infrastructure for nonprofit organizations. Many health clinics are funded with this type of grant.
- Foundation Grants: These grants are provided by private foundations and are often very competitive, but extremely lucrative as well. Plus many foundations will continue with their funding if they feel your charity is doing a good job and having a major impact.
- Government Grants: Governments at various levels (local, state, and federal) provide grants and are some of the most time intensive grants to get. There’s a lot of red tape trying to secure these grants, but if you’re able to secure one, there are many more positives to these types of grants than just financial gains.
- Corporate Grants: Many corporations have philanthropic programs and are willing to support a nonprofit that is within their range of specialty. Corporations often use these grants as a way to position themselves as a positive institution in the public eye, and securing one of these can bring a lot of extra publicity to your charity.
- Research Grants: Many types of health nonprofits as well as others do a lot of research into their specific fields helping society as a whole with their findings. Research grants again are highly competitive, but are often substantial should you secure one.
- Humanitarian Grants: These grants are specifically geared toward nonprofits involved in humanitarian efforts, such as disaster relief, refugee support, and international development.
- Arts and Culture Grants: Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations may apply for grants to support artistic endeavors, exhibitions, performances, and cultural preservation as a means of enriching society and keeping some forms of the arts alive and in the public interest.
- Environmental Grants: Environmental conservation type grants are another option for those organizations seeking to impact things like climate change and ocean deterioration. Oil companies interestingly enough are often large contributors to environmental type grants.
- Educational Grants: These grants can be spent on education programs and just about any type of charity can apply for them. This can come in the form enhanced learning opportunities, curriculum development, or teacher training.
- Healthcare Grants: Healthcare organizations are always in need of money and supplies, and these specific type grants are often tied to initiatives that include expanding healthcare access, conducting medical research, or providing healthcare services to underserved communities.
- Community Development Grants: These grants support nonprofit organizations working to improve local communities through initiatives like affordable housing, economic development, and community revitalization.
These are just some of the different types of nonprofit grants available and there are many more as you will see when you begin search for opportunities. The main things is to start with they types of grants that best align with your own organizational goals and mission, then expend your search from there.
Should You apply for a Grant?
Yes, every nonprofit can benefit from applying for a grant, no matter it's size or restrictions. Grants are an effective source of financing that doesn't require any fundraising unless you're applying for a matching grant. And although many nonprofits see grants as a necessary evil, there are a ton of benefits other than the financial boost your organization receives once you've secured one as we'll see in the next section.
One thing to mention is that many larger charities have one or more individuals specifically designated as 'grant writers' and if you're able to afford to hire a talented writer, your chances of getting your grant can be increased greatly. Grant writers as a profession know exactly what information and documentation this type of writing requires, and are more attuned to how things need to be worded so that your application gets the attention it deserves.
Grants should be thought of as a way of diversify your charity's funding sources and not as your only source of income. As a charity, you should always be initiating fundraising events and other nonprofit fundraising campaigns in order to attract new donors and grow your nonprofit over time.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Grants for Nonprofits?
There are a plethora of reasons why grants can be beneficial for any nonprofit regardless of all the time and effort they require. But of course there are a few negatives as well that you really need to know about when it comes to applying and working towards securing a grant. We’ll go over all the various benefits and pitfalls of grants so you can have a clearer picture of what it takes to obtain a grant and see if it is worth your organization’s resources to commit in securing one.
Advantages of Grants for Nonprofits:
- Financial Support: Obviously the biggest reason you’d apply for a grant is to secure financial resources you couldn’t otherwise get. Some grants are massive in their amounts and can keep a nonprofit funded for years to come.
- Credibility: Depending on where the grants are coming from, securing a grant can create a lot of credibility for your organization in the eyes of your peers, other foundations, and future donors as well as the general public. Getting a grant demonstrates your charity is worthy of funding and seen as having a legitimate cause or mission. This can have many benefits as you work to grow your non-profit and can end up can attracting additional donors and partnerships.
