T he grant writing process is certainly intimidating. And yet before that, even finding grant opportunities that match you or your organization can also seem daunting, if not downright impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. In order to be successful in this search, you must understand all the different types of funding sources, both private and public. It is also crucial to understand your organization, its goals, and its funding needs. To learn the best techniques to find the funders and grants right for you, and not waste time, access our free course, “The Grant Hunt Simplified,”

Private Funding – Foundations & Charities

There are thousands of foundations and charities throughout the United States and they play a huge role in the world of philanthropy, each with their own different funding strategies and missions. In order to determine if you or your organization could qualify for their grant(s), you must first have an understanding of the different kinds of funders and grant makers that exist. For a full list of foundations located near you, visit our state resources page.

Family Foundations

Private family foundations are established by a single individual or family, and their missions and interests vary. Usually, at least one family member serves as an officer or board member of the foundation and will play a large role in managing it. Family foundations make up more than half of all private foundations and range in asset size from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 billion.

The first step in winning any foundation grant is for your nonprofit to make sure that you both share similar areas of interest. Find foundations that will be committed to your organization’s work, as reflected in your mission. Most foundations award grants to nonprofits that will support their own mission, so they can have a positive impact on issues they care about. Thus, mission matching is key.

Corporate Foundations

Many corporations offer grants directly or have a foundation/trust that awards grants on their behalf. Corporate giving programs are created to spread good will in the community and boost the corporation’s image by supporting local events and projects. Over the last 10 years, corporate giving has averaged over $5 billion annually (including employee matching gifts).

When a corporation has a foundation, the grant awards made by that foundation are public information. Funds distributed through an internal corporate giving program, on the other hand, are not public information, and may simply be part of the corporation’s public relations budget. So it may take some digging to determine the kind of organizations they have funded in the past.

Like family foundations, each corporate foundation also has distinct interests and directs its funding toward those specific types of projects. Learning as much as you can about the mission and vision of the corporate foundation, and about what it has funded in the past, is critical to your ability to get corporate funding for your nonprofit (i.e., mission matching). Look for companies that are headquartered nearby, as their funding goals tend to be on a city or state level. Sometimes you can reach corporate foundations through relationships established between your organization and the company. In some cases, corporations have websites with calls for grant applications.

Community Foundations

Community foundations bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to effectively support nonprofits in their communities. They vary in size, ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $1.7 billion in giving totals. Typically, a community foundation serves an area no larger than a state.

Unlike family and corporate foundations, community foundations solicit donations from many different private and public sources. But similar to all foundations, community foundations focus their funding on organizations that make an impact locally. They tend to have a much broader reach and are less discriminating in terms of mission, since their limitation is mostly geographical. For this reason, you will not have to mission match, but rather simply demonstrate the positive local impact your organization will have on your shared community.

According to the Council on Foundations, there are more than 750 community foundations in the United States today. Here at Grantli, we have consolidated these community foundations, as well as many other resources, and organized them by state. Go to our state resources page to learn more.

Public Charities

A public charity raises money from the public (individuals, corporations, other foundations, and governments) to provide grants. The IRS does not consider these to be private foundations, since their base of support is typically broadly based rather than from an individual, family, or corporation. While some of these charities do engage in grantmaking activities, most offer direct services or other types of supportive activities. The most popular example of a public charity is United Way, a nationwide coalition of organizations that pool fundraising efforts to provide support to local communities.

Public Funding – Government Grants

Securing a government grant from your local, state, or federal government can be a wonderful thing for your organization or nonprofit.  However, it is not a simple task and many government grants often come with regulations on how the money can be spent. The criteria and application process are rigorous; therefore, applying for government grants requires thorough research. 

The US government has a single website (Grants.gov) for the display and submission of every grant available through its grant making agencies. Many states and cities also have their own grant programs. Depending upon the state, however, it may require a bit more digging to find the information.

Federal Funds

Federal grant money is public, taxpayer money. The availability of funding in any year depends on the federal budget and on the priorities of the federal agencies that have grant competitions. Because of that, the amount of money available for federal grants to nonprofits is heavily influenced by the political environment, national concerns, and national events. However, billions of dollars of grants are still available every year.

Grant-seeking organizations with the required infrastructure to apply for federal grants should be aware of the many grant opportunities available.  There are 26 federal grant-making agencies and more than 900 federal programs in the federal government alone.  These include the various executive branch departments as well as organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts, National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency, just to name a few.

When searching on a government database for grants, it is important to know your organization and to know what kind of support it needs. Identifying keywords that align with your organization’s mission and needs will help you narrow your grant search.

State, County, And City Funds

Unlike the federal government, state, county, and municipal grantmakers rarely have an easy, user-friendly way of advertising their grants. More digging and research is necessary on your part to find potential non-federal government funders.  Directly calling government/departmental offices and specifically asking about grant opportunities is a recommended approach to learn about possible grants for which you or your organization may qualify. Our state by state resources identify local leaders and their contact information as well as various state government websites.

State grants are mostly awarded to agencies and departments charged with assisting or developing programs, as directed by the state legislature.  Many of these programs are “pass-through” federal programs, meaning a state agency receives a federal grant award and then makes sub-awards to eligible organizations to carry out the purpose of the grant program. Local grants tend to be smaller amounts and are usually designed as assistance or supplements to larger public grant programs. They may also be funded by state or federal funds.

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The Grant Search

Grant funding brings nonprofits and funders together in partnership to pursue the same goal. It is an essential mechanism for creating positive impact for public benefit. But knowing how to find funding can be difficult and overwhelming.

To find potential funders that may be a good fit for your organization or project, you’ll have to first have a solid understanding of who you are and what it is you do or are planning on doing. Many online searches will require the strategic use of keywords that capture the type of work your organization does and how the grant money will be used.

Follow these basics steps when conducting your grant search:

  • Step 1. Identify your search criteria (keywords) by doing a thorough self examination.
  • Step 2. Use various online search tools (in addition to Google) to narrow your search.
  • Step 3. Learn all you can about the most relevant prospective grantors and their giving history.
  • Step 4. Create a shortlist of the most viable funders, with pertinent information and deadlines.
  • Step 5. Begin a personal correspondence with a program officer.

As you navigate your grant seeking journey, be sure you are clear on the need that exists and the problem you are addressing, the impact you are making, and how you will measure that impact. Once you’re clear on your purpose and the important community issues you will address, you will be able to align with funders whose mission and goals match your own.

Whenever possible, develop relationships with your prospective funders. Relationships give you a greater understanding of their perspective. If that’s not possible, make sure you understand what the funder is trying to achieve and use language that makes it clear that your work helps them achieve their own mission.

Learn To Search For Grants

Opening up a web browser and aimlessly searching for grants is a definite way to waste countless hours. This type of blind hunting will also yield very few tangible results. At Grantli, we have created a free course, “The Grant Hunt Simplified,” that will teach you the most efficient way to search for grants. This course trims the fat and delivers no nonsense guidance directing you to funders that best match you or your organization.

We teach you the fundamentals, some necessary search tricks, and a little known resource that will drastically cut down your search time. Join us as we show you the best way to navigate the dreaded funding hunt process.

Whether you’re a grant writer for hire, a government employee looking for federal funds, a nonprofit leader, or simply part of an organization that needs funding, this free course will help you find the grants that are right for you.

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