Nonprofit organizations must be thorough and judicious when it comes to fundraising. It is best to diversify sources to maximize and protect your efforts. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to finding the right sources that you qualify for. Nothing can replace thorough research. Below we have laid out various types of funding that exist, how they might serve you and your organization, and helpful links to help you save time.
Making A Difference
Foundations & Charities
There are thousands of foundations throughout the US and they play a huge role in the world of philanthropy. Here a few notable examples of foundations that are having an impact on their communities and all around the world.
Private foundations’ giving history is public record, so their past grantees and grant amounts are disclosed in an IRS Form 990/990-PF. Understanding a funder’s giving history is an important part of figuring out who might give you money. Past grants can show you which funders care about what you do and how much money they tend to give.Foundation Search Tool
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 the foundation. Family foundations make up over 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 grants is for your nonprofit to make sure that you both share similar interests or missions. Find foundations who will be committed to your organization’s mission, because most foundations award grants to nonprofits that will support their own mission. Mission matching is key.
Many corporations offer grants directly or have a foundation/trust that makes 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 annually over $5 billion (including employee matching gifts).
When a corporation has a foundation, the grants made by that foundation are public information. Funds given out through an internal corporate giving program are not public information, and are likely to show up in 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 (though this is not always the case).
Community foundations bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities. They vary in size, ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $1.7 billion. Typically, a community foundation serves an area no larger than a state.
According to the Council on Foundations, there are more than 750 community foundations in the United States today. The Council maintains a searchable directory of community foundations.
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. Though 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.
A public charity raises money from the public (individuals, corporations, and other foundations) 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. Public charities generally receive their funding from individuals, governments, and private foundations.
While some of these charities do engage in grantmaking activities, most offer direct services or other types of supportive activities.
Public Dollars For You
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 often come with regulations on how the money can be spent. The criteria and application process is strict and requires thorough research.
The US government has a single website for the display and submission of every grant available through it’s 26 grant making agencies. Many states and cities also have their own grant programs. Depending upon the state, it may require a little bit more digging to find the information.
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 run the 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.
Billions of dollars of grants are available every year. There are 26 federal grant-making agencies and more than 900 federal programs in the federal government alone. These include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Housing/Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Treasury. Also included are the National Endowment for the Arts, National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency, to name a few.
When searching a government database for grants it is important to know yourself (or your organization) and also know what kind of support you need. Identifying keywords that align with your organization’s mission and needs will help you narrow your grant search.
State, County, & Municipal (City)
Unlike the federal government, state, county, and municipal grantmakers, rarely have an easy user-friendly way of advertising their grants. A little bit more digging and research is necessary on your part. Directly calling government/departmental offices and directly asking about grant opportunities can go a long way.
State grants are mostly specific 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 that may or may not be funded by federal dollars.
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.