- Diversification of Funding: Every nonprofit still must have some sort of financial resources in order to operate and be effective. Well run nonprofits work towards creating a multitude of revenue streams just like a for-profit company does. And those that have a multi-faceted approach to funding are often the ones that have the most longevity and are most effective when working on their goals and mission. In addition, a nonprofit is free to apply for as many grants as they wish, as well as secure as many as they can with total freedom.
- Networking and Collaboration: A side benefit to the grant application process is the networking aspect of the process. As you progress with your application you’ll come into contact with many other people as well as foundations and organizations in the same sector as you, allowing you to make relationships and perhaps even a few partnerships or and resource-sharing ideas along the way.
Disadvantages of Grants for Nonprofits:
- Competition: The grant application process is highly competitive and the competitiveness of grants is only going to get worse. There are thousands of charities looking to secure the same grant funding opportunities as you are and are your direct competitors due to the limited amount of grants available to public charities.
- Resource Investment: Applying for grants requires a lot of time and resources on your part including researching opportunities, preparing proposals, and managing reporting and compliance requirements if the grant is awarded as grant recipients are often required to provide regular reports on how the funds are used and the impact achieved. This is why many larger organizations have paid staff that work on nothing else but grant applications called grant writers and all that goes with it. Plus grants are typically one time injections of funding, so on order to continue to be competitive, the process can seem never ending.
- Limited Flexibility: Grantors will usually place restrictions on their grants which can include all sorts of things that can really limit their usefulness under some circumstances. Just know what these limiting factors are before you apply as they may not fit your primary goals as well as you might expect.
Where to Find Grant Money for your Nonprofit Fundraising?
There are a lot of different places you can go to in order to find grant money for your nonprofit. We'll list a few of the more obvious, but you should also research as much as you can to find a niche foundation directory or even local government sites with grants. There is a lot of grant money and other sorts of funding offered by small local clubs and even other nonprofits and community foundations that never make it to large databases or other listing websites. So you should always use search engines to narrow down your search as much as possible and to find those smaller ones that may be so local, you couldn't find them otherwise.
Then there are the bigger listing sites we've listed below that list grant proposals, some of them are free while others are paid. But even the paid sites don't charge that much, and for the time they can save your grant writer or staff, it's often worth the low investment.
Maintained by the U.S. Office of Management and Budge, grants.gov is a complete database of all grants issued in the United States by more than 25 government agencies on the federal level. A true must use tool, if you want to apply for any sort of government or federal grant, your search should begin here. Luckily there are search filters on their website, so you can get some pretty specific search results.The site is a free site and has many listings that nonprofits can apply to. Grants.gov only lists grants and does not provide grants of it own, you're given the specific agency and contact details for each grant listing.
U.S. Economic Development Administration
The U.S. Economic Development Administration or EDA is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce and offers grant listing that are on a state or community level. You can think of it as grants.gov little brother in that grants.gov deals with federal grants, and EDA deals with everything non-federal. This is a great place to start if your looking for grants that may be offered specifically for your location or community, thus wiping out a lot of competition and giving you a leg up. The site is completely free to use and there are many grants specifically for nonprofits. The EDA itself does not offer grants or award them, rather they have a database of available grants only.
Although GrantWatch is a subscription based grant search engine, their fees are actually quit low (starting at $18) and at the moment their website states that they have over 27,000 grants listed in their database. Their grants cover every imaginable subject and there are no added fees for any searches. They also include foundation reports in order to seek out financial aid from foundations in your niche as part of their package. This is a great place to start your search and for the price there really is no reason not to.
Candid.org is similar to GrantWatch as it is a paid platform and database. The company lists available grants including those for nonprofits. They also have a huge database of over 100,000 foundations that also give to nonprofits which is another avenue you can look into as far as fundraising.
While not a grant database per say, they do have information on thousands of charities as well as foundations and can be a great place to see what foundations there are that fit your mission. It can also be a valuable resource to reach out to other organizations in your community or niche in order to begin creating relationships with similar causes.
One thing to note here is that many Many grantmakers (and individual donors) use GuideStar, now part of Candid, to evaluate your organization, so it's important to make sure you claim and update your organization's GuideStar profile so when they due their own due diligence, you're ready and stand out.
Grant Station is another paid to access database that puts a lot of focus on finding grants for nonprofits. A little more expensive than others on our list and starting at $99, the website does offer other tools to help you get your applications and grant writing done.
Grant Gopher loks like a super old site with a very clean design. The one thing that set this older site apart though is it does have a free lite version so you can see if there's anything worth looking at before you make any sort of payment. They also have a specific category for grant opportunities for nonprofits.
The Grant Scape
With over 11,000 grant opportunities from foundations as well as local and federal government websites and over 180,000 grantors listed, The Grant Scape is another listing site that is a paid alternative and starts at $30 a month.
Federated Funds – Perfect for Smaller Charities?
Federated funds is a way for usually smaller charities to join forces with other charities and raise funds from donors, most often from employee giving programs or other individuals and businesses. This is why these programs are also often called federated giving or workplace giving campaigns. The way they work is one large umbrella charity that works to collect funds from donors and then distributes these funds to their portfolio of smaller charities using a predetermined allocation formula, thus everyone that’s included wins. Some of the more well know federal funds are the United Way, UNCF, and the Combined Federal Campaign. You can kind of think of them like a crowdfunding for nonprofits.
Here are some key points to consider when deciding whether to use federated funds for your nonprofit:
- Access to a Wider Donor Base: Federated funds are often very large and represent hundreds or even thousands of charities and have established relationships with local businesses and individuals. Joining one of these funds can instantly give you access to a massive donor base just by joining one fund.
- Reduced Administrative Burden: Since it is the umbrella charity that is collecting all of the donations and then distributing them to you and the rest of the members, you don’t need to worry about dealing with tons of donors, sending out receipts, and the rest of the donation process.
- Credibility: These funds only deal with legitimate charities and each one goes through a vetting process. That means once your charity is accepted, it automatically can bring legitimacy as donors understand that you wouldn’t have been accepted unless your organization was found to be legit.
- Allocation of Funds: Your nonprofit won’t receive 100% of the donations made to the fund since the fund itself will also need to be funded. So a portion of all donations go to funding the fund, then the rest is allocated to each of the charities in the portfolio.
- Limited Control: These funds are huge and they wield a lot of power. You most likely won’t have much of a say as far as how funds are distributed or any of the other processes of the fund. Look to see if you align with their mission statement and if their rules and regulations are something your organization can live with.
- Competition: Due to the size of some of these funds, the more charities they accept, the smaller piece of the pie each charity receives. While these funds can still be a great source of revenue, those number can shrink as the funds grows its portfolio of charities.
Using federated funds as another funding source is smart when it comes to diversification. These funds can have an impact on your fundraising capabilities both with their own allocations to your organization, and in the legitimacy that belonging to one of the more well known funds brings. You just need to be sure that the fund aligns with your own mission statement and if it’s worth the time and effort to go through the initial membership process. But those choices will be up to your specific circumstances and requirements.
While it may seem daunting at first to start looking for and applying for nonprofit grants, there are definitely a few resources available that can make the entire process a lot easier. Regrettably most of the better ones are fee based, but their fees are very reasonable compared to the amount of time that you can save.
Any source of income for your nonprofit should be welcomed, including grants with all the work they entail. If you have the funding, it would be best to use an actual grant writer that understands the process and can find, apply and report everything that has to deal with your grants. If not, then do through our list and start narrowing down which grants are available to your specific organization, and start getting those applications out.
One thing you can do with PayBee's platform that can make this process easier is to keep track of all your paperwork and any correspondence you have dealing with your grants. You can even assign someone to be in charge of your grant writing though our backend. If you're interested in trying our free demo account to see all of our powerful features, you can do so here.
And if you're just starting out and want to rapidly build out your new charity, our tools and features can put you on the fast track to creating and running an entire nonprofit from anywhere in the world. Again, check out our demo or schedule a call with us to see just how powerful having PayBee as your charity's software platform can be!